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Interview: Egyptian Activist Outlines Protesters' Aims

A protester holds a placard depicting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as Adolf Hitler in Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 31.
Sahar al-Mougy, an Egyptian journalist, writer, and political activist, spoke with RFE/RL Afghan Service correspondent Sultan Sarwar on January 31 before rejoining ongoing protests on Cairo's Tahrir Square. Al-Mougy describes the frustration that is fueling protesters and their desire for a "civil government."

RFE/RL: Who is leading the current protests in Egypt and what are their main demands?

Sahar al-Mougy:
The young generation, which is suppressed, deprived of their legal rights and freedom, and offended by the Mubarak regime, is leading the current protest. This generation doesn't have declared or clear leadership but is very organized and they know exactly what they want. It is not only a protest; we see many manifestations of highly civilized activities and patriotism.

Within the protest you find youths collecting trash and cleaning Tahrir Square. You find Egyptians who don't know you offering you water, food, and vinegar to protect against the tear gas. People are happy and the Egyptian genie is out of bottle, and the Egyptian youth got him out of the bottle.

RFE/RL: How do you evaluate the government's reaction toward protesters' demands to this point?

The reaction of the government, as has been the case for the last 30 years, is ridiculous, idiotic, late, and insufficient. We are not waiting for any reaction from the government any more. We have practically ousted the government. We are not waiting for the reaction of the government or any other entity any more.

The Egyptians today know how to grab their freedom. They are able to throw the president from his chair and exchange him for a new president who has national unity around him and is chosen by the people, a president who can achieve development, reform education, and preserve human rights for Egyptians.

RFE/RL: Mohamed ElBaradei has appeared among demonstrators in Tahrir Square and assured them of a new era. Is there any agreement about the role he is playing in the current situation?

Egypt needs all people, but we are not choosing a president now. We are ousting the system and trying to change it to a democratic and just system with determined presidential terms and not endless presidential terms.

We choose a system which protects the public interest, separates between the three institutions of the state by relying on respected law, not offending freedoms, and not suppressing any minority in Egypt. So what is vital for us now is not who will be new president but the kind of system that we want.

RFE/RL: As a journalist, writer, and social, and political activist what do you intend to do during the coming days?

We will stay in the street until this corrupt system ends, the system which unleashed his [Mubarak's] thugs against us. The thugs of the Interior Ministry are looting in the streets, breaking public property, burning, and firing into the air to frighten Egyptians away from freedom. But we are not afraid.

RFE/RL: There is worry in some Western capitals, saying that if president Mubarak's regime ends it may be replaced by a more repressive regime of Islamic fundamentalists. What do you say about these suggestions?

That will never happen, because the protests are led by youths and they never uttered even a single Islamic slogan. So the Muslim Brotherhood appears now in its true volume. They are just one element of the political scene of Egypt, but they do not own the scene.

Mubarak's regime failed in its plan to use the Muslim Brotherhood as a scarecrow. They are not a scarecrow, so the European governments should not rely on this idea. And they do not have to be afraid, because the Egyptian people don't want theocratic government. We aspire to a civil government.