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'We Are Still Awake,' Says Egyptian Protester

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, we're going to find out why some artists are upset about the new categories for the Grammys this year. Some of these categories have Native American, Hawaiian and Cajun musicians all competing in the same category. We'll hear more about that in just a few minutes.

But first, we want to turn to Egypt. This weekend marks one year since Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt's long-time president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

MARTIN: That was NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro. One year on, though, Egypt is still feeling the growing pains of transition from the past to the future. The country is still under martial law, and demonstrators have continued their protests against those military rulers for months.

The military government has also charged a group of 19 Americans with illegally financing nonprofit groups with foreign funds, there's growing concern over Egypt's economy.

We wanted to hear about what these headlines mean for Egyptians living with these changes day in and day out, so once again, we called on Yassmine El-Sayed Hany. She is a young master's degree student at Cairo University. We caught up with her last year when she was demonstrating against Hosni Mubarak every day in Tahrir Square. And she joins us now from her home in Cairo.

So good to talk to you once again.

YASSMINE EL-SAYED HANY: You're welcome, ma'am. Thank you for having me on your program.

MARTIN: How are you?

HANY: I'm very good. Thank you.

MARTIN: We spoke to you on February 11th, right after Mr. Mubarak stepped down, and I just want to play a short clip of what you had to say then. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

MARTIN: You laughed a little bit when you heard that.

HANY: Yes, yes.

MARTIN: Why were you laughing?

HANY: I was laughing because I remember that very special moment, and very special moments in the lives of all Egyptians, actually.

MARTIN: Do you still feel as excited? It would be hard to be that excited, you know, for a year. Apart from the momentary excitement, do you still feel that sense of jubilation?

HANY: Well, I would tell you something. Though one year has passed, we're not very suspecting miracle(ph) developments that has taken place in the process of transition of power. However, we are still - go down to the streets to protest any kind of dictatorship, even by the army or by political groups or by security forces. We are - still go down to the streets. We are still - flood the streets, and we are still awake.

MARTIN: What about your folks, your extended family? When we talked to you last year, one of the interesting conversations that you and I had was around talking to some of your relatives who were initially not so excited about the protests, but you were able to persuade some of them that, yes, this was, in fact, the right course of action. I'm just interested in what kinds of conversations are going on within the family, too. Your parents, for example: What do they think?

HANY: Yes. Inside my home, actually, I am a little bit closer to my generation than, for instance, the generation of my father and mother. So I have access to social networks. I have access to Twitter and Facebook. I have access to the stories told - my friends that are protesting in the streets.

However, my father and mother do not believe in that. For instance, they believe that all these kind of protests are made by certain parties that are trying or aspiring to make the road towards democracy more prickly and towards stability more prickly. So they do not believe in the benefits, for instance, of protesting in the streets. They believe that we should be waiting for the parliament to press the military rulers or the army to hand over the power in a peaceful way and in a very civil way.

MARTIN: Well, these will not be the first parents to have that point of view. I'm sure that's - you know, I'm sure that you will agree that parents all over the world have probably said that at some point.

HANY: They believe in the same points. They prefer stability and security. They hate protesting. Yeah.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. It's been a year since Egypt's historic revolution. We've been checking in with student and protester Yassmine El-Sayed Hany about how things are going in her country one year since Mr. Mubarak stepped down.

The big political news of the year were the parliamentary elections, where the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood won nearly half of the seats. And I'm pretty sure you know that many people here in the U.S. and in other governments are worried that the Muslim Brothers will implement extremist policies once they are in power.

May I ask your take on their success in those elections?

HANY: OK. For myself, I haven't selected any of the Islamic figures or any of the Islamic (unintelligible) members. OK? However, I know many friends and many in my family, actually, have elected them. But let's say that, by the end of the day, it's an elected parliament. I would say that I don't have that kind of phobia against the Islamists. OK? Because I deeply believe that politics is moderating the extremists. So it's in their very interest to work in a cooperative way with other forces in all - for all parties to contribute equally, as much as possible, in weighing the costs and in performing the responsibilities that they have after being elected.

MARTIN: Before I let you go, this is one of those questions that American pollsters like to ask, so I'm going to ask you this.

HANY: Yes. Sure.

MARTIN: Are you mostly optimistic or pessimistic right now about the future?

HANY: I'm very optimistic. We are still awake, and we will never let go of our country and we will never replace a dictatorship with another. And I'm very optimistic, because I believe that myself is still awake. My friends are awake. My family is awake. And all the disagreements that we are having among each other will be dealt with in a very positive and constructive way to our country.

MARTIN: Yassmine El-Sayed Hany is a master's degree student at Cairo University. We caught up with her last year when she was - along with so many of her countrymen and women - protesting in Tahrir Square in the lead-up to the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. And she's been kind enough to let us call upon her from time to time to hear how things are going in Egypt, and we caught up with her at home in Cairo.

Yassmine, thank you.

HANY: Thank you, ma'am, for having me on your program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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