Egyptian Protesters Fear Retribution, But Press On
Though members of the Egyptian government have made some concessions, political activists remain worried about their safety and the future of Egypt. This will be especially true in the coming week, when many officials are expected to return to work.
"The calmer things are, the more fear there will be because the Ministry of Defense people will be back to work," Cairo native Eman Hashim told The Huffington Post by phone.
Activists are concerned about the continued detainment of their associates, the rhetoric of politicians, and the broadcasts of state media.
Hashim said the protests marked her first political demonstration. Born and raised in Cairo, she works as a pediatric opthamalogist for kids with special needs and blogs on women's rights issues. During the protests, she says she was beaten and even shot in the hand. Despite these attacks, she has attended every day of the protests except this past Friday.
She sees the continued disappearance of prominent activists as a bad omen.
"We're asking about Wael Ghonim and no one is answering us," said Hashim, referring to the missing Google executive who was the first admin of the "We are all Khaled Said" Facebook group and has been missing since January 28.
Marwa Rakha, an adjunct professor at American University in Cairo and pregnant woman who has been attending the protests, is concerned about last Thursday's speech by Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman.
"In his speech... he was talking clearly about investigations, those who were behind the chaos, and those were chanting and shouting for Mubarak to leave and depart were not Egyptians. That's accusing them of grand treason!" Rakha said. "His words were very slippery and I don't see how activists and bloggers and people behind this can walk away. It's a scary thought."
According to Enduring America, Suleiman claimed in his speech on Thursday "that the pro-Mubarak supporters didn't go to Tahrir Square on their own, but were rather forced there by elements he did not identify."
"It doesn't matter if Mubarak stays or goes, the whole regime has to go: the president, vice president," Rakha said. "If Mubarak steps down today, his vice president will pursue us and that's what he said in his speech clearly."
Activists fear retaliation from the government if they stop protesting.
"Most of the famous political activists, the names that are known, they are so scared now of being arrested after everything goes to normal," Hashim said. "So this is why they are still demonstrating in Tahrir, some of them are still in Tahrir, because they need a guarantee that they will not be arrested and I think that they are rational. It makes sense for them to say so."
The continued broadcasts on state TV also concern activists. Even if the government doesn't directly target activists, the rhetoric broadcast on state media may provoke others to target them.
"The state media is inciting violence and hate against westerners and foreigners in the country. They are making any foreigner in the country look suspicious. And they are inciting violence against journalists who have cameras," said prominent blogger and activist Wael Abbas.
"The state media is like the Nazi media in the '30s spreading hate all of the country and I blame Anas El-Fekky for that, he is the current minister of information," Abbas said. "This guy should be put on trial. He is a murderer, he's ordering murders now on TV."
Rakha describes one program on an Egyptian TV station.
"There is an Egyptian-funded channel and they brought a girl on TV, veiled, kind of hid her face. She started saying she was one of the organizers of this protest and Freedom House gave her $50,000 and trained her at the hands of Jews," Rakha claimed. "Can you imagine this -- how the conspiracy theory is there: money, Jews, and a foreign entity?"
She continued, "They gave her money and the Jews trained her on how to start a revolution, on how to organize on Facebook, and when she says what's happening she realized this is wrong and that's why she decided to step forward. That's on Egyptian TV! "
Hashim describes another program.
"The street is just hard because of the national state TV and the local media. They've been lying." Hashim said. "They had a few people say they're the (Jan.) 25th people and we've been paid from America, $100 each per day, and we are paid by food and we are paid by money and we are pushed by other countries to do that and people started to believe them."
But the activists will not give up. In some ways, recent events only provide them more motivation to keep going.
Egyptian blogger and activist sandmonkey wrote in a new post they are all aware of the challenges but adds, "we have proved all the critics and the haters wrong. It's time to do that again!""
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