Trending Topics:

Yousry is now Omar: ‘Tell Mubarak we don’t need his damn Internet for the Peoples Revolution’

News
on 15 Comments

“Please use my real name Omar from now on—we have nothing left to hide anymore”

That is how the man I was calling Yousry started his remarkable intervie with me a few hours ago. At a point in our conversation he also said “Please tell Mubarak we do not need his damn internet for the peoples revolution.”

Yousry is Omar. A dear friend. An extremely articulate Egyptian and in my haze filled 140 character days, a steady voice of reason and immense perspective. Every conversation I have had with him expresses the nuance, the complexity and the immensity of the day’s events like no news broadcast can. At 30 he is as old as the Mubarak regime. He is married. His wife will join him tomorrow for what should really be called the Million man and woman march. He was born in Cairo and studied in the US briefly before moving back and working for an oil company. He comes from a rich family as does his wife.

Omar is the most articulate ordinary Egyptian I know because he does not know how to talk in soundbites and because he like millions of others is in danger of losing the country he loves so much and the only home he has ever really known.

I spoke to Omar at 9:30 pm Cairo time. A few hours later a nation of 80 million people has been successfully wiped off the worldwide web. 80 million people are being held hostage by a ruthless and desperate dictator. Have they been silenced? I don’t think so. Omar does not think so either.

This interview with him is probably one of the only long interviews with an Egyptian protester and citizen, before the nation went even darker on the eve of the planned marches to Heliopolis, the presidential palace, really the last frontier.

Me: I hope you all are ok. Just describe your day—I know tomorrow is very important so I will try not to interrupt.

O: Today was a continuation of other days—We went to Midan Tahrir—It was much larger today—and there were way more women today, amazing—the military followed the same procedure—checked our ID’s and very cordial but I think that there was way more people today—people from all different groups of society from Zamalek to Masriyat Naser, from Mohandessin to Giza…Today for the first time it felt like the people had secured their homes well and could confidently come out—other days many other family members especially housewives had stayed back to guard—but today they were all there—everyone spoke about how the looting was a design by Mubarak to keep us in our homes…Parvez, there were also so many much older people today, you know 60 and above, who had stayed away because of the violence. But today any fear seemed to have disappeared. Really it felt like we knew exactly what we want…

Me: So tomorrow is huge—you must sleep tonight—both of you—all of you—who knows what will happen?

O: We are meeting at Tahrir at 9 am and marching to Helioplos—this is very important Parvez—After 7 days this government comfortable with us spending time in Tahrir and they are even spinning it and saying: See we are allowing protesters in Tahrir, so we are so democratic—It was so clear today that we needed to go tomorrow to Heliopolis, to the presidential palace where Mubarak is hiding…All of the organizing I have seen since Friday really has been through fliers, through pamphlets…today they said—we are marching to Heliopolis tomorrow—if you cant come to Tahrir in the morning then join us on the way…this I a huge turning point in this revolution…huge….It is also very important Parvez to know that people are saying they request the fall of the regime, not government—its an important distinction…



Me: Have you been watching Al Jazeera?

O: Are you kidding me? I can either be there or stay at home and watch the damn TV and try and get on the fucking internet which is not working and try and do these damn tweets you keep on telling me about…I mean yes, some people watch it when they go home at night and today the word on the street was that the Egyptian media finally caught up with the international media—people were saying that for the first time now they are starting to report—they are showing that there are people, looting, violence—Even State TV…Nile TV is reporting…and you know we also have this state public radio channel…its at 88.7 fm and even they are being more balanced than before, people were saying…. You know till yesterday the assholes were showing streets of Cairo are calm

Me: Today I did have an Al-Jazeera free day—I did not watch the live stream at all—but on twitter I did see their updates…while I was constantly calling…

O: I have no time to watch…you know this new VP of ours, Soliman now with Mubarak wants to show see they are all in Tahrir, penned it—see how good we are that we are allowing people to voice their grievances…maybe for any other revolution we could have stayed downtown…maybe it will be one day ok and safe to protest in Tahrir which now the whole world knows what it is…but for now we have to go to him to make sure that he goes….

Me: It will be so hard to be at Heliopolis and it is not really walking distance if you know what I mean…

O: (Laughs) Well our weapon is not Jazira or Facebook or all that—our main weapon is the change we want, our focus, our peacefulness and the shoes on our feet man…the shoes still on our feet…so much talk in Tahrir today also about this new scam thing of new cabinet…you know Mohamed Rashid was asked to be Minister of Industry…he declined…this is important in the past you know he had supported Mubarak…but please Parvez get this out—its really important…for 30 years of this dictatorship many Egyptians, good men and women joined the Mubarak government not because they hated the people but because they felt that it was best to change the system from inside, from working within the government and Egyptians realize this…Egypt also was never a Ba’athist kind of cult regime like Syria or Iraq…so different…

Me: I am so glad you are saying this…

O: And this is really important…this is not a vendetta revolution…not some Baathist kind of revolution…it is an educated revolution…its looking at institutions…it has brought together educated middle class and upper class with everybody else… Egyptian people have come to the square with ideas…many have listened through television to what the world is saying also…but they have taken all of that in an amazing collective way come together with a very focused set of demands…its unbelievable…I never thought this could happen in Egypt…and because it is truly the peoples revolution is the ONLY REASON why it has not died down…why it continues…We want a transitional government…not a military government…and there can be all kinds of people involved in that…even people like Baradei who is definitely expected to play a role in post revolution Egypt….what that role is going to be, he needs to decide—but most importantly the people will decide…I told you he lost a valuable opportunity yesterday…but lets see…today people were even talking about Ahmed Hassan Zewail—you know he got the Nobel Prize for Chemistry…so there is no dearth of good people in Egypt to lead a transition…

And once again Parvez—it is NOT a vendetta revolution…I mean there are people who are now chanting for Mubarak to be tried or die…but that’s not what we want…we want our basic rights that my generation never even had…you know…Mubarak has been the President of Egypt for my entire life!

Me: True man…

O: I mean some people need to be punished and tried…like the Interior minister who has committed so many atrocities…Oh and this is important Parvez…you know people saw the images of that scam swearing in…you know even Omar Soliman after the oath saluted Mubarak and shook his hand…that image takes people back to the chant of Civilian government not a military government…

Me: Explain?

O: That is because only military men salute military men…if Soliman salutes Mubarak then he is saying my allegiance is to you…but guess what neither of the two is even military anymore! Every single person has noticed that…I mean look at it this way…Does Hillary salute Obama? This means that they have created a military government…and it’s a fucking farce man…I mean he creates a new Ministry of Antiquities taking it out of the Ministry of Culture? What kind of government takes a frivolous step like that in the middle of its biggest existential threat…a revolution of the people…This is a government in denial…utter disregard for the people…every single protester, rich and poor knows this…

Me: That’s a lot of insight we are not usually hearing man! Not even from these stupid pundits running around between studios here in NY or in DC!! It’s so funny, they even tweet their movements!

O: (Laughs) Fucking idiots man! Well guess what me and most of the other people in Tahrir are not watching even our own channels…forget what the American cable idiots are saying…but do record some of this shit for me…one day when its all over I need to see it…

Me: Yalla! I will save the tweets for you for sure…you have no idea…what they are saying!! But there are also some amazing ones coming from a few activists in Cairo…

O: I wish you guys sitting there had any idea…this really is a real revolution…I don’t even like the word uprising…I hate it yaani—it diminishes it…revolution is better…This is a civilian revolution and it is civil…it has an agenda…it has requests…it has a timeframe…and expectations…there is a decency about this and we are organized…you know when it comes to choosing between peaceful dissent and violence…the people in Tahrir where I am everyday have always made the sober choice…it shows seriousness and determination…this is not a backlash or a vendetta movement…

Me: Yes…and there is no fucking way on earth what you just said could we tweeted in 140 characters or less Omar!

O: You bet! Our goal is so clear now—we want a change of this government (since he now claims he made a government) and want a provisional government to come in its place…and with all of our good energy…the beating heart of millions of Egyptians we will draft a new Constitution…the peoples Constitution and then Inshaallah hope for the best…The people who are on the streets Parvez are angry yes…but they are very pragmatic…this whole revolution is pragmatic…

M: Hey Omar…you know that there many tweets coming in saying he is going to shut down everything tonight…whatever little internet was left and mobiles and landlines even?

O: Fuck the internet! I have not seen it since Thursday and I am not missing it. I don’t need it. No one in Tahrir Square needs it. No one in Suez needs it or in Alex…Go tell Mubarak that the peoples revolution does not his damn internet!

M: Ha ha! You just gave me a possible title for the piece my friend…

O: Tayyib good. But honestly I mean 40 % of this country is living below the poverty line and a large chunk above that is barely surviving and then you have middle class doctors and lawyers etc and then you have you know rich people like me yaani…I mean it is true that cell phone penetration has improved very much…you know they even say that maybe 60 million have cellphones…you know…but its like those basic yaani really basic mobiles…nothing fancy…no internet bullshit for example…I can tell you that the majority of Egyptians have no idea what Facebook is or what Twitter is! I mean you ask me this everyday—but its true yaani…and look at this… a very basic mobile is from 180 Egyptian pounds…a fancy internet capable phone like an Iphone and that Droid thing or the blackberry cost around 3000 pounds…and I will just talk about the so called middle class for a second…before revolution they said they would increase the minimum wage to 1200 pounds a month…right now it is about 800 pounds…800 pounds to feed a family of 4 maybe more? And then you go and buy an internet enabled phone which costs more than 3 months of your salary?.

Me: So how and why is this whole narrative evolving?

O: You mean all this internet stuff…well before he shut us out on Thursday…there was vibrant communication between a certain and very small class of society in terms of relative numbers…this is the class of people who have ALWAYS been absent and apathetic from the suffering of the Egyptian majority…the poor people…you know that was good…so maybe a little bit through twitter and all the apathetic students and professional class started communicating for the first time…

Me: True..I have been saying that—someone in Zamalek is not tweeting at a Zabaleen you know…they tweet to each other…in their nice apartments with AC and stuff…

O: yes true…but I know it played a good role for maybe the first day and half of Thursday…but if you are saying that it is pivotal to the revolution or the lifeline of the revolution then you are not doing justice to Egyptian people, man or even to the functionality of this specific tool…its like calling a hammer a screwdriver and this is a huge danger for the future…because in other Arab countries for example…you will misinform people about this twitter/Facebook tool—you will overstate its importance…and misguide people who want change in other places and its biggest weakness is that it can be cut off—and you are saying Mubarak is doing that even more tonight, right…so there you have it…if anything dictators like Mubarak use all the publicity about this twitter nonsense to say OK lets cut off the internet…Talking about tweeting all the fucking time gives him the perfect excuse for shutting off the internet even though the majority of Egyptians would not be online even if there was a f-ing internet…

Me: I know I have been saying that…some of the greatest revolutions in history happened before the internet…and 4 days now after he cut you guys all off…well 99% of you all off anyway…it grew bigger…more people…and they were not tweeted to come there…

O: Yes…listen…its not about all this at all. It is one tool…some people can use it and they should and its great! But our bigger tools are posters, fliers, pamphlets, the shoes on our fucking feet man! If someone wakes up in Cairo tomorrow after having slept through the last 6 days…and don’t know where to go…they just need to walk on the street Parvez…and follow everyone else…But let me say this…for educated kids like me atleast…we can communicate faster and more effectively than our parents ever could right? Our parents generation was more apathetic I feel…so yes we can communicate…but WE HAVE SOMETHING TO COMMUNICATE ABOUT…the peoples revolution! And in any case this concern of people sending messages to the outside world is secondary…we don’t think it is our function to report this to the world…as an Egyptian citizen protesting everyday…that’s not my job…reporters can do that…you can do it who talks to me everyday…we need to stay focused on what we need to do inside the country…our weapon is not social networking and email…our weapon is our focus on what we know needs to be changed…

Me: Must end soon my friend…my hands hurt…my laptop will catch fire…its been used like nobodys business…and I haven’t even eaten or showered today…my fucking mind feels like a tweetmachine…

O: (Laughs) Are you getting paid for this? I mean I know why you are doing this…because so much of your work has been here and the film title and everything and that guy who was arrested and raped and tortured and all your book research and all of us…you know, your friends…but you should get paid man!

Me: Nopes not getting paid—which is why I think after tomorrow I will really slow down…I have to…just like you walk to Tahrir everyday…I walk to the laptop every morning and then just sit typing…in 140 fucking characters or less

O: Parvez…this is amazing…u are doing so much…anyway so tmrw we all go…today remember the Alfa supermarket in Zamalek…we went a few times…well that was open and some groceries and tomorrow we head out with our backpacks which is a mini fucking pharmacy in there…I mean betadine, gauze, bandages, vinegar, a small first aid kit, lots of water…my camera…my bloody useless blackberry which is usually not working 9 times out of 10…but I am confident…everyone is confident that the army will not attack us…

Me: Sorry Omar…explain quickly?

O: Well there are two armies in Egypt-the conscript army and the volunteer army…the volunteer army is the standing army and the officer core come from middle and upper middle class…same class you get our professionals from…But the conscript army is drafted…illiterate men have to serve for 3 years and educated men have to serve for only 1 year…wages in the conscript army are basically minimum wage…no one would want that job unless you were really desperate…so really poor people will join that…and then there will the educated draft types who are basically forced right? I got out of it because I am the only son and my father died—but its very hard to get out of that one year service…anyway the majority of the army on the streets right now is NOT happy to be in the army anyway…and they just have too much respect for us…they have suffered this as long as we all have…

Me: Please be safe…Fi Amanallah and all that good stuff man…hey before u go there is all these tweets and websites up with ideas on how to get online! Want?

O: Ha ha! Right! As I said before go tell Mubarak to take his fucking internet and shove it! We don’t need it…Who do these idiots who are making these lists think they are making them for? The millions on the streets? Well guess what we cannot read or hear anything you are saying about us or to us! Because we are out on the streets and yes we have also been cut off, successfully!

Parvez Sharma

Other posts by .


Posted In:

    Leave a Reply