An impassioned speech on human rights by Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz led thousands of protesters to gather in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 25, sparking a widespread movement against President Hosni Mubarak.
“Don’t think you can be safe any more,” Mahfouz said in her video, which was posted on Facebook January 18. “None of us are. Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights. I am going down on January 25th, and will say ‘No to corruption. No to this regime.'”
As protests against President Mubarak continued to grow, the group called Monday for a “march of millions” and an indefinite general strike. The next day, Mubarak announced he would not seek reelection at the end of his term in September.
Mahfouz made the video after four Egyptian men set themselves on fire. The men were apparently inspired by the example of Tunisia, where a self-immolation triggered protests that eventually led to the ouster of the nation’s president.
“Four Egyptians have set themselves on fire, thinking maybe we can have a revolution like Tunisia,” she said. “Maybe we can have freedom, justice, honor, and human dignity. Today, one of these four has died.”
“Of course, on all national media, whoever dies in protest is a psychopath,” she continued. “If they were psychopaths, why did they burn themselves at the Parliament building?”
Looking straight at the camera, Mahfouz declared that she was making her video “to give you one simple message.”
“We want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25th,” she said. “If we still have honor, and want to live in dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25th. We go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights. I won’t even talk about any political rights. We just want our human rights and nothing else.”
Mahfouz’s role in the April 6 Youth Movement was to help shape its public message and reach out to Egyptian youth, according to the New York Times.
“This entire government is corrupt – a corrupt president and a corrupt security force,” she continued. “These self-immolators were not afraid of death but were afraid of security forces. I’m going down on January 25th, and from now till then, I’m going to distribute fliers in the street every day. I will not set myself on fire. If the security forces want to set me on fire, let them come and do it.”
Documents from the US State Department, released by secrets outlet WikiLeaks, showed that Egyptian police regularly abused and tortured suspects.
Police were also caught trying to loot priceless artifacts from the museum in Cairo and commit other acts of violence “in an attempt to stoke fear of instability,” a rights group claimed Tuesday.
“Whoever says women shouldn’t go to protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25th,” Mahfouz continued. “Whoever says its not worth it because there will be only a handful of people, I want to tell him, you are the reason behind this. And you are a traitor, just like the president or any security cop who us in the streets.”
“Sitting at home and just following us on news or Facebook leads to our humiliation. If you have honor and dignity as a man, come. Come and protect me, and other girls in the protest. If you stay at home, then you deserve all that’s being done to you. And you will be guilty, before your nation and your people. And you’ll be responsible for what happens to us on the street while you sit at home.”
“Instead of setting ourselves on fire, let us do something positive,” she added. “God says that He ‘will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. [Quran 13:11]'”
The video below was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 1, 2011 and translated by Iyad El-Baghdadi.
(h/t Roger Ebert)