I think this is a very important moment, to see Mubarak in the cage. It’s a great moment in Egyptian history and the history of the whole region. It’s a turning point. From now on, the president will never be the father of the people or the symbol of the country. He’s going to be a public servant who works for the people, and when he makes mistakes, or commits crimes, he is going to be brought to justice.
During the revolution, for the first time, I knew the meaning of “the people.” I wrote the word “people” many times in my novels, but for the first time, I knew the meaning. I felt that we had 20 million people who were really members of one family. I lived through very dangerous moments. I was almost killed three times, and I’m not an exception. Twenty million people participated in this revolution and faced the real risk of getting killed. The regime was using snipers. People would be beside you and talking to you—and then, after 4 or 5 minutes, you’d hear a sound and the person who was talking to you is no more. He was shot in his head and he’s no more. So death becomes something you can live with, which is a very strange experience. Death is no longer an idea. But people never ran away, even when the snipers began to shoot. Why not? In a real revolution, people become elements of the revolution much more than individuals who are worried about their personal safety.
The mood in Cairo now is not as optimistic as it was on Feb. 11 when Mubarak stepped down. To be fair, people are still optimistic. People think that the future has begun in Egypt—everybody’s talking about that. But people are worried because after six months, they don’t see the changes they thought they were going to see.
The revolution forced Mubarak to step down. But we have doubts about the performance of the military council. The military council was supposed to respond to the demands of the revolution. Up until now it hasn’t responded, except for the trial of Mubarak. But the revolutionaries had other demands—for example, eliminating corrupt police officers and corrupt judges who supervise direct elections, changing the general prosecutor who has been working for Mubarak for years and who makes political compromises, and ceasing the practice of bringing civilians before military courts.
We must put pressure on the military council, and that’s exactly what we are doing. We do not forget that there is a counterrevolution in Egypt. There are elements of the regime making all kinds of trouble. The counterrevolution is putting pressure on ordinary people. You have thugs all over the country who are controlled and urged on by the Egyptian police. They use thugs to terrorize people so people will say they don’t have any more security because of the revolution. And since Egypt isn’t secure, it doesn’t have tourists. The military council should have eliminated all the officers who belonged to the Mubarak regime. They didn’t and don’t want to. At some point, people will say, ‘We hate the revolution, because we want to be safe.’ But the revolution is not the reason they are unsafe. The military council did not make the right decisions to protect the revolution.
The revolution made Mubarak step down, which was the first step in the elimination of the Mubarak regime—of the old regime, so that the revolution could build up a new regime. I think that the military council approved Mubarak’s resignation in order to save the old regime. So the resignation was seen in a very different way.
Now we also have another problem, because the Islamists have become aligned to the military council. The Islamists are absolutely supporting the military council and attacking anyone who criticizes the council. By this practice, they get closer and closer to power, so it’s a very opportunist position. They don’t care about anything except being in power. They care about that much more than they care about what the revolution wants.
After six months, you still have the counterrevolution making trouble for Egyptians; you have Mubarak’s police refusing to protect Egyptians. You still have the crisis of the Egyptian economy. So people don’t feel as optimistic or secure as they used to after the resignation of Mubarak. Now the most important thing is to explain to the people what’s happening, and to keep all the revolutionary forces united, and to keep the pressure on the military council.
A leaderless revolution was very good before the resignation of Mubarak. Because the revolution was leaderless, the Mubarak regime couldn’t control it. But after his resignation, we need leadership. We’re trying to organize something—a delegation or cabinet, or government for the revolution. But not one person—we’re not asking for a hero, because we believe that the real hero is the Egyptian people.
As told to Mike Giglio