Ahmed Moor in Cairo spoke today to Phil Weiss.
The people who started the violence today were secret police. We know this because often they were caught and their ids were found. The method was, they would try to start problems-- these muhabarat-looking guys--and the protesters set upon them very quickly
Do pro-Mubarak protesters represent a real strand of public opinion?
No. Their objective is to redirect the narrative. Most of these people are policemen, people with interests in the current regime. Some of these people were wearing civilian clothing for the first time. Convoys of these people were directed into Tahrir Square. I felt it was coordinated from the top, calculated. I don’t think this is a legitimate segment of Egyptian society. Some rode in on horses, one on a camel, wielding sticks. They were subdued. It would have been a lynching if others hadn’t intervened. People would step in and say, No you can’t do that to them. There is a real effort on the part of lots of the protesters, to keep things peaceful.
I'm happy to say that I don’t think any of the animals were hurt. But we are galvanized by it.
We got very scary reports today from Tahrir, including the word massacre. How bad was it?
I just got back [at 8 p.m. Cairo time]. These clashes lasted from 3 to 6:30. There were lot of head wounds, caused by rocks, people throwing rocks at one another. But Tahrir square remains with the anti-government demonstrators. There are way more of us than there are of them.
At the north end of the square there was a lot of action: that arcade was filled with skirmishers, and the army was near the museum, not participating. Pro-gov't forces climbed one of the buildings and threw down rocks, flower pots, miscellaneous items. And anti-gov't forces used the army trucks as barricade. You had a kind of front, and people at the back were bringing stones to the front. They brought them in boxes and crates. Or they had blankets, four men holding the ends, filled with rocks.
This was going on for several hours. We held Tahrir.
There is anxiety on the part of people around the world who are on your side that these tough measures will break the democracy movement.
These are tough people. You have to remember that the regime started clamping down last Wednesday, and we overturned the police force even when they were using rubber bullets, sticks and live ammo. These people are not about to relinquish this space due to a gang of motley thugs. You have to remember Tahrir Square was taken by force to begin with.
Has the storyline changed? Is there doubt and demoralization?
The story line is not at all changed. What I’ve said is that this is a zero sum game. The moment that people decide we are going to play ball with Mubarak, the muhabarat will come back, the secret police will come back and seize people in the night. 'We saw you January 25, 26, 27, 28.' There will be a day of reckoning. That is the risk in anything other than Mubarak's ouster. Anyone on tv who has expressed an opinion or carried a sign is vulnerable.
We’re not talking about forgive or forget. There is no reason to expect Mubarak to forgive and forget. Last night we saw him contrite and conciliatory on tv. Those are generous words. In fact today we see again his forceful measures. He started the violence.
You are saying that people are undaunted?
People are undaunted in Cairo. Utterly undaunted. They've put all their eggs in this basket. They've put everything they’ve got into this movement, and there is no going back at this stage.
Ok so what's next for the protesters is-- Mubarak get out. After that people want elections. I don’t see this ending in any other way. Mubarak has to leave. It seems that he's very reluctant to leave in an undignified way. The protesters are aware of that and they don't want him to get a dignified exit. The time for forgiveness is past.
Could Obama permit Mubarak to save face and leave?
I don’t see how. Mubarak set out his terms yesterday. He wants to stay until September. We know what this means. In period of intense social discontent, he pretends to make reforms, uses flexibility as a tool of his regime. He makes a token concession, and as soon as that crisis is surmounted, the concession is repealed immediately. People just don’t trust him.
Do people talk about a coup?
I've heard nothing about a coup to be honest.
Do they talk about Obama?
Not so much. One of the difficulties, this is the first day with the internet back. Al Jazeera is blocked. The focus isn’t really on the Americans. John Kerry’s statement was positive. But I cant tell you what people think about obama.
Is the joy and excitement still there?
We’ve reverted to the rage of the early days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday. Over the weekend, there was exuberance, the sense of confidence at taking the square, a million plus showed up. And this morning things seemed more normal, shops were open, there were carts in the street. Then at 2 or 3 o'clock it all broke down.
People’s perceptions are, if the regime can do this in such a sleazy and underhanded way-- it just got people angry all over again. I'd be astonished if we don’t see masses of people on the street tomorrow.
What about the army's position?
There is confidence among people on the street that the military is committed to not playng an active role on the ground. And the feeling is, If you stay out of this, we can do this on our own.
What about dragging Mubarak out of his palace?
State institutions-- and we don't know if he’s in Cairo or Sharm?-- but the state institutions are surrounded by tanks.There's no going in and breaking into the parliament or his palace. Saturday, when the ministry of interior was burned, I saw three bodies in the street from clashes, young men trying to break in. Well the police were very entrenched Saturday, and then the military took over Sunday. I don’t think another institution will be taken again. Unless people decide to.
How important is international opinion?
International opinion is important to the extent that it impacts the regime. Look, there aren’t many people in the world who thought of Mubarak very highly. We’ve known the west relies on him. Does the west rely on him any less now? Can he convince people that he’s the best bet? We hear that Netanyahu is calling Europe and the U.S., do what you can to support Mubarak, we’re not going to get anyone better. People are angry about that.
Do you hear talk of the Israel/Palestine conflict in Egypt?
I have an accent, and so people ask me where I'm from. I'm Palestinian, from Gaza. So I have been hearing a lot about it. They say, 'You know what, this is the first step to the liberation of Palestine, this is the first domino. Once Mubarak goes we’re going to lead the Arab world again, and liberate Palestine.'
There is a feeling that Egypt is going to be redeemed and take its historical role on the Arab stage as a leader, and through that, Arabs will be redeemed. This is the Egyptian national mythology-- Nasser, 1973-- Egypt as the cultural beacon for the Arab world, and the leader economically and militarily. That is part of Egyptian pride. So I've seen that on the street. Watch-- when we take our gov't back, the rest of you will also benefit. This is the first step.