EXCLUSIVE: Interview with 21-year-old Rebel in Egypt's Tahrir Square

Writer Tiffany Madison connected with an Egyptian Rebel Organizer bringing you this exclusive interview from Tahrir Square. Photo: Fireworks over Tahrir Square / Associated Press

DALLAS, July 2, 2013 ― While the American media saturates viewers with coverage on the Paula Deen scandal and George Zimmerman’s trial, the largest political protests in the history of mankind are rocking Egypt.

Since June 30th, an estimated 11 to 33 million Egyptians filled the capital’s squares with banners, flags and demands that President Mohamed Morsi resign. Morsi represents the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist-linked party that the American taxpayer just gifted $450 million in aid and a mini-fleet of F-16 fighter jets.


SEE RELATED: From Mubarak to Morsi, Egyptians still fighting for freedom


The Egyptian military issued an ultimatum to the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday: Share power or face coup d’état. The country tensely waits as the deadline approaches.

News outlets simplify the murky conflict as an equally-divided disagreement between “hundreds of thousands” of Islamists and secularists vying for control of a democracy, but is that the case? Does Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood face a popular revolt against their burgeoning Islamic dictatorship or are Egyptians fickle populists eager to replace one set of tyrants for another?

The raw, powerful beauty of social media provided some insight from a rebel on the ground. I shared a spectacular, eerie photo of two AH-64D Apache helicopters flying over the crowds in Egypt on my Facebook page, which circulated 400+ shares. The photo appears to show the military aircrafts being seared with lasers by a sea of protestors. According to media outlets, the aircraft was “lasered” to “disorient the pilot”, which can blind an aviator or disrupt the aircraft’s system. 

Apache helicopters fly over protestors in Egypt.


SEE RELATED: Massive Egyptian demonstrations push for ouster of President Morsi


By sheer happenstances, a 21-year old Egyptian student and organizer contacted me to clarify my misconceptions. Exhausted from the day’s events, the Cairo resident shared a slice of time hoping to clarify media’s misunderstandings and convey the general feeling on Egypt’s streets.

TM: Describe the morale. Are the people angry, inspired or something else?

The beautiful thing about Egyptians is that the angrier we are the more determined we become; frustration never gets to us. The morale was amazing all day long: everyone shouting at the same time against Morsi, Egyptian flags waving everywhere, this really was the “19th day” of the 25th of January Revolution. Same spirit, but much bigger numbers.

TM: Can you give me an example?


SEE RELATED: Tamarod (Rebel): The new face of opposition in Egypt


What really got me today was when I drove my sister and my mother near the demonstrations at the palace, a guy was waving an Egyptian flag and it blew away in the air and fell on the ground in the middle of the street. All the cars braked as hard as they can so they don’t drive on the flag, even though it’s theoretically just a flag it demonstrated how much we love our country and what that flag represents for us.

TM: You said that the military supports the protests. Do the people and the military have the same goal: for Morsi to resign? Then who will step up if the people got what they wish?

Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, has had a long, bad history with the military as an organization in Egypt, ranging from them bad mouthing Gamal Abd-El Nasser, our president responsible for 1952’s revolution, to participating in the murder of Al-Sadat in the 80s, even now that they’re in control their leaderships they bad-mouthing our military.

Of course nothing official was released from our military as it would be seen as overthrowing the “democratic” president, which is against international laws, but we’re sure the army has the same goal as we do step-by-step: what is best for Egypt? In this case, it is Morsi resigning.

TM: What options do the Egyptian people feel they have for government?

We’re not quite sure of our options, all we know is that whatever comes next is better than our current regime which is nothing but a brutal dictatorship for extremists, the American government is just backing its own good so as long as the current regime has no threat on them they will back it up.

TM: Are there any leaders the people favor?

There are multiple theories about who will step up. Possibly our minister of defense, General Abd-El-Fatah Al-Sisi, who is the leader of the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF for short), just like Tantawi did after Mubarak’s resignation, or the supreme constitutional court of Egypt, which is the highest judicial power, or forming a presidential board with many political figures from different parties to handle things until another presidential elections occur.

But our main goal at the moment is either for Morsi to resign or for him to call for an early presidential election.

TM: Is there a single, great reason most people are protesting? Or are there different factions of angry protesters?

That’s the beauty of it: different factions and reasons rally together after one terrible year of Morsi in the office. They have pursued goals not outlined in the 25th of January’s Revolution. Jailing journalists for accurate news and disobeying the law; inefficient, inexperienced ministers hired because they’re from the ruling party, gas prices going up, our currency going down and the dollar reaching new records almost going up 30 percent in one year!

We feel we have been betrayed and replaced a dictator with another one only this time backed by a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

TM: Do the Egyptian people want a more secular government?

Egypt has always been a country for everyone; we’re religious enough not to have some party claiming they are here to guide us to Islam or some sort of joke. We know our religion. We don’t need a regime telling us about it, and also Egyptian Christians full unsafe with this regime. They feel they’re treated unfairly.

TM: Why is this revolution different?

This time we started a movement named Rebel, it was like a big scale petition collecting names of people against this regime. They claim to have 22 million signatures, which I believe is easily possible given the number of people on the streets today. This picture is only of Tahrir square. It’s not just the palaces. Giza’s streets were full.

We’re really fed up I’ve never seen this amount of people down in the streets, not even on the 25th of January.

TM: Al Jazeera is reporting only “hundreds of thousands”. That’s several million people. Why are outlets reporting low numbers?

Al-Jazeera belongs to Qatar, which supports our regime, so they’ll give false news or say that the numbers backing Mursi are millions. It’s more like 20,000 people.

TM: CNN is reporting that Marines in Italy are on alert to protect the U.S. Embassy and Americans if violence broke out against Americans. Is there anti-American sentiment?

No there isn’t. We have one goal and one dream: overthrow this president. Now there are some rumors that if the army was to overthrow the president without him resigning then it’s against international laws, which then allows the NATO countries to help “keep peace”. The kind of peace they gave Libya in 2011.

TM: Do you know why the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters were set on fire? As in was there one incident or are people just telling them it’s time go. The media here is trying to portray it as mass violence.

People were first peacefully protesting in front of it around 8PM yesterday, however people inside the HQ started throwing bricks at the protesters from inside, so they threw rocks back which is just the kind of response you’d expect.

Then all of a sudden an hour later, they started firing rubber bullets at the protesters which made the crowds angry and they set the HQ on fire. That is the exact thing the Muslim Brotherhood wants to show the world, that they are being brutally attacked, when in fact they are the ones attacking.

TM: Can you elaborate on the organization behind the Tamarod petition that got 22 million signatures. What I’ve read about them so far doesn’t say much apart from the obvious fact that they’re in opposition to the current government.

It’s not an organization, it’s just some youth friends who started it as an internet campaign for a demonstration against the high prices, and it started among friends they were never dreaming of what they achieved today.

It just grew bigger and bigger through Facebook and banners on the street being printed by random citizens asking people to go out and rebel.

TM: How much of a role has social media played in organizing the protests or the efforts?

It played a huge role in it, just like in 25th of January nothing was actually planned at first it just grows bigger and bigger on Facebook and Twitter that you hear about it even if you don’t pay the slightest attention to politics.

TM: Have there been any efforts to shut down any social media or cell phone service that you’re aware of?

Not this time, I don’t think they can be that stupid after they saw what happened to Mubarak when he did that, it just made the people staying at homes go down in the streets to see things with their own eyes which only resulted in numbers getting bigger and protests getting bigger as a result.

Also cell phone companies had this part of their contract cancelled, the one that said the government has the right to shut down the service when they want, so now if the service goes down the companies will be to blame which they can’t afford to.

There are only three companies in Egypt, Vodafone (Which is global and will never do such a thing), Etisalat (Which is owned by UAE, who are directly opposing our regime since Morsi became president) and Mobinil owned by Naguib Sawiris (I probably didn’t spell his last name correctly), he’s an Egyptian billionaire who loves our country and always supported the people, so we’re certain cell phones won’t go down.

TM: What is the ratio in your opinion of Morsi-supporters and those that want him gone?

The ratio is honestly laughable. I’d say maybe 1:100 in favor of protesters, it’s a rough number but when they had their biggest supporting march, Google earth took a wide scale picture of the area; we assumed 4 men can squeeze in one meter square and the number was 370,000. While today protesters were, as being reported, 11-33 million.

TM: Reuters reports fear and violence are widespread and that Mursi’s supporters vowed to resist.

I doubt much violence would occur as it would never start from us, and they are too scared to start something after seeing our numbers and we know we are right so we won’t run away from anything we will stand still until we get what we want.

TM: I can imagine there is a great energy about the city. What do you think will happen if Morsi does not step down?

There are reports saying that there are disputes in the Muslim Brotherhood now, as they know if the president doesn’t resign then he will be removed by force and it would end in the brotherhood ending from Egypt, not just their short reign over power. The Muslim Brotherhood has been in Egypt for a long time and it’s their headquarters worldwide, so the last thing they would want is for them to be kicked out of Egypt and back into their rat-holes after going out public and having their own party.

Right now what’s planned is a march to the other palace, which is near from the one we’re protesting at, he’s staying at that other palace, so we’ll march and protest there. But I think the army wouldn’t stay neutral much after that and they might force him to resign.

TM: Sexual assaults, stabbings, etc., have been reported. From your ground view, have you heard any of these rumors?

The stabbings happened in other less crowded cities, when you have hundreds of thousands marching together you know there’s a chance of thieves, sexual assaulters and other scum to blend in, however from my ground view at the palace today I haven’t seen anything sexual assaults or anything.

I guess it’s how Journalism works, you just want headlines nothing else, you’d know about it.

TM: I have to ask you about the photo with the Apaches again. Egyptians say this is a fun exchange of solidarity between protestor and pilot, but the media reports that attack helicopters were monitoring the crowds. “At one point in Tahrir Square, protesters targeted a military helicopter with lasers in an attempt to disorientate the pilot.” To the west it looks like these machines are not guarding, but standing with the government? What’s the story?

This is a show of solidarity and lasering has been done before February 2011. We cheered really loudly whenever a helicopter came today, as they were coming and going regularly dropping Egyptian flags on us. One of the helicopters had some sort of a substance on them that made them shiny and glittery so it looked awesome dropping from them.

We really love our army as they have always got our back and without us asking we always find them next to us guarding us, I’m sure you’ve seen many pictures of Egyptians in 2011 and 2012 taking photos on top of army tanks and with army officers/soldiers and such.

TM: What, if anything, do you want to the west to know about what is happening?

That’s a hard one, I’d probably want them to know that spirits can’t be broken, and to never give in to an unjust dictatorship, as there’s always hope, and when the people stand as one it’s like a flood, nothing can stop it.

ccc


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Tiffany Madison

Tiffany is a writer and veteran's advocate. Her column focuses on civil liberties, veteran's issues and current events. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanymadisonFacebook or her website.

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