Free from unrest

Free from unrest

On Feb. 11, Egyptian citizens chant “Egypt Is Free” in Tahrir Square. There are prayers and tears of joy.

Nadeem Elsewehy (left) and Mohamed Khalil (right), Egyptian Americans shared their views on Egypt.

There are fireworks lit into the sky, sending sparks which ignite a revolutionary spirit throughout the Middle East.

The effects of the 18-day-long protest to force Hosni Mubarak to step down as president, not only changed the lives of Egypt’s citizens, but the lives of its people around the world.

MCTC students are among those feeling a difference.

“People got tired of Hosni Mubarak, and felt they were being treated unjustly, so they felt like they needed to make a stand,” said student Mohamed Khalil, who has family in cities such as Alexandria and Cairo.

Tahrir Square, located in the middle of Cairo was the main place of protest. According to Khalil, Tahrir Square is the equivalent to New York City’s Times Square.

Media and news coverage showed Egypt’s anti-Mubarak protesters camping out nightly in the square, holding prayers, performing chants and demonstrations with signs and propaganda, and later showed the square had become the center for celebration.

“Plus, its name,” said Nadeem Elsewehy, another student with family in Alexandria and Cairo, “means ‘liberation’ or ‘to become free’. So it pretty much goes with the whole concept, the whole idea.”

The protests started on Jan. 25, when change seemed far out of reach.

Student Ahmed Elsaied, with “a big group of relatives” in Mansoura, said, “There was a lot of problems that the president had been giving to the civilians, but nothing happened. A lot of people there are poor. A big majority of the population there have no food, no shelter.”

“The economy was ruined,” said Elsewehy.

During the protests, ATMs in the streets weren’t able to distribute money, and the fact that the Great Pyramids of Giza were closed down, discouraging the traveling of tourists, didn’t help national income either.

The people of Egypt wanted the way their government was ruled to “change completely,” Elsewehy said. “People were living under the emergency laws.”

Under the strict emergency laws, any citizen who violates the law does not have a right to a fair trial by a competent judge.

“So basically they can come arrest you whenever, put you in jail, no court date, nothing what so ever. People got sick of that,” said Elsewehy.

This law was continually extended over Mubarak’s rule.

It was believed that after Hosni Mubarak, his son Gamal Mubarak was next in line to step up and rule.

Although it was never publicly stated, “that’s what the guy was being groomed for,” said Elsewehy.

Khalil said, “[The Egyptians] didn’t want another 30 years of the same family taking over.”

This unrest showed, not only in Egypt, but with support of the protests by Egyptian communities all over the world. A rally took place at the Minnesota State Capital in St. Paul “the second or third day it happened,” said Khalil.

Students from the University of Minnesota also held a rally within the first week of protesting.

During the protests communication through mobile phones and internet was temporarily cut off by Egyptian government, making it difficult to reach family members over seas.

That didn’t hinder support from pouring in, which gave inspiration and hope of freedom to other countries.

“It’s in the news now that Middle Eastern countries are protesting against their dictators, their presidents and their governments,” said Elsaied.

A little less than two weeks before Egypt’s protests began, Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the region after 23 years of ruling, due to riot and revolt of Tunisian citizens. Their Prime Minister now has gained leadership during the transition phase.

Khalil said, “Now they’re seeing that Tunisia and Egypt both got their presidents to leave, so now all Arab countries are trying to get their leaders to leave.”

The citizens of the country Libya, located between Tunisia and Egypt, have recently been in protest against their own government and are dealing with their violent military.

The military in Libya is “all with the government,” said Elsewehy.

The members of the Libyan military who chose not to follow the government “got jailed. They got beaten,” Khalil said.

The military in Egypt for the most part became neutral and let off fighting and violence with the Egyptians, but in Libya, “It’s either like, hurt your own people or die yourself,” said Khalil. “Mubarak didn’t say nothing like that to the army, so they stopped on their own, the army. Thank god they stopped on their own.”

Now that army is “in charge of Egypt right now, until the election,” said Elsewehy. The elections are to be held sometime in September, “but it’s not 100 percent sure yet.”

The new upcoming elections are what the people of Egypt have been looking forward to since the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation.

Vice President Omar Suleiman announced the resignation Feb. 11 on T.V. through a channel called Aljazeera, according to Elsaied. “That basically was the only channel that was getting all the news, all the coverage.”

From first hearing about the revolution through family and friends, Khalil said, “I was happy to hear just that it was actually going to happen.”

Elsaied said, “There are a lot of problems basically trying to be fixed. Hopefully, if God will, they may be this year.

All the events through the demonstrations and rallies “showed the people that they do have the power to make a change,” said Elsewehy.

“One big thing that stood out to me is when the Egyptian Christians and the Egyptian Muslims both came together,” Khalil said,

“The Christians would stand around [the Muslims] and build a wall because the army was spraying water at the

Muslims while they were praying,” Khalil said. “When you’re praying, if anything even bothers, you’re supposed to just ignore it and keep praying. The Christians were trying to stop the water from hitting the Muslims.”

Between the successful alliance of such different groups, and the casualties and civilians lost during the protests, the people of Egypt know they have made history.

Elsaied said, “May God bless all the people that died for the country.”

Here in Minnesota, celebrations for Egypt have been shown through the media, held within the community — such as another gathering at the University of Minnesota — within family homes, and at parties with friends and loved ones.

“Basically it’s taking people from being a subject in their own country to a citizen. Everything that happens in the world, affects everything in the world,” Elsewehy said. “Now you see what unity does.”