Friday 28 January 2011


January 28, 2011

In Egypt, protesters faced tear gas, water cannon and beatings from security forces on the streets of Cairo on Wednesday. Up to 1,200 people were arrested, including a number of journalists. Six people have reportedly been killed since Tuesday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not criticize the Egyptian government, saying only that the country was stable and Egyptians had the right to protest, while urging all parties to avoid violence. We speak with Mostafa Omar, an Egyptian American activist and writer.

AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined in our New York studio by Mostafa Omar, an Egyptian American activist and writer who lives in New York City.

Mostafa, I wanted to ask you about the U.S. response. Clearly, the U.S. weighs in big-time here, makes an enormous difference. The second-largest recipient of U.S. aid, well over $2 billion the Egyptian government receives. What about what Hillary Clinton has said? Has President Obama weighed in?

MOSTAFA OMAR: It’s really interesting that Hillary Clinton said that she supports the universal rights of the Egyptian people, after the fact that the Egyptian people have begun to exercise those rights. The Secretary of State had no such words for the Egyptian regime over the last number of years.

In fact, what she also forgot to mention is that the tear gas and the tanks that are driving into protesters, the concussion grenades, are all made in the United States. That is the meaning of $2 billion in military aid, military and economic aid.

I think the other point to bring up is that the State Department, actually yesterday, mentioned that they would love to see the Mubarak regime bring about reform from above, because they’re absolutely scared of a Tunisia-style uprising from below. And that’s why I think they’ve changed their tone from "the Egyptian government is stable" to urging the Egyptian government to bring about reform before it’s too late, before things take a Tunisian turn.

AMY GOODMAN: Mostafa, can you talk about the April 6 Youth Movement and what role that plays?

MOSTAFA OMAR: The April 6 Youth Movement is really one of a number of youth movements that have developed in the last few years. They have actually organized a number of demonstrations in the last two years. Most of those demonstrations were small, numbered in the hundreds, maybe 500, 600 at most. However, in the last few weeks, after the Tunisian explosion, really, the organizing that has gone on for the last few years has begun to pay off, and a lot of young people, through Facebook and Twitter, and a lot of young people who have also been involved in strikes in the last few years have actually joined in this political movement with the April 6 and a number of other groups.

I’ve just watched an amazing call from a young woman, a veiled young woman, one of the leaders actually of the movement in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo. It’s a six-minute video on Facebook calling for a massive national day of action after the Friday prayers. She was incredibly eloquent, passionate. And millions of people probably will watch that video. So, the young people ~ Egypt is a country of ~ 60 percent of the population is under the age of 30, and 90 percent of the unemployment is also for those young people. And I think they are playing a tremendous role, students and unemployed, along with workers in this movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Mostafa Omar, for joining us, an Egyptian American activist living here in New York City, where we usually are, though we’re broadcasting from Utah. We will certainly cover events tomorrow, what’s expected to be an even more massive demonstration, from the poorest in Egypt to the elite, taking to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, all over Egypt, taking on the more-than-30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak.

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