Interview with an Egyptian Protester

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An interview with an Egyptian protester on the current situation in Egypt. Discussion of what Egyptians really want, which is total political change and an end to authoritarian governments. Also, Egyptian relying on trusted information networks like Facebook, instead of Twitter, for protest organizing.


Vanzetti: In your opinion what sparked the recent unrest in Egypt? Were people expecting something like this or not?


Al Masry: This recent unrest was actually expected years ago. this revolution if you may, is considered belated. We have had many demonstrations in the past a lot of opposition parties have risen against the current government but people were always scared. The army and the police force are all loyal to the president, in previous demonstrations women get harassed and men get beaten up and jailed with no conviction under the name of the "emergency law" which entitles such a thing.


Vanzetti: I've been involved in the anarchist movement and others for a few years, so when I go to demos there's usually a mix of people in the street. My question being what is the general mood of people? Are more asking for reform or revolution?


Al Masry: Egyptians have lost hope in any reforms. Elections are all fixed, Every official on every level is corrupted, the president embraces his chair and wants to inherit it to his son "Gamal" and as such he employed a very corrupted, extremely hated interior minister who in his turn employs corrupted officials. That's how the whole hierarchy is.


Al Masry: Follow up: Like almost most of Egypt, we do not embrace a certain political party. We are the students, sons, brothers and sisters of the country who are tortured, stolen from and denied their rights in every way, every day. We dream of an Egypt from the era of "El-Sadat," Egypt's previous president.


Vanzetti: So I talked to my friend who is originally from Egypt about what's happening and he said from what he's seen of Egyptians he's surprised but pleased with their reaction. What I'm getting at is apathy and moreover a sense of ones agency. My question is was there one event or spark which brought us to today's situation in Egypt?


Vanzetti: Also on a more personal level have you always cared about change and revolution or was there an event that sparked your interest?

Al Masry: A lot of sparks led to this. These sparks however are when more than half the country are under the line of poverty. When doctors earn around 200 EGP per month which can be spent in a week if you starve yourself. When officials inherit their positions and get medical treatment abroad on the country's account, when the ordinary newspaper agent around the corner is randomly grabbed and tortured till he is dead and they threaten his family to be silent about it, when women get harassed and we get treated like enemies in demonstrations. When people stopped eating meat because of the rise in prices by at least 50% every 3 months, when later the loaf of bread have become expensive for the ordinary Egyptian and now that the bread is not even enough. An atmosphere of complete loss and wanting either a change or death have taken over the country for the period of the last 30 years. Tunisia saw that we have been trying everyday and it gave them confidence, and their success boosted our confidence. Like a wake up call. What are we afraid of? Is fear a valid motive to stand down anymore? If i stand down am I alive anymore? Thatss how every Egyptian felt.


Al Masry: On a personal level: mentioned above and in addition to that I as the rest of the 80 million in Egypt have always cared about that change. Every individual has seen the tyranny of the current regime, and would rather die than spend another day with it. Vanzetti: Fantastic answer.


Vanzetti: I have like 5 more questions if that's ok. Al Masry: 100 more if you need. Vanzetti: So Twitter's dns being shut down in Egypt has made the news. In the U.S., we've been able to use Twitter for communication at demos. From your experience, how are these demos being organized? Are they spontaneous or more planned or a mix? How does a free or unfree Internet play into that?


Al Masry: It started with banning Skype and all VOIP services some time last year. They say because that brings down the economy. However, on a national level we understand that they tap every single phone call and conversation, but they couldn't with Skype because the gateway is not in Egypt. Obviously all what the corrupt officials care about is to prevent a revolution since Day 1. And so twitter was blocked and many rumors arose during the past couple of days that Facebook will also be down. Generally people have informed each other how to bypass all that. The problem with twitter however is that it cannot be trusted because many tweets are spies or the government. They cannot be reliable for demos in Egypt although some people still use them. With facebook its better because you know the people and you know your friends. Demos are being organised using the Blackberry messenger and sms and Facebook groups. There is a group on Facebook that has mobile phone numbers of the headquarters of the revolution if you may, in all cities. The general protocol is to be in little groups then walk around until groups join groups, when the number reaches at least 2,000 people, then head to downtown where obviously 2,000 people and more cannot be pushed away easily.


Al Masry: The internet is never free, never in Egypt, it's all censored and watched constantly. In the past people have been arrested for downloading human rights documents and tortured accordingly. We try to make the best use out of what we can do on the internet these days.


Vanzetti: How do you and the people close to you feel? Optimistic angry afraid a mix of multiple emotions? I ask this because demonstrating/fighting for change can be exhilarating as well as taxing.


Al Masry: It is indeed exhilarating and taxing. However fear is not in people anymore, optimism is not what drives us anymore. We have reached a point where our minds are set that this change will happen and it will happen now and the only way for us to be stopped would need more than a bullet to the heart. We literally have nothing to lose, and that's how we are stronger everyday despite any taxation or hunger.

Al Masry: On the other hand Egyptians always stay as one in such situations since we got invaded since ever throughout history. On the 25th, the interior ministry forced the communications ministry to turn off signals of all phones downtown, so that they cannot stream or contact anyone outside that area, so that the world and the rest of Egypt do not know what is going on there. People at homes have removed passwords from their wi-fi routers and as such allowed the demonstrators to connect through their wi-fi and even capture live streams using "ustream" on their mobiles as well as upload pictures to Facebook. At the same time, the restaurants in downtown went out and gave the over 50,000 protesters free food and water so that they can hold on till the next day. That is exactly why we are not afraid, there is nothing to fear anymore and there are no hopes or wishes, there is change and only change we will accept.


Vanzetti: So I found you today in this IRC, which that begs the question: how did you get involved with anon?

Al Masry: Egyptians have been trying for 2 days and we are getting absolutely no positive response although we have done a lot more than Tunisia did. People started to think if there is no hope of winning, then we will die trying. Only last night, the news about anon spread all over Egypt that they are helping us with our struggle and they are not known and they are not looking for any credits or personal gaining from this. Egyptians immediately fell in love with anon and something as small as bringing governmental websites down and black faxing and emails bombing them have planted a seed in us telling us that we are actually not alone.So, as a result, I and many others of my fellow Egyptians want to show our gratitude and at the same time try to help in anyway.


Al Masry: The media press release letter was what I first saw and it pushed me to search anonymous and Egypt and I found the poster and followed the instructions accordingly. Vanzetti: Awesome! Good to hear. Al Masry: Thanks again, btw! We are all truly very grateful.


Vanzetti: Is the movement in Egypt inspired by the events in Tunisia? If so what lessons or inspiration do you draw from their actions?


Al Masry: As explained before, we have always been trying over the past 30 years, generation after generation. Tunisia was not in a bad state as we are; we are the country with the biggest number of opposition parties, we demonstrated and we bled and we did everything over the years. Tunisia's success has given the Egyptians this extra push, thinking, if a country as strong as Egypt with all the corruption in it and the so many tries and fails can't do what only 10,000 Tunisians did in one day, then perhaps we deserve the failure and accepting it. Tunisia did not start it, but they surely helped with our confidence. One lesson and one inspiration was drawn from their actions, which is "Bleed till you succeed."


Vanzetti: What do you think the rest of the world can learn from Egypt and the Egyptians struggling? What might you say to someone who wants to see change but is too afraid or doesn't know how to go about changing things?


Al Masry: I would say it is not easy, so as harsh as it might sound, if you do not think that you should take part, or if you don't know how and don't try finding out and if you are not set with a mind of "I will change it or I will die trying" then it won't happen and the corruption is not to be blamed anymore.


Vanzetti: Well personally man I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and people like you, my only wish is that I could be there in the streets with you but I'll have to settle for this article.


Vanzetti: Thanks for the interview.


Al Masry: I understand, thanks a lot for your noble feelings, and really thank you for what you are doing for Egypt.

Vanzetti: My pleasure.

Al Masry: I really hope so, and if the us happened to need an anonymous's help I'd be more than glad to take part.


Vanzetti: One last thing, my email is so if you or anyone you know has pictures or would like to do an interview I'm probably going to do a series on the situation in Egypt as it progresses.

Vanzetti: Oh yeah and I can use a pseudonym If you want otherwise I'll just say an Egyptian or something like that.


Al Masry: Of course. I will spread the word and I will be sending you pictures that my friends uploaded to their profiles and other revolutionist groups, some you might have seen already and some not.


Al Masry: Pseudonym is fine, really. Al Masry: "Al Masry"


Vanzetti: Cool. Al Masry: Which translates to "The Egyptian".


Vanzetti: Thanks again. I'll let you know when I finish this.


Al Masry: That's awesome, my pleasure. Thanks to you again.

Vanzetti: I will do my best to do the situation justice.


Al Masry: Thank you very much, I'm sure if the 80 million Egyptians met you they'd thank you a lot more than I do.





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