“Revolutionaries on the Roof”
Al Jazeera producer Evan Hill posted a (translated) video clip called “Revolutionaries on the Roof” that deserves wide circulation. It is described as “Young protesters occupying an apartment building near the site of fierce battles between pro- and anti-government crowds discuss their motivations, the events of the past two weeks, and the diverse make-up of Egypt’s democracy movement. (With reporting and translation by Lara el-Gibaly)”
You can watch the clip here, but I’ve copied and pasted their transcription below:
As for how I got here, before we got here, and even before the youth called for these protests on facebook against the regime and to bring down the regime, we could feel the effects of corruption that our country suffers from, from unemployment to corruption to rigged elections.
I can feel it myself. I am unemployed, I have a business degree, but I cannot find an appropriate job with my degree. We can feel it in our daily lives, in everyday dealings, nobody can get anything done in any government institution without paying, without bribery. Everyone is suffocated.
This protest was… like a wake-up call for us. We gained more courage after what happened in Tunis, when they succeeded in overthrowing Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, when their revolution succeeded, even though there numbers are much smaller than ours. So I decided I would take to the streets with people and participate and whatever happens to them will happen to me.
How did I end up here? With public transport, how else would I get here?
I’ve been here for… around seven days now. In total, seven days. I would go home and come back. I would sleep at a relative’s place in Sayeda Zeinab then come back here, but I’ve spent seven days here
So how did they choose me as a leader here? Till two days ago there was no leader for our group on the rooftops. The one that secures the rooftops. We had to choose a leader because everyone started voicing their opinions, and there were some people, like one man who was a state security agent, whom we later arrested, who were trying to take the leading positions, and impose their opinions on us. And his opinions were not accepted by the majority, by almost everyone and everyone noticed that his actions were suspicious. So we had to choose a leader so he can have the final word, because there were many different opinions, so the leader could choose and have the final say and he distributes people all over the building in their lookout positions.
There are places which are danger zones, places where they could infiltrate our buildings, so we spread ourselves to cover them, we stay awake to guard them. We take shifts of three to four hours each, then whoever is asleep gets the next shift and whoever is awake goes to sleep etc. So we said we had to choose a leader
We had a leader downstairs who set the criteria for how we would choose our leader. Whoever was calm during difficult situations, and whoever acted with the most wisdom. There was an incident which took place, and I took control and distributed people without having been chosen. I put each person in a position and brought the situation under control quickly. That guy who ended up being state security is the first one who said he wanted to be the leader. So afterwards when we asked everyone for their opinions they refused to have him as a leader. So then they chose me unanimously according to the criteria. Afterwards the state security agent attempted to attack us, but we were able to subdue him, and we kicked him out.
Tell us more about that. Do you feel that there is danger of other people infiltrating your groups? Causing trouble or discord between you. We’ve seen other groups trying to get into the square. Do you feel that this is a continuing threat?
This danger will not end until the president steps down. This is a plan he has come up with, it’s the last card he can play, and he wants to separate people using any method. He played the police card, it didn’t work, and we defeated them. The army has been neutral, although it is biased towards the state, but till now it has been neutral. The only card that remains is the thugs, and we have them under control with our barriers, so that they won’t be able to get in, and we have been able to resist them well.
The only option left is trying to destabilize us internally. He has people infiltrate our groups like spies. They pretend they are on our side. They say we are here with you, we speak with your voice, our cause is your cause, etc etc. They enter and find out our ideas, then try to disseminate ideas amongst us that would separate us. For example they would say “what do you guys want from the president?” “He has already said he will not run for another term” “Give him a chance till the next elections, after the coming few months, then he will not run again” This is not true, he wants to gain more control over us over the coming period. This is evident in the fact that the day after the president’s speech… Even on the same day of his speech, he was gathering the thugs, and the next day they attacked us. The day after he said he wouldn’t run again he sent thugs to beat us up?
Over two days we have captured over 750 people. 750 people in the square and amongst us, 750 people, between central security forces, state security forces, police officers, police captains and thugs, amongst us. More than 750 people over two days, so about 350 per day. A huge number, considering our numbers, it’s quite a large amount.
I think this threat will continue until he steps down, because he can feel, because of western pressure on him, he has one remaining card to play, to try and separate our ranks, because he will not be able to use force against us again. Because the western world is focusing its attention on Egypt at the moment, the Arab countries are all watching Egypt at the moment, so he will not be able to use force against us again. So he resorts to these cheap methods, used by intelligence agents, which he has been using against us for a long time. State security and secret police were used against us.
Before, whoever was taking public transport would be afraid to voice their opinions. They’d say “Enough, be quiet, there might be a state security agent who could overhear and arrest you.” We were afraid of discussing politics, we were afraid of criticizing the president, we were afraid of criticizing the regime in Egypt, despite the fact that it has many internal and external flaws.
Living standards in Egypt have kept people’s attention away from his foreign policy, his co-operation with Israel and his subservience to America. There are catastrophes he is committing externally. He exports gas to Israel for a third of its market price, the aid through which they control us, so many things, but he has surrounded us with problems in Egypt so we don’t look at the problems outside, so we can be mired in these problems and not his policies.
If I was afraid just for my own safety, I could sacrifice myself. But before January 25th, if I thought of going out into a protest, or expressing my opinion in a public place, or continually discussing politics, I wouldn’t be the only one to be harmed. My family would be harmed as well, he would take my family with me. My father, mother, siblings, everyone I know would be taken, tortured or harmed. There are methods they use in state security against women, and everyone knows them. So they make you reconsider things a thousand times before you speak your mind
Before I speak, even if I am not afraid for my own safety, I will fear for those around me. They stifle our voices in many ways, including state security, or surrounding us with problems, such as low incomes, high prices. Everyone’s main concern is just wanting to make money, just enough to survive, and not safe in his own country. Unable to express opinions, unable to move freely. Egyptians cannot get into Sharm El Sheikh without a security permit from the interior ministry, after extensive security checks
Before January 25th… we feel like we’ve been living in a country, which is our country, but at the same time it isn’t. We are strangers in our country, he has made us strangers to our country.