Egypt's Uprising From An Exile's Point Of View

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Dr. Saad Ibrahim, a long-time Egyptian human rights and democracy advocate, speaks with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep about the unfolding protests in Egypt.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The people watching events in Egypt from the outside, include Saad Ibrahim. He's a longtime Egyptian human rights and democracy advocate, for which he was jailed as we've learned in his previous appearances on this program. He is now in exile and currently teaches sociology at Drew University.

Welcome back to the program, sir.

Dr. SAAD IBRAHIM: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: I imagine you watch these events with somewhat different eyes than most of us, because of your experiences. What do you see as you watch the televised images of people on the streets?

Dr. IBRAHIM: Well, first of all, it is a surprise to everybody, including Egyptians themselves, that over the years, the resentment has accumulated and came, now, to a blow in this critical days. Shortly after Tunisia, people feel empowered and feel that they can change the rulers, and they can do it peacefully. And this is a new turn in the history of the Middle East.

INSKEEP: Although, I do have to ask, because you know it from personal experience what strength does President Mubarak still have to draw on if he's still trying to maneuver to stay in power?

Dr. IBRAHIM: Very little in his own right. The only base he has now is the armed forces. And that armed forces, probably, the loyalty will not be there for very long. And, should things get out of hand, and he order them to open fire, I think that will be the end of it. Because in the history modern history of Egypt the army never opened fire on the people of Egypt. The people who used force were usually security police forces, but not the armed forces.

INSKEEP: What do you think of the response of the United States, to this situation? Most recently, U.S. diplomats, including Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, have spoken of urging an orderly transition to democratic rule more democratic rule.

Dr. IBRAHIM: Well, yes, it came a little bit hesitantly, but better late than never. And the best that the U.S. can do now, is to stand by the Egyptian people. Yes, smooth transition, fine. But to demand that Mubarak steps down to spare Egyptians further bloodshed, and that is a call. And I'm going to Congress and that will be, also, the message. It will prevail on Mubarak to step down. After all, America has supported him for 30 years. It's about time, support the Egyptian people, even for one year.

INSKEEP: Are you in a position, haven spoken to opposition leaders, to reassure the United States, to say to American officials look, we know Mubarak has been your ally, but you have nothing to fear in this situation, you can whole-heartedly support a change?

Dr. IBRAHIM: Yes.

INSKEEP: Very simple answer. You can tell Americans, directly, don't worry about your security interests; don't worry about Egypt's peace treaty with Israel; don't worry about what the next government is going to look like, everything's going to be fine?

Dr. IBRAHIM: Absolutely. Even the candidate for replacing Mubarak, Doctor ElBaradei, who is now poised to be the next president...

INSKEEP: Mohamed ElBaradei.

Dr. IBRAHIM: ...said that, yesterday, in an interview.

INSKEEP: He said, yesterday, in a television interview, that Egypt's security situation, security agreements with Israel and others will remain as they have been.

Dr. IBRAHIM: Absolutely. Yes.

INSKEEP: When you hear the news from Tahrir Square, which has been the center of the protests, do you find yourself wishing you were there?

Dr. IBRAHIM: Of course. Of course. (Unintelligible) feel vindicated, because I was the first one to blow the whistle on the scheme to pass power from father to son from Hosni Mubarak to Gamal Mubarak - as that was the trigger for my trouble with the regime. I think now, thousands of people know the truth, know that how autocratic, how tyrannical this regime was, but put a very smooth face on the tyranny, with a kind of a soft tyranny. He marketed himself, in the West, as being the bulwark for peace in the Middle East; as being the bulwark for fighting terrorism; and in effect, he did very little himself on either front.

INSKEEP: Saad Ibrahim is a longtime Egyptian human rights advocate. Thanks very much.

Dr. IBRAHIM: Thank you.

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