Freed Google exec Wael Ghonim reenergizes Egyptian protesters
Wael Ghonim, an Internet activist who helped organize the Jan. 25 protests, was held in secret detention until yesterday. Protesters hold him up as a symbol of why the regime can't be trusted.
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Today, a famous pop star and a leading TV host jumped on the Tahrir bandwagon. Hundreds of professors marched from Cairo University to make their voices heard, and civil servants from the Health and Justice ministries came in ranks to join the protest.Skip to next paragraph
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The sense was of a movement broadening its base, having once more struck a powerful chord with the Egyptian public.
Ghonim held in secret detention
The events appeared to have drowned out the message of Mr. Suleiman, who went on state television today to announced that by Mubarak’s decree, a committee has been created to examine constitutional changes that would set presidential term limits and allow for competitive presidential elections and a second committee created to ensure that their eventual recommendations are followed through on.
While Suleiman quoted Mubarak as saying “the youth of Egypt deserve national appreciation,” he struck a flat note with protesters when he cited Mubarak as urging “they should not be detained, harassed, or denied their freedom of expression."
Mr. Ghonim said he spent 12 days in detention, almost all of it blindfolded, though the state refused until yesterday to acknowledge that he was being held. His family and friends have combed city morgues and hospitals, worried he was a victim of the street thugs who have attacked protesters in recent days.
When they didn’t find him, they correctly guessed he was in secret detention, but were left with almost two weeks of worry over what was happening to him, well aware that torture is common in Egypt’s prisons and interrogation centers.
Wanted: Tangible change, not just promises of it
In recent days, a group of reform-minded politicians and businessmen, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Coptic Egyptian tycoon Naquib Sawiris, and secular Egyptian reformers, have put themselves forward as interlocutors with Suleiman, who is taking the public lead in addressing the government’s current crisis of legitimacy.
The government appears to have hoped that the talks could end the protests. But the democracy activists at Tahrir insist they won’t withdraw until there is tangible change, rather than the promises of reform they’ve been hearing for most of their lives.
“Whoever wants to talk, let them talk,” says Mr. Naquib, a protest organizer. “We’re establishing a real Egyptian democracy right here and we’re not going to let it go.”
Naquib says their minimum demands at this point, beyond the removal of Mubarak, are for the government to dissolve parliament (95 percent controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party after tightly controlled elections in November), end the emergency law, and start making constitutional changes that would allow for democracy here.