Egypt To Start Dialogue With All 'Political Forces'

It may be the beginning of the end for the Mubarak regime. Egypt's newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman spoke on state television Monday saying President Hosni Mubarak had asked him to immediately begin dialogue with "political forces" for constitutional and legislative reforms. Meanwhile, demonstrators are preparing for a million-person march Tuesday.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

It may be the beginning of the end for the Mubarak regime. Egypt's newly appointed vice president appeared on state television today. He said President Hosni Mubarak asked him to immediately begin dialogue with what he called political forces. Dialogue about reform. At the same time, demonstrators are calling for a march of one million people tomorrow.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Cairo.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: For a 7th night, the curfew here was broken by protestors in Tahrir Square. A man reads the names of the new Cabinet ministers appointed by Hosni Mubarak, to cries of enough, enough, from the crowd. The much hated interior minister has been replaced. But there are still many of the same old faces in the government. The protestors say it's too little too late. They want the whole government and its leader gone.

The air in the square for the past few days has been almost festive. This is a deliberately peaceful protest holding placards and chanting, camping out in tents. The protestors say they don't want to give the regime any chance to discredit them. The crowd today was also more diverse.

(Soundbite of protest)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The sea of men were protesting by praying. The Muslim Brotherhood putting in a prominent appearance. The banned Islamist movement says it supports the goals of free and fair elections. They say they are throwing their weight behind Nobel laureate and opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei. But there were also Coptic Christians and the young urban protestors that kick started this movement. In another sign that these disparate groups are starting to organize, a media center has been set up.

Mr. AHMED ABDULLAH (Filmmaker): My name is Ahmed Abdullah. I'm a filmmaker.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They are collecting footage from the protests to send out to the world via live streaming. While the government has cut Internet services in the country, the tech savvy here have found ways around the block.

Mr. ABDULLAH: People are supposed to know what's happened, even us, even for our own history, we're supposed to know what really happened.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tomorrow, calls have gone out for a massive protest to keep the pressure on the regime. In a statement, the army said that it considers the people's demands legitimate, and that it will not use force against the protestors. But that doesn't mean there isn't a risk of violence, says Elijah Zarwan, who works for the International Crisis Group.

Mr. ELIJAH ZARWAN (Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group): Tomorrow is likely to be another of the decisive days in the history of the revolt. There have been calls for a million man march, a general strike. And I suspect that the announcement that the new government today, in which very few faces changed, will contribute to the crowds. There's a possibility of further unrests, particularly now that the police are back on the streets.

(Soundbite of radio)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As night fell and the streets emptied in residential areas, this local neighborhood watch group brandishing sticks paired with a few policemen checking cars and IDs. Gamil Khatab(ph) - one of the neighborhood watch volunteers - says things for now are quiet.

Mr. GAMIL KHATAB: (Through translator) There is security here. The police are in their locations. There are no problems. We will stand strong to protect the neighborhood.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But that isn't the case everywhere. Looting still continues. In Cairo, soldiers detained about 50 men trying to break into the Egyptian National Museum, according to reports. Egypt has turned upside down in this former police state. Now some in the security services are expected of being behind the crime wave.

Mr. PETER BOUCKAERT (Human Rights Watch): It's quite clear to us that this is an organized attempt by the Mubarak government and his interior ministry to create chaos and instability in the country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Peter Bouckaert is with the New York based Human Rights Watch. He says Human Rights Watch had documented cases, what looters were caught and they were carrying IDs of the undercover police.

Mr. BOUCKAERT: The Mubarak government is basically trying to give people a choice. His mantra has always been he's the guarantor of the security of the people and the stability of the state. So, no Mubarak means no stability and no security.

(Soundbite of protest)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But back in the square, the protestors appeared undaunted, preparing for another massive demonstration in an attempt to topple Mubarak's regime.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Cairo.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: