Egyptian Blogger Reflects on Egyptian Revolution Interview Transcript Interviewer:

Yasmin El-Beih
Karim Malik Interview
Egyptian Blogger Reflects on Egyptian Revolution
Interview Transcript
Interviewer: Yasmin El- Beih
Narrator: Karim Malik
Date: 8 March 2011
Place: The American University in Cairo – New Cairo
College: The American University in Cairo
Prof: Kim Fox
Date Completed: 8 March 2011
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Yasmin El-Beih
Karim Malik Interview
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8 March 2011
Persons present:
Yasmin El-Beih
Karim Malik
Yasmin: So, I’m Yasmin and I’m going to talk to Karim about the
Karim: Hello Yasmin.
Yasmin: Hi Karim.
Karim: I find the revolution to be something that, I mean I-I
use the revolutionary term skeptically. I think it’s a
revolutionary moment, what’s happening is revolutionary- doesn’t
mean necessarily that we have a revolution. I mean this has
happened before and people seem to forget that. Students went
out under Sadat twice, once because of the bread subsidies,
another time because of the student movement, and then the
military came and there was a curfew, and we recently had
another curfew when moaskarat amn markazee revolted and people
thought that was a movement but it didn’t turn out- I mean you
can’t quite compare but this isn’t the first time, that’s for
sure. And people want to say that this is the first time and
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Karim Malik Interview
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that it’s unprecedented but they can be quite wrong, I mean
Egyptians have had a history of revolting for a long time. What
makes it different is that this is the first time someone has
stepped down. Whether there’s still elements to rule, we don’t
know but it seems to be looking like people have genuine
opportunities, whether these opportunities transpire into
something that is revolutionary is hard to say. For me the
revolution is starting now, when there are less people who are
in control, less people who control our thoughts, control what
we public, what we say, people who control the judiciary. That,
for me, is what will be revolutionary, what is coming now, the
referendum we are going to have, whether we’ll have a new
constitution, that’s why very skeptically I’d say we’re in a
revolutionary moment and not a revolution. And what we, what
Egypt holds for the future, I don’t even know.
Yasmin: But what are your thoughts on everything that has been
going on so far? The building up to the future? Do you think
there is anyone who is suitable to be president?
Karim: The presidency is something that I don’t think is the
most important thing right now because we are in a transition
phase, but at the same time who I think will be suitable for
president- there are loads of people. I mean, Egyptians have
been made to think for years that there is no one to rule, there
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Karim Malik Interview
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is lack of security, we need a security-oriented person who is
someone from the military. I think that is completely wrong
because at the end of the day it’s a political post, not a
security post nor is it a tecnocratical post. That’s why I
welcome Osama Sharaf’s government and who knows, maybe if he has
the chance, he’ll nominate himself. But at the same time someone
able to be president, I don’t mind El Baradei, there’s a lot of
people out there… Hazem Beblawi ,who is a famous economist,
Galal Amin. I mean, it’s a shame what these people were treated
in the old regime. Saad el din Ibrahim as well, people would
randomly label them as lunatics but there are a lot of Egyptian
intellectuals out there who would start coming when this
happened. I don’t think this is a question of are there people
who are fit to rule, there are a lot of people fit to rule, but
the question is will they be given the opportunity.
Yasmin: And why do you think these people were treated badly
under the past regime?
Karim: There are a million reasons, I mean the regime always
exercised a misinformation campaign, anyone who did not adhere
to what they said, they would label them in a box and they would
seal them up as opposition and they could call this box lunatics
because they had a monopoly on all media, especially the localcontrolled media. I mean, at one point in time Egypt had a very
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Karim Malik Interview
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vibrant media, under the days of the king. This is something
which we don’t have as much today and we engage in a war of
words. I mean if you engage in a war of words with the
privately-owned newspapers or the independent newspapers, at the
end of the day you’re so busy in that that you don’t do anything
on the street. So that is something which was a tactic used by
the old regime which was very smart. Instead of discussing my
own rights, I discuss what he or she said. Is that wrong, is
that conclusive? That sort of thing.
Yasmin: But the days of the king, that’s something of the past,
that’s something that happened so long ago. How can you-?
Karim: But Egyptians are very well aware of their history and
that is something that I think is very important. That’s why we
could pull off something like this where at the end of the day
when Al Jazeera goes and says that something like this is
unprecedented, its unprecedented for us to take on our
president-sure, but we have seen this mass mobilization before
and that’s what we learn from what has happened in the past.
People need to look at things contextually and not at the moment
right now. We aren’t the first to do this, nor is it our first
time to do this.
Yasmin: But it has been like- thirty years, I mean the protests
that happened at Sadat’s time were such a long time ago.
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Karim Malik Interview
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Karim: There were protests in the 70s, there’s 2005 haraket
kefayah w setah abreel ; it’s always at the back of people’s
minds and at the end of the day if there was something to
distract us, there would be: development, opportunities, which
is what the regime always said. I’ll give you security, you give
me your rights in exchange for security and I’ll give you
economic prosperity. We didn’t see that. It’s a myth. The myth
of security, that’s how most regimes rule in Egypt, it was
something that was done very, very sophisticated and on a very,
very big level.
Yasmin: Why do you think it’s a “myth” of security?
Karim: It’s a myth because all previous regimes have made the
same argument. Mubarak when he came he said he was the man of
stability, he’d bring back stability after all that happened and
it’s a myth because if you give up your rights, then why should
I give up mine? It’s a very old way of thinking in the terms of
the social contract. The only country in the world I can think
of that has done that successfully and people would still argue
that is Singapore; Asian tigers they did the same thing but
eventually they had to open up. The gulf still does that but
even though they have much more prosperity than us and much more
wealth, they still have protests till today.
Yasmin: Protests, you think there are protests in the gulf?
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Karim Malik Interview
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Karim: Yes.
Yasmin: Where?
Karim: Bahrain, Kuwait. Saudia Arabia there is talk that there
will be and there have been a few arrests.
Yasmin: But they’re still quite oppressed, don’t you think?
Karim: They’re still quite?
Yasmin: oppressed.
Karim: Yes, they’re very much oppressed.
Yasmin: So you’re not optimistic about the future of Egypt?
Karim: No, no, no I didn’t say that. I’m just looking at things
as they happen right now. I mean, obviously there is a
counterrevolution in play; people are trying to instill
religious strife, put differences between women. Yesterday there
was an international women’s day and there was a march and those
women were harassed, I think there are a lot of things that are
sketchy that were going on, there’s still remnants of the old
regime but at the end of the day we’re moving forward. I think
the cost we incur right now will be far less than thirty years’
worth of dictatorship, that came with a very hefty cost.
Yasmin: What were your thoughts when the revolution was actually
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Karim Malik Interview
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Karim: I was in shock. I didn’t think that this would ever
happen. Neither me nor anyone else I knew. I was in shock. I was
happy, but I was in shock.
Yasmin: But you said that the Egyptian people have been uprising
and it has always been happening.
Karim: It has always been happening but nothing in Mubarak’s
regime would have been predicted to have been so big. I mean,
people would always congratulate themselves if there was a
protest with 400, 500 people, like in 2005. When the church was
bombed in Alexandria, there was a candle-lighting ceremony,
there were around 50, and they would always separate them in
numbers because there’s safety in numbers. So, people were
shocked that such a large number could go on and what people
were saying out on the square is we need to keep what we’ve
gained; we need to keep what we’ve gained, because even them
they were shocked that there were such large numbers.
Yasmin: Do you think people are doing enough to rebuild the
Egyptian community?
Karim: I think there’s an effort individually, but I mean this
is something that is always bad in most tribal and patriarchal
societies, is that I mean people focus on the moment. I mean,
Egyptians are very good at collecting money to build a mosque,
to build a bridge on the countryside to get from one side of the
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Karim Malik Interview
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Nile to the other. But they don’t look forward, that requires a
Yasmin: Which we don’t have.
Karim: That’s up for debate, I mean that’s why we have a
transition phase right now. I mean, people always say “oh the
revolution was spontaneous, it didn’t have a leader.” At the end
of the day when people went out on the 25th of January, on the
day of police day, they were organized; we have to give them
that. The had an organization. Whether they had one person
speaking for them- no, they didn’t.
But they had a coalition,
ietelaf el shabab and that came after the revolution, but these
were the people that had experienced all the protests, these
were the people that were there in 2005, most of them are from
Kefaya and I have to take off my hat to them, I have to tell
them chapeau. Because really, they organized it, they may not be
the leader but at least they can instill the first stepping
stone for people to follow. And that’s what a revolution is, as
opposed to a movement.
Yasmin: Karim, were you down there at Tahrir when the revolution
was happening?
Karim: Yes, Yes. I went twice, the day the camels came, and I
went the day the president stepped down.
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Karim Malik Interview
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Yasmin: The 28th?
Karim: Yes
Yasmin: The camels…
Karim: Mawke2at el Gemal
Yasmin: 28th was Friday of Anger.
Karim: Oh sorry, yea. I think it was the fourth or something. It
wasn’t Friday of Anger, it was the fourth or something. Yea,
you’re right.
Yasmin: Karim, as the days went on did the shock wear off? Did
you start thinking of what the future of Egypt might look like?
Karim: No, I didn’t really think about the future. It was
something that was always in the back of my mind, sure. But for
the first time I could-I wouldn’t say think freely, I could
always think freely. But other people were occupied with other
thoughts. “Oh security, what are we going to do now? Look at all
the rioters, look at all the looters.” I mean, aside of the fact
if they were planted there or not, which I believe a lot of them
were, but aside from that point I mean, the future is there to
be dictated by those who have the power and at the end of the
day we need to pick those people. That’s what preoccupied means,
so in a sense I don’t think five years from now are we going to
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Karim Malik Interview
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be a democracy or no, but I think of people who will have the
opportunity to shape that.
Yasmin: five years from now?
Karim: No, I said I don’t think of five years from now.
Yasmin: oh okay
Karim: Yeah, if that makes sense.
Yasmin: Okay.
Yasmin: So do you think the revolutions that happened or that
are happening in the region had a sort of ripple effect?
Karim: This is something which, atleast, we’ve seen abroad. In
Europe and Latin America, so it’s something that is out there
but it’s really hard to find the cause and the way to link it.
People want to look at it and say oh, Tunis had the same rate of
development as Egypt maybe a bit more, people have the same
mentality, there’s a civil society there, there’s a civil
society here, I mean these things are really hard to point out.
Obviously there’s something that is happening to the whole
region, I can say that, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I
mean, what is happening in Lybia now may take a different turn.
I mean, this is what the regime was very good at saying. Egypt
is not Tunis, Egypt is not Lybia, and now Lybia is saying Lybia
is not Egypt and it is not Tunis. I mean, at the end
of the day
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Karim Malik Interview
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they are right but in a wrong way. Yes, Lybia is Lybia, Egypt is
Egypt, Tunis is Tunis and we all happen to be very, very
different but at the end of the day people aspire for the same
values and the same ideas: Freedom, Liberty and dignity.
Yasmin: Uh-uh, And so, you’ve been taking part in initiatives to
raise awareness about the Lybian revolution?
Karim: Yes.
Yasmin: Why is that, do you think people don’t know enough about
Karim: It’s not really a matter of awareness, its that people
don’t really know that a lot of people have died there and it’s
a very bad situation. I mean, here in Egypt, people pass by the
booth when I’m here with Mounir and they say, “why don’t you
help Egypt first?” Well, people are and there’s a booth right
there for Egypt and at the end of the day, I don’t quite see
that many people dying for Egypt. I mean, with the exception of
what may have happened yesterday I think one person died but
that’s still unconfirmed, its not full-on violence, its not
full-on war, as happens in Lybia and these people need food,
they need supplies. They just turned on the telephones there,
some people are stranded without any food, they need badly
medical supplies for all that’s happening, hospitals have been
bombarded and targeted, which if you ask me is completely wrong
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Karim Malik Interview
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and could constitute a war crime, but they need all the help
they can get which is why we raise all the awareness we can in
the booth.
Yasmin: But you do know that around 300 people died during the
protests in Egypt?
Karim: Yeah, and that’s only government estimates. People say
there are much much more.
Yasmin: So we have suffered a lot.
Karim: Yes, but in Lybia you have thousands. And 300 isn’t quite
a lot and if we’ve had that phase in Egypt over, that phase
still isn’t over in Lybia and that phase is also over in Tunis.
They aren’t fighting anymore and now people are debating,
they’re looking at constitutional amendments, should we dissolve
state security. These are all the things we’re asking. When
Lybia is at the same pace, I don’t think we’ll be collecting
funds then. Maybe we’ll be looking at a grander, pan-arab
initiative, but at the end of the day they’re still in their
fight, we finished our fight. Our fight is now different, our
fight is now in the constitutional amendments, picking a
president, its in the ballot box, its not out in the street.
Yasmin: Thank you Karim
Karim: No problem, thank you Yasmin.
Yasmin El-Beih
Karim Malik Interview
Yasmin: Karim is my friend and he lives in Heliopolis. He’s 21
years old.
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