Egyptian Activist Discusses Prospects For Democracy Alaa Al Aswany — a best-selling Egyptian novelist, dentist and political activist — speaks to host Robert Siegel about the unraveling of the Mubarak regime, and prospects for a democratic state.
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Egyptian Activist Discusses Prospects For Democracy

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Egyptian Activist Discusses Prospects For Democracy

Egyptian Activist Discusses Prospects For Democracy

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

As we mentioned, Egypt's health ministry has said three people were killed today, but Dr. Alaa Al Aswany says he expects the true number is higher. Al Aswany is a best-selling Egyptian novelist, and also a dentist and a political activist. Dr. Al Aswany has been agitating for a democratic Egypt for years and since the current demonstrations began, he has been out on the streets protesting. He told us the army had been protecting protesters but no more.

ALAA AL ASWANY: We are all, as Egyptians, relying on the role of the army to guard the equilibrium of the country and the transitional period until we achieve democracy. And the army has been all the time our pride. And the army refused many times in Egyptian history to shoot the protesters, but today the role of the army was negative for the first time.

SIEGEL: Well, if the army urges everybody to go home and to stop demonstrating, to restore calm, will people listen to the army, or will they decide that's not the real...

AL ASWANY: Not at all. You cannot, after beating people, arresting people, torturing people and killing people in the streets, you cannot ask them to go home. You can not deprive the people from saying what they think.

SIEGEL: Dr. Al Aswany, you know the United States pretty well. You studied in Chicago. I'm wondering what you would tell an American right now who's saying it's very inspiring, the protesters are very courageous, but I'm afraid that a government that includes Islamist movements in it will turn out to be like Iran. It will turn out to be a religious dictatorship.

AL ASWANY: And I must tell you as well that the reaction of the U.S. has been very frustrating. The official reaction by Obama administration was hesitating and it looks at some point that they talk about democracy, but they keep supporting one of the most terrible dictators in the region.

SIEGEL: Do you have any doubt right now that Egypt is headed in the direction of a democratic government? Are you at all concerned that somebody might yet either defeat this movement or hijack a revolution?

AL ASWANY: But I have no doubt about the future. I'm very optimistic. I'm quite sure that this dictatorship is over. And I'm not worried about hijacking the revolution. But what I am worried is that the dictator at the end becomes a kind of wounded tiger. And then he becomes very dangerous, and he could really be very harmful to his country and his people.

SIEGEL: Dr. Alaa Al Aswany, thank you very much for talking with us.

AL ASWANY: Thank you, sir, thank you.

SIEGEL: Dr. Alaa Al Aswany, he is a dentist, that's why we say doctor. He is also a novelist. His books include "Chicago" and "The Yacoubian Building."

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

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