Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egyptian Blogger "Sandmonkey" Mahmoud Salem On His Detention, Going Public, and Wael Ghonim as a (Disappeared) Leader

 CNN's Elliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker on the set of their news discussion program Parker Spitzer

Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey has decided after his ordeal to reveal his identity publicly. He elaborated on his "arrest" and why he is now willing/wanting to use his real name in a phone interview with Elliot Spitzer, on the CNN program Parker Spitzer, on February 4, 2011. The video, which cannot be embedded is available on Youtube here and here. The CNN transcript follows, with my additions in [ ] and corrections in this format, [the words to be corrected the correction]:

SPITZER: It was just one of many state-sponsored acts of violence in Cairo over the past few days. An angry mob attacked a car trying to bring food and medical supplies to protesters in Tahrir Square. What set[s] this is apart is the car's driver and owner is one of the leading voices of the Egyptian uprising because of his Twitter page. Until yesterday, he was known by the derogatory moniker "Sandmonkey." But now, for the first time, because of the assault, he's going public with his real name.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mahmoud Salem grew up in Egypt and graduated from Northeastern University in Boston. He joins us tonight by phone from Cairo. Mahmoud, when your car was attacked by Mubarak's supporters near Tahrir Square, what did you do?

MAHMOUD SALEM, EGYPTIAN BLOGGER (via telephone): I saw these [five] police officers on a corner. So, I stopped the car and begged them to help [verbatim is begged for the help]. And they took our cars [not cars cell phones] and they took my car keys and then they basically started inciting the crowd against us. They started calling us Asians (ph) [not Asians agents] and saboteurs and American Israelis.

And they asked people to attack us, attack the car. It felt [not felt was] basically like a zombie movie scene. They managed to get like a hundred of those people, surrounding my car, all of them wanting to kill us because they think we are spies.

SPITZER: These protests are, by and large, peaceful from the side of those who want to get rid of Mubarak. But they also don't seem to have any particular leader. Is there one leader that you look to who has emerged over the course of this week?

SALEM: Here's what's happening. This is not a revolution that actually required [not required requires] a leader. This was something that a call on Facebook launched and people managed to [like] do themselves. People [, people,] who took a very practical [not practical central] demands (INAUDIBLE) [that are not in their minds] ideological. Their simple [not simple central] demands -- demanding accountability and democracy and rights for the people.

So, this is an interesting revolution because everybody who's there is not there following someone. They are there on [not on by] their own accord. This is a revolution of 2 million, 3 million individuals making the decision to brave unbelievable pressures in order to have a better future for their children.

SPITZER: This has been a remarkable revolution to watch precisely for that reason. But as you go down the road, in terms of negotiating a resolution in terms of --

SALEM: I agree. I agree. No, no, no. Absolutely.

And we have --[like] the people have figured out a solution for that. One of us who is Wael Ghonim, who is the Google [MENA] manager for the -- for Google basically, the [marketing] manager for Google, and he has been asking them [not been asking them been arrested and it...]. It was rumored that he was [one of ] the person[s] who has actually started the call for the protests. And the protesters, in order to call --[and] he has been basically kidnapped and missing for like about a week, almost, by the police. We don't know where he is.

And what the people in Tahrir said that if the government can negotiate with someone, the person to represent the people will be Wael Ghonim. And this way having them actually face the fact that they have arrested him. But actually, I was saying [it] is this time for the group to elect leaders, but that would require us to actually be able to -- need to function and socialize and, you know, establish ourselves in committee and such things. And it's not exactly like the conditions for us to do this are safe.

SPITZER: How do you understand the role of the military right now? Vice President Suleiman, do the protesters trust him? Did [not Did Do] they trust the military at large?

SALEM: The Egyptian military have always had a favorite position in the hearts of all the Egyptians. And Omar Suleiman, by far, is a respected and capable leader in his own accord. What's happening right now with the military is that it's actually [functioning] as [a] safety lot (ph) [not lot valve]. People trust them. While they don't trust police and the police attacks them. And the military are being respectful.

But the other issue [not the other issue the issue] is we don't know basically which side the military is on. They're very [not They're very The military has been] neutral so far. But also they're part of the regime.

SPITZER: Now that you are no longer going to be anonymous, everybody is going to know your name. You have been incredibly influential. Tens of thousands of people read your blog posts, [and] your tweets. Are you going to be worried about your safety?

SALEM: You don't -- you don't participate in the protests and realize that, you know, you might actually get hurt. But I'm [not I'm I've] already gotten hurt. You know, I have already been beaten up 35 minutes ago (ph) [accurate]. It's not like we were protecting (ph) [accurate] the cars and the car is now busted. There is no car anymore. They took everything.


SALEM: So, during this week I got beaten up by batons, I got tear-gassed, I got live ammunition shot at me. You know, and then I got attacked and almost lynched by angry mobs.

So, I don't know what else I can be scared of. I think they could like throw me in jail or something. But I don't know. There is nothing left anymore.

SPITZER: Well, Mahmoud, an incredible story. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing it with us. And stay safe.

SALEM: Thank you very much. Bye.

Sandmonkey/Mahmoud's blog Rantings of a Sandmonkey is back online though not updated, as he recovers and devotes his energies to the uprising. He is active on his Twitter account and can be follower there. Another Egyptian blogger to follow on his blog and twitter is international award winning journalist Wael Abbas. While his blog الوعي المصري is in Arabic there are a number of worthwhile videos. His tweets are in Arabic and in English.

I am somewhat concerned that Mahmoud has chosen to reveal his full name and identity because he feels he has nothing more to lose. The phrase "They can always hurt you more"-- about people in power vs those who are deemed problematic to them--comes to mind. However, Mahmoud seems aware of this, and there is a measure of protection in being public and internationally public. The only images of him that I was able to find are personal ones, and so I have not included any here.

More on Wael Ghonim to follow...

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?


Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

I was reading bwt Sandmonkey this morning, his story says a lot indeed.


Anonymous said...

Sandmonkey's story is absolutely amazing. Was able to donate a little money to his efforts today (his blog has a "donate" button). I'm hoping I gave enough to offset the portion of my tax dollars that went to Mubarak.

Susanne said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm glad he is OK!!

Majed said...

Mubarak regime is just like other arab regimes, for them people are just insects, only that because of theses insect they rule and prosper, as long as these insects don't sting they will be allowed to survive otherwise they will be crushed and exterminated.

Though I hate the way the western countries poke their noses into other peoples business, but I have to admit if not for them after the will of Allah , Mubarak would have not given it a second thought before having a millon soul massacred just like swarms of locust, and those who say military is kind and respectful are naive, military havent so far gotten any orders to spray bullets,when ordered they will fire before the word fire yet to be completely uttered.

Arab totalitarian regimes use torture techniques that aim to break human beings ' souls and dignity not only body , people can live happy and proud even with cut limbs, scarred and mutilated bodies but they can not find peace even after death with their dignity is marred and their soul is broken.

I have never felt proud of having arab blood in me like I do now, I hope Mubarak will wear the same tie he put around Saddam Husain 's neck soon, and walk to hell through lines of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and palestinians he watched dying for no reason.

for sure now he knows he should not have messed with tiny Qatar or Hizbullah or Iran .


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