WATCH: Journalist Arrested and Beaten Alongside Protesters in Egypt, Secretly Records Ordeal
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Whilst talking on the phone to you, actually, I’ve just been contacted by the Ministry of Information here, who say that the ruling NDP party are about to have a press conference around the corner, where Safwat El-Sherif, who’s a senior member of the ruling party, will be addressing reporters about the protests. So, that could be our first full official statement on what’s happening from the government. But we still haven’t heard anything from Mubarak himself.
As for the police crackdown on the streets, the last tally that I had was that between 800 and 900 protesters have been arrested. To be honest, it’s likely that the figure is much higher, because many people, as we were when we were taken away—we weren’t registered or processed. We were just beaten up and herded into a van and driven off. There was no formal, you know, registration or compiling of lists. So the official figure stands at close to 900. I’m sure that that will increase as the day goes on. And several hundred of those will—are being taken to a prosecutor’s office in Cairo today for the first stage of their interrogations. And there’s a big push by activists today to get lawyers down to them to help them through that.
But very much, security remains very high on the streets. There is an absolutely massive police presence on pretty much every street corner in downtown Cairo, both uniformed riot police and plain-clothed state security officers. And small groups of people, especially young men, are being targeted. People are being snatched off the streets. If it looks like they might be protesters, if it looks like they might be political activists, they are being targeted by the state security services to try and avoid anybody being in groups coalescing and rallies spontaneously breaking out. So, yeah, I imagine things will only intensify over the night. And certainly tomorrow afternoon, we’re going to see a very, very big presence of both protesters and police on the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Jack Shenker, where is the Muslim Brotherhood in all of this, the largest opposition group to President Mubarak?
JACK SHENKER: Well, the Muslim Brotherhood has had quite a schizophrenic attitude toward these protests. They initially said they weren’t going to participate in them. This was the previous week before they started. Their Guidance Council announced that they would be having nothing to do with them, which provoked the anger of some of their younger members. There’s a real split within the Muslim Brotherhood between the older, more conservative members of the group, who believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is better off concentrating on social work and evangelism and strengthening the Islamic nature of Egyptian society and steering clear of politics, and they are very much at odds with a much younger generation of Muslim Brotherhood activists who want to confront the regime and who want to form alliances with liberals and secular activists and Coptic Christian groups, as well, to challenge the regime together. And after the Guidance Council said they wouldn’t be participating in the protests, they then had to issue a U-turn of sorts, which said that younger members or all Muslim Brotherhood member were welcome to participate in a personal capacity and that they would be doing some—they would be symbolically supporting the protests.
Now that things have really taken off, and, you know, we’ve seen this uprising in the streets, I think they’re reassessing their strategy. And they remain—despite the fact that the Western media often exaggerates their influence, they do remain the largest organized opposition force in Egypt and certainly the most—the organization with the most capability to bring large numbers of people onto the street. So, their response in the next few days is definitely going to be crucial to all of this. But to be honest, even if they don’t get involved on a formal level, I think there’s now so much energy and so much momentum behind what’s going on that I don’t think it will make much difference. I think that we’ll still see a lot of people on the streets tomorrow. And whatever happens over the next few days and the next few weeks, I think a really crucial fear barrier has been crossed in Egypt, and that’s going to have major consequences further down the line.