Revolution in Cairo


Revolution in Cairo

NARRATOR: Before they filled Liberation Square in Cairo, down a side street, in a small office, they are planning a revolution. They call themselves the April 6th youth movement.

[Al Jazeera exclusive]

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] Mubarak and his son shouldn't stand for presidential elections.

NARRATOR: They have a list of demands-

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] -dissolution of the National Assembly, repealing the emergency law, immediate reform of the constitution and government policy.

NARRATOR: -and a plan, a national protest fueled by the Internet. Ahmed Maher is their leader.

DAVID WOLMAN, Contributing Editor, Wired: Ahmed Maher is a civil engineer- almost compulsively quiet, compulsively limelight-avoiding young guy, but very tech-savvy.

NARRATOR: David Wolman from Wired magazine has been reporting inside April 6th movement and watching Maher use the Web to spread anti-government messages to eager young Egyptians.

DAVID WOLMAN: In the real world, these governments are good at suppressing assembly. But short of shutting off the Internet, the government really can't prevent the people from communicating and convening in this new and incredibly powerful way.

NARRATOR: Maher was plugged into a network of activists determined to expose the repression in the Mubarak regime.

EVGENY MOROZOV, Author, The Net Delusion: What happened in Egypt in the last few years was that a lot of bloggers were just filming police brutality on mobile phones.

COURTNEY RADSCH, Scholar on Internet Activism: The power of a video, of seeing in action someone being beaten and tortured and killed, is incredibly powerful. It's something that probably words just- it can't convey in the same sense.

NARRATOR: Egyptians saw something new and shocking, graphic images of brutal interrogations taken by the security police.

WAEL ABBAS, Journalist/Blogger, MisrDigital: It depicts an Egyptian citizen being tortured and sodomized inside an Egyptian police station. But I personally have published, like, almost a dozen, over a dozen of these videos, and only very few of them have been investigated.

NARRATOR: The movement was born back in 2008, during the planning for a textile workers strike on April 6th. Ahmed Maher used FaceBook and YouTube to organize a national protest.

MONA ELTAHAWY, Journalist: The April 6 FaceBook page said, "We call on all Egyptians to go on strike." And from then on, their page became incredibly popular.

NARRATOR: Sixty percent of Egypt's population is under 30. Even with access to university education, many are unemployed. They seemed ready to be radicalized.

DAVID WOLMAN: These young people in Cairo said, "How can we support this?" And they launched this group, which as we now know, swelled to 70,000, 80,000 people in a matter of weeks. And this caught the regime by surprise.

NARRATOR: But on April 6th, 2008, the day of the strike, Egyptian security police struck back. They killed four protesters and jailed 400 others. Before long, they had tracked down Ahmed Maher.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] They were punching me in the head, hitting me on my neck and my back.

NARRATOR: He was beaten by the security forces.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] All the questions were about the group on FaceBook.

NARRATOR: He says his torturers wanted to know about a virtual "friend" named Fatima.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] I don't know her personally.

NARRATOR: They didn't seem to understand that she wasn't a friend in real life.

MONA ELTAHAWY: He was taken and beaten so that he could give the police the password for the FaceBook group, when there was no password all along. So that just shows you just how clueless the regime and its security apparatus was.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] He said "We can rape you. We can put a stick in."

NARRATOR: Maher gave the security police a false password. He was released.

DAVID WOLMAN: When he is finally released and is back on line, you see this feeling of new energy and new anger about the treatment of the people and about the suppression and about the regime. And so this galvanizes the movement. Maher then has more currency because now he's been tortured and he's back at it. And a lot of people that I spoke with, they really describe him as the everyman hero.

NARRATOR: It took three more years. Maher and April 6th slowly built a base. They had begun planning by learning from others.

DAVID WOLMAN: They would talk about Mandela, they would talk about Serbia, and they were taking notes. And because of the Internet, they were reading about these things.

NARRATOR: They studied the Serbian student movement, Otpor, meaning "resistance." Using highly disciplined non-violent tactics, the students had successfully toppled Slobodan Milosevic. Srdja Popovic was the leader of that revolution. He shared his experience with the April 6th group.

SRDJA POPOVIC, Leader, Otpor Movement: One of the key things is to understand that the non-violent struggle is a form of warfare because violence contaminates your movement and create your opponent excuse for using police and military forces. Also, there is this big problem with media and violence. If you have march of 100,000 people and one single idiot throwing stone, he's going to be the star of the day.

[ Twitter #RevolutioninCairo]

COURTNEY RADSCH, Scholar on Internet Activism: The Serbian example highlighted the fact that movements don't need to be violent. Especially in Mubarak's Egypt, I mean, violence will backfire. The police are incredibly violent.

MOHAMED ADEL: [subtitles] I got trained in how to conduct peaceful demos, how to avoid violence, and how to face violence from the security forces.

NARRATOR: Mohamed Adel had been to Serbia to learn the techniques.

MOHAMED ADEL: [subtitles] And then how to train others in how to demonstrate peacefully, how to put their demands forward in a peaceful way. And also how to organize and get people on the streets.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: A extraordinary act of daring in the country of Tunisia-

U.S. NEWSCASTER: President Ben Ali has stepped down.

NARRATOR: Then Tunisia broke. And as protesters there overthrew their government, Maher and the April 6th activists saw their chance.

DAVID WOLMAN: This was their moment. And they saw it happen. And they jumped on line, they jumped on SMS, they jumped on Twitter. And they had each other accessible - 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 people - right away in this forum.

NARRATOR: They set a date, a public holiday, January 25th, and issued a call for action.

MONA ELTAHAWY: Asmaa Mahfouz, a young activist with the April 6th movement, decided to film a V-blog to encourage Egyptians to join protests on January the 25th, Police Day.

ASMAA MAHFOUZ: [subtitles] We want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25th, go down and demand our rights, fundamental human rights. If you think yourself a man, come with me on January 25th.

NARRATOR: The video went viral. The morning of the 25th, Maher and April 6th waited to see if anyone would show up.

DAVID WOLMAN: They have no idea if three people are going to turn up, or three hundred, or three thousand. They're just doing their best to be heard and to be convincing in cyberspace. And so they really don't know what's going to happen, what will be the turnout.

NARRATOR: From the balcony of the April 6th office, they saw it begin.

PROTESTERS: [subtitles] The people want the downfall of the president! Our Motherland, we give you our blood and our soul!

NARRATOR: In Egypt, this holiday is called Police Day.

PROTESTERS: [subtitles] Egypt! Egypt!

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] We do this every year, but we make fun of it, asking how we can be expected to celebrate brutality, corruption, and those who rig elections. But this year, what happened in Tunisia has given a different feel to January 25th.

PROTESTERS: [subtitles] Down with Hosni Mubarak!

FEMALE PROTESTER: [subtitles] I heard about April 6th from FaceBook. I'm not into politics, I just- I wanted to do something good for my country, something positive. That's the happiest day of my life.

NARRATOR: Then the security police. They try the non-violent tactics imported from Serbia. They hold their hands up in compliance, they salute and even hug the police. On this day, it seems to work. They move toward Tahrir Square.

MONA ELTAHAWY, Journalist: The uprising started with these protests on January the 25th, but then it reached everyone else. It became much bigger than just social media and the invitation on social media. It became something that galvanized all Egyptians.

[Al Jazeera exclusive]

NARRATOR: At April 6th headquarters, producer Elizabeth Jones began capturing the first days of what they were starting to call "the revolution".

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] The nearest point for you is Amr Mosque in Old Cairo.

NARRATOR: Maher is already coordinating the next big protest.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] We are bound by our pledge, not like other people's promises. We'll continue to put pressure on the regime. People won't leave the streets until our demands are fully met and real change takes place.

DAVID WOLMAN: A lot of it is really about this innovation. Every night, they think about, you know, "What can we do next? What can we call an event," you know, "the tweet that went 'round the world" or "the million person march" or "the day of rage." You know, they're innovating. They're creating.

NARRATOR: By now, tens of thousands have joined the protests. Clashes have begun with the security police. There have been arrests, including April 6th's spokesman, Mohamed Adel.

MOHAMED ADEL: [subtitles] As soon as security saw me in the car, they dragged me out, beating me with sticks and their fists. The head of Cairo security was there. He hit me, too. He said, "Put him in the car." And every single officer who saw me, hit me and said, "Ah ha! You made a revolution? You've done a Tunis? OK, then go to FaceBook now for help."

NARRATOR: Maher tries to handle organizing for as many as 100,000 Egyptians who could hit the streets the next day.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] Tomorrow is expected to be much bigger than the 25th. On the Internet, there is a huge interest, and people are talking about it being really big as they come out of the mosques and head to Tahrir Square.

[ Timeline: Inside the Revolution]

NARRATOR: In the morning, their plan is to walk from the mosques through the square, directly to the presidential palace. At dawn, the police move into the city. At April 6th headquarters, because of the previous day's violence, they decide to name this march "the day of rage."

Then the government retaliated.

APRIL 6TH ACTIVIST: [subtitles] Your mobile phone was disconnected at 12:00, ours was disconnected at 10:00.

NARRATOR: Mobile phones and the Internet, the key organizational tools, were taken down.

DAVID WOLMAN: When Mubarak shut off the Internet, it really revealed the desperation on the part of the regime about what was happening and about how effectively the protesters were using the tools of social media.

NARRATOR: But even without the Internet, the organizers continued to work.

MIKE GIGLIO, Reporter, Newsweek: They're not just on-line activists, they have boots on the ground. They have connections to other, you know, experienced activists.

NARRATOR: They'd learned from the Serbian students and the Tunisians. Wearing homemade armor, they are prepared for another day in the streets.

MIKE GIGLIO: You know, I think it's a nice combination of people who know how to use the Internet and are Web-savvy and also have real experience with street protests and trying to organize them.

APRIL 6TH ACTIVIST: [subtitles] Our mission is to get people to join up in peaceful marches and converge on Tahrir Square. We're going to a working class district where poor people live, who are suffering from dire economic conditions.

NARRATOR: Their non-violent tactics are tested immediately-

U.S. NEWSCASTER: -demonstrations and the largest ever seen.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: The protests began after midday prayers which happened on Friday.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: Violent protests have been spreading. That curfew in place, we've seen-

NARRATOR: -provoked by deliberate violence from the police.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: The air is thick with black smoke and tear gas is causing us to gag.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: They're calling this an open revolt spread on social networking sites.

U.S. NEWSCASTER: Cairo is in lockdown.

ACTIVIST: [in English] They are beating people in the streets!

NARRATOR: They are prevented by police from getting to Tahrir Square. They are forced up the side roads, the police in hot pursuit. It becomes a standoff. But more protesters arrive. The police can't guard every access route.

Then everything stops for prayers. The police turn their backs, a gesture of respect. But once prayers are over, the pushing and shoving picks back up. And then they break through to Tahrir Square.

Cairo seems like a war zone. April 6th headquarters becomes a makeshift clinic.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] Tahrir is upside down. There are 20,000 police on the ground.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] If it's like that, let's go!

NARRATOR: In the beginning, it is only burned eyes and smoke inhalation.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] If we go, let's go in pairs, not in groups. And whoever is going should take masks. Prepare vinegar and masks. The security are firing strange missiles. They're firing straight at the youth.

FEMALE PATIENT: [subtitles] There's an intifada in the souk! Small children, 9 years old, and old people, are all demonstrating and shouting, "Down with the regime! Down with Hosni Mubarak!" It's all entirely spontaneous. And they're firing live ammunition!

NARRATOR: Soon it resembles an emergency room. Without mobile phones or the Internet, they rely on rumors.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] They said they'd protect the churches, but no one did.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] Yet not a single church was attacked.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] The NDP building is on fire.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] No, it's not on fire. Only the gates

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] The police station at the Sayeda Zeinab is burning.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] To hell with the police station!

ACTIVIST: [in English] -his followers, they are being beaten in Giza Square. And some news about 4,000 soldiers from the army are in the streets.

NARRATOR: In the square, the crowds are growing and the tension is mounting. Back at the April 6th headquarters, they need to know what's going on, so someone buys a satellite dish and TV.

[ Watch this program on line]

NARRATOR: That night, they watch the national headquarters of the ruling party burn. And then a pivotal moment. The army is now on the streets. The police have been completely withdrawn. The protesters are delighted. They're counting on the army to be on their side.

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] We've got to be with the army because we can't separate the army from the people. We have to be with the army.

NARRATOR: They head out into the night, determined to protect Tahrir Square and the safety of protesters sleeping there. And now they have gained the support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It's been less than a week since the first protests in the square. Despite the violence, hundreds of thousands came. As the world watched, the people continued to clamor for change.

Ahmed Maher wants to make sure April 6th plays a role in that change. They hold a press conference. A reporter asks how long they intend to keep protesters in the square.

MOHAMED ADEL: [subtitles] The demonstrators must stay in Tahrir Square until a national salvation government is formed that has nothing to do with the people in power today. If the demonstrators leave Tahrir Square, that would open the door to the regime, and to Mubarak, to remain in power.

NARRATOR: Maher confirms that there will have to be some sort of alliance with the army.

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] There was some contact between us and some officers last week, and they've offered to help us. But after consultation, the consensus between us, El Baradei, Ayman Nour and other political leaders was that any dialogue with the army should be with the top brass, not just a few officers.

HOSNI MUBARAK, Pres. of Egypt: [subtitles] My speech today is to everyone, the whole country.

NARRATOR: They watch as President Mubarak finally address the nation on state television.

Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: [subtitles] I've never asked for power-

NARRATOR: He was unwilling to relinquish power. The reaction is to take to the streets.

ACTIVISTS: [subtitles, chanting] We are staying! He is going!

ACTIVIST: [subtitles] We have three Ph.D.s in stubbornness, and two Ph.D.s in staying in Tahrir Square until he leaves!

NARRATOR: Not long after that, military police raided the April 6th headquarters. Pictures appeared on the Internet of the trashed offices. Producer Elizabeth Jones was briefly detained and the 15 activists who were there at the time were arrested and taken away. In the days that followed, we lost track of Ahmed Maher. He and April 6th were in the thick of it with the crowd.

After 18 days, President Hosni Mubarak resigned. During the clean-up, we found Ahmed Maher, surrounded by reporters.

REPORTER: I mean, what are the achievements? And what more needs to be done now?

AHMED MAHER: [subtitles] The people have awoken. If change had happened through elitists while people were on the sidelines, that wouldn't have been real change. Now the people understand their rights and know how to demand them. They realized their own power.

NARRATOR: In the days that followed, new protests spread through the Middle East- in Yemen, Bahrain, in Jordan, Iraq, in Iran, and Libya.

DAVID WOLMAN: Already, the activists in Egypt are reaching out to friends and peers in neighboring countries. The fact that the people have finally put their foot down and said "Enough is enough" in Egypt, of all places over there, supposedly stable Egypt- this is a huge message for U.S. policy and for residents of other parts of the region.

ANNOUNCER: Next on this special edition of FRONTLINE, correspondent Charles Sennott of GlobalPost probes who's in charge of the Muslim Brotherhood.

AMR HAMZAWY, Carnegie Middle East Center: It is the young members which are telling the old guard what to do. And they are trying to catch up, and they are not catching up.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT, Correspondent: Does America understand the Muslim Brotherhood?

SHADI HAMID, Brookings Doha Center: The U.S. doesn't understand the Muslim Brotherhood, at least not yet.


The Brothers

Charles M. Sennott

CHARLES M. SENNOTT, Correspondent: [voice-over] Egypt's revolution may have been ignited by young secular activists, but there was another powerful force at work behind the scenes of the uprising, the long outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Day 11. They opened this prayer rally on Tahrir square with a moment of silence for those who died the previous day in battles with pro-Mubarak vigilantes.

MOURNER: [subtitles] God is great!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Many of the fallen were Muslim Brothers. Afterwards, they were all praised for their perseverance and unity.

IMAM: [subtitles] Your movement has revealed virtues not known to the Western world, Islamic virtues!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Anyone who's covered Egypt for years knows about the Brotherhood's profound influence on Egyptian society. Coming back at this extraordinary time, I wanted to find out what part they were playing in this revolution.

MOURNER: [subtitles] With liberation comes legitimacy!

MOURNER: [subtitles] We will never sell out Egypt!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [on camera] Hi. I'm Charles. Nice to meet you.

[voice-over] On Tahrir square, I found Mohammed Abbas, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's youth wing. For the past month, Abbas had been working alongside secular activists from the April 6th movement to help organize the revolt. He was eager to show us what he and his fellow Brothers had contributed.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] We built a barrier by the Omar Makram mosque, which is one of the entrances to Tahrir square, and another one over by the Kasr al Nile bridge.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: It was not until three days into the protests that the Muslim Brotherhood's senior leadership officially threw their weight behind the revolt. Now the Brothers were running the security checkpoints, serving hot tea, distributing blankets, printing posters and running an emergency health clinic.

They call themselves the Brothers - in Arabic, the Ikhwan - and they have decades of experience providing social services to Egypt's poor. They became key to holding the revolution's infrastructure together.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [in English] We have the ability, and a good ability, to organize. We are the best in Egypt to organize.

AMR HAMZAWY, Carnegie Middle East Center: The organization of the space is in the Brotherhood's hands.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Amr Hamzawy is an expert on Arab political movements.

AMR HAMZAWY: And it's not only garbage collection, tea, cups, and so on and so forth. It's even the one microphone, or the two microphones which we have to address the crowd. They are owned by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is attached to the strong organizational skills of the movement. Not only that, in fact, those who defended the demonstrators on Tuesday and Wednesday were Ikhwan members, in Tahrir against thugs of the Egyptian regime.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Our camera caught this firsthand as crowds of pro-Mubarak demonstrators arrived at the edges of Tahrir Square. Soon fights broke out.

DEMONSTRATORS: [subtitles] God is great! God is great!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: When things turned violent, it was young Muslim Brothers who pushed the regime's supporters back.

DEMONSTRATORS: [subtitles] Long live Egypt! Long live Egypt!

[ Twitter #RevolutioninCairo]

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: The origins of the movement go back over 80 years. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by an Egyptian school teacher, Hassan al Banna. His answer for Egypt's problems became their motto, "Islam is the solution."

RIFAT EL SAYED, Egyptian Opposition Leader: It began in Egypt in 1928. This group began the first modern extremist organization in the Islamic world.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: The Brotherhood took aim at foreign targets. An early bombing campaign struck at occupying British troops. They also flirted with German fascism. In the 1950s, President Nasser refused to let them form a political party and jailed and tortured Brotherhood members.

Head of Egyptian internal security for 25 years was General Fouad Allam.

FOUAD ALLAM: [subtitles] The Muslim Brotherhood was trying to take power in Egypt, claiming it wanted to create what it called an "Islamic state." The Brotherhood tried to use violence. When the authorities tried to arrest them, some members of the Brotherhood were killed.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: In the 1970s, President Sadat eased up on repression, but the movement split. Some members left to join groups like Ayman al Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad, responsible for Sadat's assassination in 1981.

AYMAN AL ZAWAHIRI: [in prison] We try our best to establish this Islamic state!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Zawahiri later joined forces with Osama bin Laden. The mainstream leadership said it would commit itself to a democratic process.

MONA ELTAHAWY, Journalist: Their position was that, "We will not use violence. We want to take part in the political process. We believe in pluralism, and we want to be included."

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: They fielded candidates in Egypt's 2005 elections, running as independents. The party was still officially outlawed.

MONA ELTAHAWY: They are outlawed in that they're not allowed to form a legal political party because Egypt does not recognize political parties based on religion.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: But after they won 88 seats in the parliament, Mubarak cracked down on the movement. He closed hundreds of Brotherhood schools and clinics, seized assets of their financial backers, and jailed over 1,200 members and supporters.

After years of repression, many of the Ikhwan are used to operating in the shadows. Even days into the revolt, members were still being arrested. This man asked us keep his identity secret even while he showed me his Web site, Ikhwanophobia.

BROTHER: We at are determined to shed light on the accusations and allegations against the Muslim Brotherhood-

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: The Web site is dedicated to changing their image.

BROTHER: -the true face of moderate Islamists. This is our message to the American people.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: They are obsessed by their treatment in the Western media.

BROTHER: The media coverage in the United States are trying to say that the Islamists have the same face. They doesn't separate between al Qaeda, or Muslim Brotherhood, or even Hezbollah. What we are trying to say in Ikhwanophobia, that the Muslim Brotherhood are different.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: But the negative image of the Brotherhood has been carefully controlled by the Mubarak regime.

Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: [subtitles] There is a fine line separating freedom from chaos-

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: On January 28, Mubarak alluded to those fears in his first television address of the crisis.

Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: [subtitles] I'm committed to preserving Egypt's security and stability, so that Egypt and its people aren't plunged into chaos.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Throughout the protests, the Brotherhood was fearful that the regime would succeed in portraying the revolution as a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy. We saw this sensitivity play out when this man approached our camera holding up his pocket Koran. Mohammed Abbas took him aside and told him to put it away.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] Don't hold up the Koran. We should be holding up Egyptian flags. Open it, but not for the media.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Abbas then explained to me what was going on.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: Egyptians not want to make this revolution big Ikhwan, Muslim Brotherhood show.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [on camera] You want him out of here.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: No, no, no, no, no. We don't want him out. We want him don't show the ideology on the press because it's so bad for this revolution.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] They may be playing down their role, but the real question is what are their long-term intentions?

I went looking for some people who know the Brotherhood. Mohammed Kamal is one of the more moderate leaders of Mubarak's National Democratic Party. The party's headquarters were gutted by fire in the early days of the uprising.

[on camera] Many in America fear Islamist movements. Are their fears grounded, or are they irrational?

MOHAMMED KAMAL, National Democratic Party: Well, I think some members of the Muslim Brotherhood have fundamentalist view of the world, and of Egypt for that matter. They will try to use the democratic mechanisms to come to power. And once in power, they're going to restructure the whole state to fit their ideology. And I don't think they will leave power afterward and Egypt might become a second Iran. But there are others, also, who- especially from the young generation, who wants to be part of a modern state, a modern civil state. So the Muslim Brotherhood is not a homogeneous organization.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Does America understand the Muslim Brotherhood?

SHADI HAMID, Brookings Doha Center: The U.S. doesn't understand the Muslim Brotherhood, at least not yet. There are a lot of misconceptions.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] Shadi Hamid is a political analyst.

SHADI HAMID: I think one mistake that a lot of Western observers make is they look at it as a fundamentally political organization, that this is a group that wants to come to power. It's much more complicated than that. The Brotherhood doesn't yet know what it wants. What does it mean to be an Islamist party not just in opposition but also in government?

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Day 13. There were reports of pro-Mubarak vigilantes beating up journalists. It took an hour to get across town to attend a Muslim Brotherhood press conference. These men represent the Brotherhood's old guard. The revolution took them by surprise.

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SPOKESMAN: [subtitles] We announced, very clearly, that we don't have a special agenda.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Through our interpreter, I asked them if they were setting a deadline for the president to leave.

MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SPOKESMAN: [subtitles] We are talking about a dialogue we've started.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: While they said supported the protests, they explained they were engaging in a dialogue with the regime, something the youth wing of the Brotherhood staunchly opposed. The old guard was clearly way out of sync with their younger colleagues on the square.

AMR HAMZAWY: Those who are out there in Tahrir Square have, in fact, moved beyond the movement. It is the young members which are stating and telling, informing the old guard what to do. And the old guard, they are trying to catch up and they are not catching up.

MONA ELTAHAWY, Journalist: Younger Muslim Brothers and Sisters are questioning the older regime, and it's almost like a microcosm of what's happening in Egyptian society at large, in that you see the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood is this kind of old, often out of touch men- old, out of touch men, much like the Mubarak regime is old, out of touch men.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: I went back to the square looking for Mohammed Abbas. I wanted to know where he thought the youth wing was taking the movement.

MAN IN SQUARE: He may be asleep now. I don't know where is he exactly.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: As it turned out, he was praying.

AMR HAMZAWY: The message with these young activists is not a conventional Ikhwan message.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: I was told the youth embrace a more modern interpretation of Islam's role in society than their elders.

AMR HAMZAWY: I mean, this is not about Islam as a solution or about full implementation of the Sharia. This is not about Islamizing Egyptian society. No, what they are saying up until now is democratize Egypt, equal citizenship rights. They are trying to open up the system.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [on camera] Is this the real Muslim Brotherhood, or is it just a facade for now?

HEBA MORAYEF, Human Rights Watch: I don't think anyone knows right now. And I- and I would really distrust anyone who at this moment in history, which is unprecedented in Egypt's recent history, can tell us, you know, what fundamentally the Brotherhood is. The Brotherhood has a lot of different forces within it.

I don't believe the very simplistic narrative that the government has sold the West and has sold the Egyptian people over the past years. That narrative is that the Muslim Brotherhood is waiting for one opportunity to get into power, to break off the Camp David agreement, to turn Egypt into Iran. Too simplistic.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: But others are worried. This law student, Ahmed, has been in the square since the beginning, after reading a notice on FaceBook. Now he feels his revolution has been hijacked.

[on camera] So you were here on the 25th, and you saw a change here. Tell me about that.

AHMED: I'm afraid.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: What are you afraid of?

AHMED: The Brothers, the Islamic Brothers.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: You're afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood?

AHMED: Yeah.


AHMED: They want it to be Islamic, like Iran and this. But we don't want it to be like that. We are liberal. That's the way we think. But they have the biggest crowd in here. That's why they can control it easily.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: And do you feel they really have taken control?

AHMED: Yeah.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] When I caught up with Mohammed Abbas again, he said he wanted to stay focused on their immediate goals.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] We're going to paralyze Egypt until the butcher is gone.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: He said the Brothers are not trying to take over the revolution. He insisted the Brothers were just one part of a diverse democratic political movement. But when you listen to someone like Brotherhood spokesman Essam El-Erian, you hear something different.

ESSAM EL-ERIAN, Muslim Brotherhood: Our goal, our most important mission is to have an Islamic revival in the society, to convince people that you can build a new country, a new era according to your Islamic beliefs.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT, GlobalPost: [on camera] So are you saying that those desires to create an Islamic society are more important than your own political gains?

ESSAM EL-ERIAN: We are- we are not only a political group, we are an Islamic organization. Islam deal with politics, with economics, with social affairs, with solidarity of people, with their education, with all aspects of life.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Is this a revolution?

ESSAM EL-ERIAN: Yes. It is a revolution. It is one of the most important historical revolutions. It will be listed and then counted as French revolution, Russian revolution.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] Day 17. Protests had spread across Cairo.

[on camera] Do you think the United States is actually going to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood?

SHADI HAMID, Brookings Doha Center: I think the U.S. doesn't have a choice anymore. The U.S. has to learn to live with political Islam. The Brotherhood is likely going to play an influential role in the coming years. If Egypt becomes democratic, the largest opposition force in the country is going to be part of that new political scene. So this is going to be really one of the first real experiments in Islamist governance in Egypt. So the U.S. has to find a way to- to be OK with that.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] By nightfall on February 10th, it seemed the end was near. Throughout the protests, the Egyptian Army had remained neutral and kept to its pledge not to fire on demonstrators. Early on, they had taken up positions around the square to shield the protesters from Mubarak's supporters. Now they seemed to be talking sides.

A general had come to the square and said the people's demands were about to be met. The palace announced Mubarak would go live to the nation at 10:00 PM. The square was filled with people in anticipation. There was a wedding.

When I had found Mohammed Abbas again, he had shaved off his beard.

[on camera] How do you feel? How do you feel?

MOHAMMED ABBAS: Nothing is better than this. Nothing in all my life better than this time. I can't explain what I feel because it's over my imagination!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] Then came Mubarak's speech.

Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: [subtitles] Men and women of Egypt, I am addressing you today. I am addressing the youth of Egypt in Tahrir Square, a speech of a father to his sons and daughters.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: In a long and rambling address, it soon became clear he was not stepping down.

Pres. HOSNI MUBARAK: [subtitles] I express my commitment to carry on until a transfer of power and responsibility.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Confusion turned to anger. The people held up their shoes in disgust. They were stunned and betrayed.

DEMONSTRATORS: [subtitles] Leave! Leave! Leave!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: That's when Mohammed Abbas took the microphone.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] We don't want more traitors! In the name of the Revolutionary Youth Council, we call upon you to engage in civil disobedience!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: He urged the army to finish the job.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] The army has to choose between the regime and the Egyptian people! The army the people, hand in hand! The army and the people, hand in hand! The army and the people, hand in hand!

PROTESTERS: [subtitles] The army and the people, hand in hand! The army and the people, hand in hand!

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: Within 24 hours, Mubarak was gone. The revolution was over. The revolution had just begun.

The spirit of unity was strong enough after 18 long days to bring people back to Tahrir Square to clean up after themselves. But how long will this unity last?

HEBA MORAYEF, Human Rights Watch: I'm hoping that the experience of the square will be one which will transform society. Optimistically, that would be my hope. I also realize slightly more realistically that this experience remains confined to the square, and that there are many people outside the square who aren't experiencing this political moment. And there is a possibility that things could go very wrong in terms of what the protesters hope for.

[Child with sign in English and Arabic: "Yesterday I was demonstrator. Today I build Egypt."]

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: I saw Abbas one more time. He was proud of how the young Brothers had shown the old guard how to run a revolution.

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] The Brotherhood always believed in patience and sacrifice, but the youth wing made a quantum leap. We made radical changes to the strategy of the Brotherhood. For 18 days, we stayed in the square without raising any Islamic banners. That never happened before.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: I followed him to Al Jazeera, where he talked about ongoing negotiations with the military. Afterwards in a cafe, I had a couple more important questions.

[on camera] What is the future of how the Muslim Brotherhood will deal with Israel? And will it recognize the treaty that's been signed?

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] The Muslim Brotherhood has announced more than once that it is committed to Egypt's agreements. We are not the legal guardians of the people such that we can choose or abolish an agreement. If the people want to keep the agreement, it will be kept. And if they want to abolish it, it will be abolished.

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: OK, and so does the Muslim Brotherhood think Israel has the right to exist?

MOHAMMED ABBAS: [subtitles] I could give a very simple response. If a thief came into my house and told me, "I'm going to take this room from you and not give it back," is it fair for me to recognize a country like this?

CHARLES M. SENNOTT: [voice-over] Leaving Cairo, one wants to be hopeful after these extraordinary days, but there's lots of cause for worry. As the Brotherhood comes out of the shadows to take their place at the table, no one knows who will emerge in their leadership. Whoever it is, though, will most certainly determine the future of Egypt, and perhaps beyond.


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Posted Feburary 22, 2011

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