WATCH: Journalist Arrested and Beaten Alongside Protesters in Egypt, Secretly Records Ordeal
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AMY GOODMAN: That was Guardian reporter Jack Shenker speaking on Tuesday night in Cairo. We go to break, and when we come back, he will join us on the phone from Egypt.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Guardian reporter Jack Shenker, who is with us on the telephone from Cairo.
We have just listened to very dramatic reporting, Jack, of your time Tuesday night when you were thrown into a van, not knowing where you would be, with scores of other people. Describe what happened after that and then, in these next few days, what has been taking place in the streets of Cairo.
JACK SHENKER: Hi, Amy.
Well, it was certainly a very dramatic—dramatic scene. After we were hauled into the truck, we were taken right out into the desert, and there was a lot of confusion, and everybody was very disorientated. And as you heard in the audio report, we also had a lot of injured people, people losing blood, and one man who had passed out into a diabetic coma. We actually managed to force our way out of the truck and escape into the street in the end. One of the people with us in the truck was the son of a very prominent political dissident here, and his relatives had shown up, and they helped secure our release. After that, we had to make our way back into the city. The police had already taken and have still got our wallets and mobiles, so we were obviously quite hampered in terms of being able to move around. But the important thing, I think, although it was a horrifying experience for me, was that this is very much not an exception but a rule when it comes to the way in which the Mubarak security apparatus is dealing with members of this uprising.
The kind of scenes we saw on Tuesday and again yesterday are really, really unprecedented. I’ve covered Cairo for The Guardian for a few years now, and I’ve been on dozens of protests, where you just see the same old faces, maybe 100 or 200 people, surrounded by twice as many riot police. And even though there’s a lot of latent hostility to the Mubarak regime among members of the Egyptian population, many people feel too intimidated, too scared to come out and confront the regime directly. And they also have too much to lose. You know, people—unemployment is very high. Prices are very high. People’s standard of living is—has taken a real battering. And people don’t want to risk what they’ve got for them and their families by going out and confronting the regime. That’s really been the status quo for the past few years. And yet, what we’ve seen on Tuesday and Wednesday is that that fear barrier seems to have been broken. I’ve spoken to so many people who—including people in the truck with me the other night, who are lawyers and bank analysts and software engineers. These are sort of middle-class people who are generally enjoying quite a comfortable standard of living; they’re not on the poverty line. They’ve got a lot to lose, and yet they’re still being motivated to come out, to be beaten, to be hit by water cannons, to be carried off into the desert. And that’s really a remarkable change from what we’ve seen over the past few years.
So I think the next few days are going to be very interesting. There are big protests planned for tomorrow. Today is slightly a lull in the storm, although there’s a lot of violence still going on in Suez, which is a big city to the east of Cairo. In the capital itself, though, today has been a bit quieter. Activists are preparing for tomorrow. After the afternoon prayers, there’s going to be a really big surge, and people are going to try and retake the streets and reoccupy the central square, which holds so much symbolic significance for the protesters, because they really—you know, Egyptians haven’t been in control of their own streets for decades now. The emergency law prohibits people organizing and rallying. And the fact that they took control of the central square on Tuesday has really emboldened people, and people obviously feel inspired by Tunisia, as well. So I think the next couple of days are going to be very, very interesting.