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One Egyptian: Protesters Are 'Ungrateful'

Paresh Dave |
February 5, 2011 | 12:47 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Smoke clouds Alexandria's horizon on Friday, Feb. 4. (Al-Jazeera's Flickr)
Smoke clouds Alexandria's horizon on Friday, Feb. 4. (Al-Jazeera's Flickr)

The following comes from an hour-long interview by phone early Saturday (Cairo time) with a 22-year-old Egyptian born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt.

He provides one opinion on the story that continues to unfold in Egypt as tens of thousands of protestors demand the immediate resignation of their President Hosni Mubarak.

This Egyptian's main point: We got more than what we were originally asking for, now let's get back to work, give Mubarak a chance to right his wrongs and return to the streets should he fail to reform.


Five hours without authority flung Egypt into “unimaginable” chaos on Jan. 28.

“The furniture stores have not a single chair left in them,” said Mahad Mohad, who graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2010. (His actual name was replaced with a pseudonym on Feb. 7.)

When protestors began directing their anger at police officers on that “Day of Rage,” Egypt's minister of internal security ordered every officer off the streets and out of police stations. He urged them to lock themselves in their homes for safety.

The government's goal was to avoid a major mishap in which police officers would retaliate. Even a single case of police hurting or killing someone would further weaken Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's image in the international consciousness.

The government called in the army to take over policing duties, but a brief gap in security was long enough for five prisons to be emptied during attacks by thousands of citizens and nearly every store to have its windows and doors shattered.

“Criminals took advantage and started looting everything—banks, stores, malls, homes, hospitals,” Mohad said. “That five-hour gap was disastrous. There was no one to protect the people”

Once the Egyptian army arrived, the scene changed rapidly.

“With cops you're scared and angry because they screw you up, but the army is always on the people's side,” Mohad said. “People started kissing the soldiers. They were here to save us and the looting calmed.”

In Egypt, military service is mandatory for young men who have at least one brother. With only a sister, Mohad has been allowed to focus on polo. During the past few days, he has escaped the protest-created tension by tending to his horses and taking them for rides, mostly out of the boredom from being unable to work.

Atop his horse, Mohad, with some his friends at his side, switched sides and joined a pro-Mubarak rally this week. They chanted "Let him stay!" and waved banners, demanding that Mubarak be given a chance to see through the reforms he has pledged to enact.

“He kept this country safe,” Mohad said. “That's why I like him.”

People like Mohad have also begun to take policing into their own hands. Burdened by large tanks and weapons, the army can only do so much. Around-the-clock neighborhood watches have sprouted throughout Egypt. If anyone suspicious tries to enter a neighborhood, regular citizens tie his or her hands until soldiers arrive to take custody. Mohad claimed a thousand thieves have been caught across the country by the local initiatives.

Even with those added layers of protections, Mohad said he still carried a gun in his house because lawlessness will be a problem as long as the country is without police, banks and businesses operating in a normal routine. His family has never had to use the gun or take it out before.


Mohad returned to Egypt last summer after graduating from USC with degrees in entrepreneurship and industrial systems and engineering. He took a job as a sales agent for Germany-based Calex. Mohad visits the Egyptian locations of anything from five-star hotels to major international corporations, analyzes their energy and water use and hawks them products from light bulbs to waterflow-control devices that would make their commercial enterprises more environmentally-friendly.

His dad owns a textile factory—one very established in the industry, Mohad says. But yarn hasn't been produced in a dozen days. Machines have sat untouched. Workers have gone unpaid.

“People are going to start beating the shit out of protestors,” he said. “All these workers for 10 days have collected no money.”

A Call For The Protestors To Abandon Tahrir Square

No gas, no banks, no cigarettes.

“Most people are starting to hate these protests,” said Mohad from his home in Alexandria. “My mom is tired of sitting at home but she's too scared to go outside.”

A few thousand people are holding an entire nation of 80 million people hostage, delaying the country from functioning again, Mohad said.

“Our voices have been heard,” he said. “These people (that are still protesting) are ungrateful. Give Mubarak a chance to implement change.”

Forty percent of Egypt is believed to live in poverty. As Mohad puts it, they wait each day to collect their wage, so they can continue their week. So imagine the stress of surviving without pay for nearly two weeks.

The protests now entering their 13th day have seen Egypt lose at least $4 billion—equivalent to a tenth of President Mubarak's estimated net worth. Stock market closures have seen the country lose perhaps $20 billion in wealth.

Mohad says a few greedy anti-government protestors have seen what power feels like for the first time in 30 years.

“We asked for three reforms, Mubarak gave us 10,” said Mohad, who protested against the government in three of the largest days of demonstrations.

He said Mubarak is the only one who can provide a peaceful transition of power in Egypt.

“If he leaves right now, things will be up in the air and no one will be satisfied with who claims power,” Mohad said.

Mohad suggests ignoring the protestors. That could always backfire, of course, making them more violent and antsy. But something must be done, Mohad realizes, to either work around the protests or get them to disperse.

“We are saying to the protestors the streets will be there,” he said. “You can always go back if Mubarak doesn't follow-through.”

So Who Remains In The Streets?

Egyptian schools are on winter break for at least another week, according to Mohad. Many of the protestors come from that group of idle students.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-organized and well-spread opposition group, remain among the protestors in large numbers as well.

The rest are a mix of middle class Egyptians, and according to Mohad, people being pushed by foreign organizations. Mohad wasn't sure who exactly, but he was sure someone is “really promoting” the protests. He said for example that protestors in Tahrir Square have been fed food from KFC.

Tahrir Square, which the largest mass of protestors have clogged, is the heart of Cairo. Mohad said all essential traffic must move through there. And Cairo, home to headquarters of the big banks and businesses, is the heart of Egypt. As long as the protestors block the free flow of people, gas, food and money through Tahrir Square, the country's economy will free fall, according to Mohad.

“The government has tried curfews, they have tried threats, but they will not leave until Mubarak quits,” Mohad said. “The protestors are still seen as enemies and there's still worries about looters so banks are too scared to open.”

Who Should Become President Of Egypt?

Mohad said both Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, a U.S.-backed early favorite, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who has emerged as a new favorite in recent days, would be terrific choices to lead Egypt in the future.

One person Mohad does not want to see in control is Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“He would be an American slave,” Mohad worries.

Mubarak has been hailed for not bending over to pleas from the United States. Egypt isn't home to a U.S. military base and has been very conservative in appeasing American demands to send its troops to aid American causes.

“If ElBaradei is president, you would see a U.S. air base in Egypt within months,” Mohad said.

Looking forward, Mohad has no prediction for when the protestors might retreat. He wants a light to emerge at this revolution's conclusion, meaning peace during the next eight months and at least one of the two potential presidential candidates he prefers winning an expected September election.

But more than that, Mohad fears Egypt's short-term prospects. He wishes the protestors would relent, so “then we can start working again.”

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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