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tv   Frontline  PBS  February 22, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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is incredibly powerful. >> so, this was a moment for generation facebook to understand what it means to live under the mubarak regime. >> ...and ignited a revolution. >> it wasn't just youth, it wasn't just the middle class. you had it across egypt. >> then, in our second story, the muslim brotherhood. >> we're talking about the largest opposition force in egypt by far. no one really comes close. >> long demonized by mubarak to inspire fear of islamic extremism... >> does america understand the muslim brotherhood? >> the us doesn't really understand the muslim brotherhood. >> correspondent charles sennott examines the brotherhood's potential role in the new egypt. >> it is the young members informing the old guard what to do, and they are trying to catch up and they are not catching up. >> tonight on frontline, "revolution in cairo." ( chanting )
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>> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, with a grant from millicent bell through the millicent and eugene bell foundation. additional funding for frontline's expanded broadcast season is provided by the bill & melinda gates foundation.
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>> narrator: before they filled liberation square in cairo, down a side street, in a small office, they are planning a revolution. they call themselves the april 6th youth movement. >> narrator: they have a list of demands, and a plan: a national protest fueled by the internet. ahmed maher is their leader. >> ahmed maher is a civil engineer. almost compulsively quiet, compulsively limelight-avoiding
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young guy. but very tech savvy. >> narrator: david wolman from wired magazine has been reporting inside april 6th movement and watching maher use the web to spread antigovernment messages to eager young egyptians. >> in the real world, these governments are good at suppressing assembly. but short of shutting off the internet, the governments really can't prevent the people from communicating and convening in this new and incredibly powerful way. >> narrator: maher was plugged into a network of activists determined to expose the repression in the mubarak regime. >> what happened in egypt in the last few years was that a lot of bloggers were just filming police brutality on mobile phones. >> the power of a video, of seeing in action someone being beaten and tortured and killed, is incredibly powerful. it's something that probably words just-- it can't convey in the same sense.
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>> narrator: egyptians saw something new and shocking: graphic images of brutal interrogations, taken by the security police. >> it depicts an egyptian citizen being tortured and sodomized inside an egyptian police station. but i personally have published like almost a dozen-- over a dozen of these videos, and only very few of them have been investigated. >> narrator: the movement was born back in 2008, during the planning for a textile workers' strike on april 6. ahmed maher used facebook and youtube to organize a national protest. >> the april 6th facebook page said, "we call on all egyptians to go on strike." and from then on, their page became incredibly popular. >> narrator: 60% of egypt's population is under 30.
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even with access to university education, many are unemployed. they seemed ready to be radicalized. >> these young people in cairo said, "how can we suort this?" and they launched this group, which as we now know swelled to 70,000, 80,000 people in a matter of weeks. and this caught the regime by surprise. >> narrator: but on april 6, 2008, the day of the strike, egyptian security police struck back. they killed four protesters and jailed 400 others. before long, they had tracked down ahmed maher. >> narrator: he was beaten by the security forces. >> narrator: he says his torturers wanted to know about a virtual "friend" named fatima.
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>> narrator: they didn't seem to understand that she wasn't a friend in real life. >> he was taken in and beaten so that he could give the police the password for the facebook group, when there was no password all along. so that just shows you just how clueless the regime and its security apparatus was. >> narrator: maher gave the security police a false password. he was released. >> when he is finally released and is back online, you see this feeling of new energy and new anger about the treatment of the people and about the suppression and about the regime and so this galvanizes the movement. maher then has more currency, because now he's been tortured and he's back at it. and a lot of people i spoke with, they really describe him as the everyman hero.
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>> narrator: it took three more years. maher and april 6 slowly built a base. they had begun planning by learning from others. >> they would talk about mandela, they would talk about serbia, and they were taking notes. and because of the internet, they were reading about these things. >> narrator: they studied the serbian student movement, otpor, meaning "resistance." using highly disciplined non- violent tactics, the students had successfully toppled slobodan milosevic. srdja popovic was the leader of that revolution. he shared his experience with the april 6th group. >> one of the key things is to understand that the non-violent struggle is a form of warfare, because violence contaminates your movement and creates your
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opponent's excuse for using police and military forces. also, there is this big problem with media and violence. if you have march of 100,000 people and one single idiot throwing stones, he's going to be the star of the day. >> the serbian example highlighted the fact that movements don't need to be violent. especially in mubarak's egypt, i mean, violence will backfire. the police are incredibly violent. >> narrator: mohamed adel had been to serbia to learn the techniques. >> extraordinary act of daring in the country of tunisia... >> ...president ben ali has stepped down... >> narrator: then tunisia broke. and as protesters there overthrew their government, maher and the april 6 activists saw their chance.
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>> this was their moment. and they saw it happen. and they jumped online, they jumped on sms, they jumped on twitter. and they had each other accessible-- 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 people right away in this forum. >> narrator: they set a date-- a public holiday, january 25-- and issued a call for action. >> asmaa mahfouz, a young activist with the april 6th movement, decided to film a v- blog to encourage egyptians to join protests on january 25, police day. >> narrator: the video went viral. the morning of the 25th, maher and april 6 waited to see if anyone would show up. >> they have no idea if three
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people are going to turn up, or 300, or 3,000. they're just doing their best to be heard and to be convincing in cyberspace. and so they really don't know what's going to happen, what will be the turnout. >> narrator: from the balcony of the april 6 office, they saw it begin. >> narrator: in egypt, this holiday is called police day.
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>> i heard about april 6 from facebook. i'm not into politics, i just-- i wanted to do something good for my country, something positive. that's the happiest day of my life. >> narrator: then, the security police. they try the non-violent tactics imported form serbia. they hold their hands up in compliance. they salute and even hug the police. on this day, it seems to work. they move toward tahrir square. >> the uprising started with these protests on january the 25th, but then it reached everyone else. it became much bigger than just social media and the invitation on social media. it became something that galvanized all egyptians.
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>> narrator: at april 6 headquarters, producer elizabeth jones began capturing the first days of what they were starting to call "the revolution." >> narrator: maher is already coordinating the next big protest. >> a lot of it is really about this innovation. every night they think about, "what can we do next? what can we call an event?" the "tweet that went 'round the world," or "the million-person march," or "the day of rage." they're innovating. they're creating. >> narrator: by now, tens of thousands have joined the protests.
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clashes have begun with the security police. there have been arrests, including april 6's spokesman, mohamed adel. >> narrator: maher tries to handle organizing for as many as 100,000 egyptians who could hit the streets the next day.
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>> narrator: in the morning, their plan is to walk from the mosques, through the square, directly to the presidential palace. at dawn, the police move into the city. at april 6 headquarters, because of the previous day's violence, they decide to name this march "the day of rage."
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then the government retaliated. >> narrator: mobile phones and the internet, the key organizational tools, were taken down. >> when mubarak shut off the internet, it really revealed the desperation on the part of the regime about what was happening and about how effectively the protesters were using the tools of social media. >> narrator: but even without the internet, the organizers continued to work. >> they're not just online activists. they have boots on the ground. they have connections to other experienced activists. >> narrator: they'd learned from the serbian students and the tunisians. wearing homemade armor, they are prepared for another day in the streets. >> i think it's a nice combination of people who know how to use the internet and are web savvy, and also have real
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experience with street protests and trying to organize them. >> narrator: their non-violent tactics are tested immediately. >> today in egypt, a fourth day of demonstrations and the largest ever seen... >> ...the protests began after midday prayers, which happened on friday... >> ...violent protests have been spreading. that curfew in place, we've seen... >> narrator: provoked by deliberate violence from the police... >> ...the air is thick with black smoke and tear gas is causing us to gag... >> ...they're calling this an open revolt spread on social networking sites... >> ...cairo is in lock-down. >> they are beating people in the streets.
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>> narrator: they are prevented by police from getting to tahrir square. they are forced up the side roads, the police in hot pursuit. ( explosion ) it becomes a standoff, but more protesters arrive. the police can't guard every access route. then everything stops for prayers. the police turn their backs, a gesture of respect. but once prayers are over, the pushing and shoving picks back up.
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and then they break through to tahrir square. ( gunshots ) cairo seems like a war zone. april 6 headquarters becomes a makeshift clinic. >> narrator: in the beginning, it is only burned eyes and smoke inhalation.
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>> narrator: soon it resembles an emergency room. without mobile phones or the internet, they rely on rumors. >> elbaradei and his followers, they are being beaten in giza square.
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and some news about 4,000 soldiers from the army are in the streets. >> narrator: in the square, the crowds are growing and the tension is mounting. back at the april 6 headquarters, they need to know what's going on, so someone buys a satellite dish and tv.
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>> that night they watch the national headquarters of the ruling party burn, and then a pivotal moment: the army is now on the streets. the police have been completely withdrawn. the protesters are delighted. they're counting on the army to be on their side. >> narrator: they head out into the night, determined to protect tahrir square and the safety of protesters sleeping there. and now they have gained the support of the muslim brotherhood.
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it's been less than a week since the first protests in the square. despite the violence, hundreds of thousands came. as the world watched, the people continued to clamor for change. ahmed maher wants to make sure april 6 plays a role in that change. they hold a press conference. a reporter asks how long they intend to keep protesters in the square. >> narrator: maher confirms that there will have to be some sort of alliance with the army.
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>> narrator: they watch president mubarak finally address the nation on state television. >> narrator: he was unwilling to relinquish power. the reaction is to take to the streets.
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>> narrator: not long after that, military police raided the april 6 headquarters. pictures appeared on the internet of the trashed offices. producer elizabeth jones was briefly detained and the 15 activists who were there at the time were arrested and taken away. in the days that followed, we lost track of ahmed maher. he and april 6 were in the thick of it with the crowd.
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after 18 days, president hosni mubarak resigned. during the cleanup, we found ahmed maher surrounded by reporters. >> what are the achievements and what more needs to be done now?
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>> narrator: in the days the followed, new protests spread through the middle east. in yemen... bahrain... in jordan... iraq... in iran... and libya. >> already, the activists in egypt are reaching out to friends and peers in neighboring countries. the fact that the people have finally put their foot down and said "enough is enough," in egypt, of all places over there- - supposedly stable egypt-- this is a huge message for us policy and for the residents of other parts of the region.
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>> narrator: next, on this special edition of frontline, correspondent charles sennott of globalpost probes who's in charge of the muslim brotherhood. >> it is the young members which are telling the old guard what to do, and they are trying to catch up and they are not catching up. >> reporter: does the america understand the muslim brotherhood? >> the us doesn't understand the muslim brotherhood, at least not yet. >> reporter: egypt's revolution may have been ignited by young, secular activists, but there was
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another powerful force at work behind the scenes of the uprising: the long-outlawed muslim brotherhood. day 11. they opened this prayer rally on tahrir square with a moment of silence for those who died the previous day in battles with pro-mubarak vigilantes. >> reporter: many of the fallen were muslim brothers. afterwards, they were all praised for their perseverance and unity. >> reporter: anyone who's covered egypt for years knows about the brotherhood's profound influence on egyptian society. coming back at this extraordinary time, i wanted to
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find out what part they were playing in this revolution. >> reporter: hi. i'm charles. nice to meet you. on tahrir square, i found mohammed abbas-- a leader of the muslim brotherhood's youth wing. for the past month, abbas had been working alongside secular activists from the april 6 movement to help organize the revolt. he was eager to show us what he and his fellow brothers had contributed. >> reporter: it was not until three days into the protests that the muslim brotherhood's senior leadership officially threw their weight behind the revolt. now, the brothers were running the security checkpoints. serving hot tea.
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distributing blankets. printing posters. and running an emergency health clinic. they call themselves the brothers-- in arabic, the ikhwan -- and they have decades of experience providing social services to egypt's poor. they became key to holding the revolution's infrastructure together. >> reporter: yes, definitely. >> the organization of the space is in the brotherhood's hand. they have managed to get the... >> reporter: amr hamzawy is an expert on arab political movements. >> and it's not only garbage collection, tea, cups and so on and so forth. it's even the one microphone or two microphones which we have to address the crowd, right? they are owned by the muslim brotherhood.
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not only that, in fact, those who defended the demonstrators on tuesday and wednesday were ikhwan members in tahrir against thugs of the egyptian regime. >> reporter: our camera caught this firsthand as crowds of pro- mubarak demonstrators arrived at the edges of tahrir square. soon, fights broke out. when things turned violent, it was young muslim brothers who pushed the regime's supporters back.
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the origins of the movement go back over 80 years. the muslim brotherhood was founded by a egyptian school teacher, hassan al banna. his answer for egypt's problems became their motto: islam is the solution. >> it began in egypt in 1928. this group began the first modern extremist organization in the islamic world. >> reporter: the brotherhood took aim at foreign targets. an early bombing campaign struck at occupying british troops. they also flirted with german fascism. in the 1950s, president nasser refused to let them form a political party and jailed and tortured brotherhood members. head of egyptian internal security for 25 years was general fouad allam.
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>> reporter: in the 1970s, president sadat eased up on repression, but the movement split. some members left to join groups like ayman al zawahiri's islamic jihad-- responsible for sadat's assassination in 1981. >> we tried our best to establish this islamic state! >> reporter: zawahiri later joined forces with osama bin laden. the mainstream leadership said it would commit itself to a democratic process. >> their position was, "we will not use violence. we want to take part in the
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political process. we believe in pluralism, and we want to be included." >> reporter: they fielded candidates in egypt's 2005 elections, running as independents. the party was still officially outlawed. >> they are outlawed in that they're not allowed to form a legal political party, because egypt does not recognize political parties based on religion. >> reporter: but after they won 88 seats in the parliament, mubarak cracked down on the movement. he closed hundreds of brotherhood schools and clinics, seized assets of their financial backers and jailed over 1,200 members and supporters. after years of repression, many of the ikhwan are used to operating in the shadows. even days into the revolt, members were still being arrested. this man asked us keep his identity secret even while he showed me his website, ikhwanophobia.
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>> we at are determined to shed light on the accusations and allegations against the muslim brotherhood... >> reporter: the website is dedicated to changing their image. >> ...illustrating to the world the true face of moderate islamists. this is our message to the american people. >> reporter: they are obsessed by their treatment in the western media. >> the media coverage in the united states are trying to say that the-- the islamists have the same face. they... they... doesn't separate between al-qaeda, or muslim brotherhood or even hezbollah. what-- what we are trying to say in ikhwanophobia, that the muslim brotherhood are different. >> reporter: but the negative image of the brotherhood has been carefully controlled by the mubarak regime. >> reporter: on january 28, mubarak alluded to those fears in his first television address of the crisis.
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>> reporter: throughout the protests, the brotherhood was fearful that the regime would succeed in portraying the revolution as a muslim brotherhood conspiracy. we saw this sensitivity play out when this man approached our camera holding up his pocket koran. mohammed abbas took him aside and told him to put it away. >> reporter: abbas then explained to me what was going on.
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>> reporter: you want this man to go out of here? >> reporter: they may be playing down their role, but the real question is what are their long- term intentions? i went looking for some people who know the brotherhood. mohammed kamal is one of the more moderate leaders of mubarak's national democratic party. the party's headquarters were gutted by fire in the early days of the uprising. many in america fear islamist movements. are their fears grounded? or are they irrational? >> well, i think some members of the muslim brotherhood have fundamentalist view of the world, and of egypt for that matter.
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they will try to use the democratic mechanisms to come to power. and once in power, they're going to restructure the whole state to fit their ideology. and i don't think they will leave power afterward and egypt might become a second iran. but there are others, also, who- - especially from the young generation-- who wants to be part of a modern state, a modern civil state. so the muslim brotherhood is not a homogeneous organization. >> reporter: does america understand the muslim brotherhood? >> the us doesn't understand the muslim brotherhood, at least not yet. there are a lot of misconceptions. >> reporter: shadi hamid is an political analyst. >> i think one mistake that a lot of western observers make is that they look at it as a fundamentally political organization.
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that this is a group that wants to come to power. it's much more complicated than that. the brotherhood doesn't yet know what it wants. what does it mean to be an islamist party? not just in opposition, but also in government? >> reporter: day 13. there were reports of pro- mubarak vigilantes beating up journalists. it took an hour to get across town to attend a muslim brotherhood press conference. these men represent the brotherhood's old guard. the revolution took them by surprise. >> reporter: through our interpreter, i asked them if they were setting a deadline for the president to leave.
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>> reporter: while they said they supported the protests, they explained they were engaging in a dialogue with the regime, something the youth wing of the brotherhood staunchly opposed. the old guard was clearly way out of sync with their younger colleagues on the square. >> those who are out there in the tahrir square have in fact moved beyond the movement. it is the young members which are stating and telling and informing the old guard what to do. and the old guard they are trying to catch up. and they are not catching up. >> younger muslim brothers and sisters are questioning the older regime. and it's almost like a microcosm of what's happening in egyptian society at large, in that you see the leadership of the muslim brotherhood is this kind of old, often out-of-touch men-- old, out-of-touch men, much like the mubarak regime is old, out-of- touch men. >> reporter: i went back to the square looking for mohammed abbas. i wanted to know where he
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thought the youth wing was taking the movement. >> he may be asleep now. i don't know where he is exactly. >> reporter: as it turned out, he was praying. >> the message of the young activists is not a conventional ikhwan message. >> reporter: i was told the youth embrace a more modern interpretation of islam's role in society than their elders. >> i mean, this is not about islam as a solution or full implementation of the sharia. this is not about islamizing egyptian society. no, what they are saying up until now is "democratize egypt. equal citizenship rights." they are trying to open up the system. >> reporter: is this the real muslim brotherhood? or is this just a facade for now? >> i don't think anyone knows right now. and i... and i would really distrust anyone who at this moment in history, which is unprecedented in egypt's recent history, can tell us, you know,
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what fundamentally the brotherhood is. the brotherhood has a lot of different forces within it. i don't believe the very simplistic narrative that the egyptian government has sold the west and has sold the egyptian people over the past years. that narrative is that the muslim brotherhood is waiting for one opportunity to get into power, to break off the camp david agreement, to turn egypt into iran. too simplistic. >> reporter: but others are worried. >> now they are like a big crowd between us. >> reporter: this law student, ahmed, has been in the square since the beginning, after reading a notice on facebook. now he feels his revolution has been hijacked. so you were here on the 25th and you saw a change here. tell me about that. >> i'm afraid. >> reporter: what are you afraid of? >> the brothers. the islamic brothers. >> reporter: you're afraid of the muslim brotherhood? >> yeah. >> reporter: why? >> they want it to be islamic like iran and this. but we don't want it to be like
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that. we are liberal. that's the way we think. they have the biggest crowd in here. that's why they can control it easy. >> reporter: do you feel they really have taken control? >> yeah. >> reporter: when i caught up with mohammed abbas again, he said he wanted to stay focused on their immediate goals. >> reporter: he said the brothers are not trying to take over the revolution. he insisted the brothers are just one part of a diverse, democratic political movement. but when you listen to someone like brotherhood spokesman esam al aryan, you hear something different. >> our goal, our most important mission, is to have an islamic revival in the society, to convince people that you can build a new country, a new era
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according to your islamic beliefs. >> reporter: so are you saying that those desires to create an >> we have... we have not only a political group; we are an islamic organization. islam deal with politics, with economics, with social affairs, with solidarity of people, with their education, with all aspects of life. >> reporter: is this a revolution? >> yes, it is a revolution. it is one of the most important historical revolutions. it will be listed and then counted as french revolution, russian revolution. >> reporter: day 17. protests had spread across cairo. do you think the united states is actually going to engage with the muslim brotherhood? >> i think the us doesn't have a choice anymore. the us has to learn to live with political islam.
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the brotherhood is likely to going to play an influential role in the coming years. if egypt becomes democratic, the largest opposition force in the country is going to be part of that new political scene. this is going to be really one of the first real experiments in islamist governance in egypt. so the us has to find a way to be okay with that. >> reporter: by nightfall on february 10, it seemed the end was near. throughout the protests, the egyptian army had remained neutral and kept to its pledge not to fire on demonstrators. early on, they had taken up positions around the square to shield the protestors from mubarak's supporters. now they seemed to be taking sides. a general had come to the square and said the people's demands were about to be met.
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the palace announced mubarak would go live to the nation at 10:00 pm. the square was filled with people in anticipation. there was a wedding. when i found mohammed abbas again, he had shaved off his beard. how do you feel? how do you feel? >> nothing is better than this. nothing, in all my life better than this time. i can't explain what i feel >> reporter: then came mubarak's speech.
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>> reporter: in a long and rambling address, it soon became clear he was not stepping down. >> reporter: confusion turned to anger. the people held up their shoes in disgust. in disgust. they were stunned and betrayed. that's when mohammed abbas took the microphone. >> reporter: he urged the army to finish the job.
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>> reporter: within 24 hours, mubarak was gone. the revolution was over. the revolution had just begun. the spirit of unity was strong
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enough after 18 long days to bring people back to tahrir square to clean up after themselves. but how long will this unity last? >> i'm hoping that the experience of the square will be one which will transform society, optimistically that would be my hope. i also realized it's slightly more realistic that this experience remains confined to the square, and that there are many people outside the square who aren't experiencing this political moment. and there is a possibility that things could go very wrong, in terms of what the protesters hope for. >> reporter: i saw abbas one more time. he was proud of how the young brothers had shown the old guard how to run a revolution.
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>> reporter: i followed him to al jazeera, where he talked about ongoing negotiations with the military. afterwards, in a café, i had a couple more important questions. what is the future of how the muslim brotherhood will deal with israel? and will it recognize the treaty that's been signed?
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>> reporter: does the muslim brotherhood think israel has the right to exist? >> reporter: leaving cairo, one wants to be hopeful after these extraordinary days, but there's lots of cause for worry. as the brotherhood comes out of the shadows to take their place at the table, no one knows who will emerge as their leadership.
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whoever it is, though, will most certainly help determine the future of egypt, and perhaps beyond. >> next time on frontline... >> we've reinvented the university. >> they'll give you a degree... >> it's a very profitable business. >> ...find you a loan... >> they're doing it at the expense of the federal taxpayer. >> ...but will they give you an education? >> they're there to make money. they're there for profit. >> martin smith investigates. >> do you have the credibility to be determining the future of colleges around the country? >> no, but i'm doing it. >> "college inc." watch frontline. >> frontline's website has more on tonight's stories, plus a web-exclusive report on the uprising through the eyes of a
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young activist. >> and there's much more on fronline's web site. watch nearly 100 programs from our archive; explore interactive timelines and maps and follow ongoing frontline investigations. then, tell us what you think at >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan. committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation. dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, with a grant from millicent bell through the
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millicent and eugene bell foundation. additional funding for frontline's expanded broadcast season is provided by the bill & melinda gates foundation. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other frontline programs, visit our web site at frontline's "revolution in cairo" is available on dvd. to order, visit or call 1-800-playpbs.
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>> you're watching pbs. exclusi. in the days after katrina, violent encounters between police and civilians. >> people were shot and killed by the new orleans police department. >> six controversial cases. >> there's no police report. they said something about a shoot-out. >> the times picayune, pro publica, fronltine and you uncover the truth. >> there are all these unanswered questions. >> an online investigation of >> an online investigation of "law and disorder" at
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- welcome to independent lens. i'm america ferrera. write great books and carry a big stick. - i bring not peace but a sword. - this is independent filmmaker yony leyser. he got kicked out of film school and moved to the hometown of william s. burroughs, the godfather of the beat generation. here he found out why no one had ever managed to make a documentary about an american icon who shocked the world. burroughs' friends, lovers, and forgotten footage unlock the door into his secretive heart. william s. burroughs: a man within, next. [jazzy instrumental music] ♪


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