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In Egypt: Fear Of A Crackdown, But Protesters Remain Determined

As an anti-government protester chanted today in Cairo, an Egyptian Army soldier watched from the roof of parliament.
John Moore
Getty Images
As an anti-government protester chanted today in Cairo, an Egyptian Army soldier watched from the roof of parliament.

"There certainly is fear of a crackdown" among the anti-government protesters who continue to occupy Tahrir Square in central Cairo, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported earlier today on Morning Edition.

"There is a lot of fear at the moment about what will happen," Lourdes said. But, she added, protesters remain "very determined" and plans are proceeding for another large demonstration tomorrow.

Here's the conversation she had with MEhost Steve Inskeep:

Among the reasons protesters fear that the government might soon try to use force to bring an end to the demonstrations against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak:

— Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the Arab news network Al-Arabiya today that if "adventurers" get involved in the reforms that the government says it is willing to make, then the Army "will be compelled to defend the constitution and national security ... and we'll find ourselves in a very grave situation.'' Earlier in the week, Vice President Omar Suleiman issued a similar warning.

— Protesters also think a "stealthy crackdown" may already be taking place, Lourdes said. "There have been allegations that the Army ... has been harassing protesters" and detaining and torturing some of those who have tried to bring supplies to Tahrir Square.

The mood that Lourdes is picking up on today stands in contrast to the carnival-like atmosphere that NPR's JJ Sutherland reported about from Tahrir Square yesterday.

In other news about the crisis in Egypt:

— On the reports of torture, The Guardian writes that "the Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured." It cites "testimony" it has gathered from detainees and evidence gathered by human rights groups.

As the Guardian adds, the Egyptian military "has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture – abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army."

— Foreign Minister Gheit said on the PBS NewsHour that he was "often angry, infuriated" at the U.S. government for what it was saying in the early days of the protests (which have gone on now for 17 days).

"The first four, five days, it was a confusing message. And I was often angry, infuriated," Gheit said. "But, through discussions with the administration, I think now we have an administration that understands exactly the difficulties of the situation and the dangers and the risks that are entailed in a rush towards chaos without end. So, the — the administration's message now is much better."

— Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who for many has become the face of the protests after helped organize them in the beginning and then was jailed for 12 days, posted a message on his Twitter page today saying that "I promise every Egyptian that I will go back to my normal life & not be involved in any politics once Egyptians fulfill their dreams."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.