Last night, word began to spread that Mohammed ElBaradei, former director of the IAEA and one of the leading political opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would return to Egypt Thursday and join the planned demonstrations after prayers on Friday. He issued a statement Wednesday night in advance of this return:

When Egypt had parliamentary elections only two months ago, they were completely rigged. The party of President Hosni Mubarak left the opposition with only 3 percent of the seats. Imagine that. And the American government said that it was “dismayed.” Well, frankly, I was dismayed that all it could say is that it was dismayed. The word was hardly adequate to express the way the Egyptian people felt.

Then, as protests built in the streets of Egypt following the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assessment that the government in Egypt is “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”. I was flabbergasted—and I was puzzled. What did she mean by stable, and at what price? Is it the stability of 29 years of “emergency” laws, a president with imperial power for 30 years, a parliament that is almost a mockery, a judiciary that is not independent? Is that what you call stability? I am sure not. And I am positive that it is not the standard you apply to other countries. What we see in Egypt is pseudo-stability, because real stability only comes with a democratically elected government..

If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer…

He goes on to address the “opportunity” that the US administration is claiming in its attempt to save Mubarak:

So when you say the Egyptian government is looking for ways to respond to the needs of the Egyptian people, I feel like saying, “Well, it’s too late!” This isn’t even good realpolitik. We have seen what happened in Tunisia, and before that in Iran. That should teach people there is no stability except when you have government freely chosen by its own people…

And describing the silence from the Mubarak regime that has been the only response to the more than 1 million signatures on a petition calling for greater democracy, notes:

As a result, the young people of Egypt have lost patience, and what you’ve seen in the streets these last few days has all been organized by them. I have been out of Egypt because that is the only way I can be heard. I have been totally cut off from the local media when I am there. But I am going back to Cairo, and back onto the streets because, really, there is no choice. You go out there with this massive number of people, and you hope things will not turn ugly, but so far, the regime does not seem to have gotten that message…

But this week the Egyptian people broke the barrier of fear, and once that is broken, there is no stopping them.

Just weeks ago, Mubarak supporters called for ElBaradei’s assassination and his supporters were threatened and intimidated by security forces against participating in protests on Jan. 25:

“Security forces verbally attacked our members and interrogated them for hours to obtain any details regarding the protests scheduled for Jan. 25,” Mustafa Al-Naggar, general coordinator of the campaign supporting ElBaradei, told Daily News Egypt.

The statement added that activists’ parents were told they would be detained for a long time if their children continue to participate in political activities against the government, describing it as an “extremely bizarre” action on behalf of security forces…

“These attempts [to scare people away] only gave our members a push forward and made them realize the importance of their participation in protests that have clearly frightened the regime,” said Al-Naggar.

We can stand with the people of Egypt and ElBaradei as they put so much on the line for democracy. One way to do that is to make sure they – and the White House and US State Department – know that we are watching carefully and insist on protection for the protesters and ElBaradei. You can call right now to deliver that message:

White House Switchboard 202-456-1414 or email here
State Department 202-647-4000
Egyptian Embassy 202.895.5400