Egypt protest

“The source of their pain is in unemployment, poor services making a graft in the city and money,” says Dr. Mansour El-Kikhia about the thousands of Egyptian protesters fighting for a better way of life. “Forty percent make less than two dollars a day while one percent makes 50 million.”

Fatimah Aboueisha, a junior studying biology, who lived in Egypt up to the age of 12, says that “[Egyptians] have been living under emergency law,” something that is generally reserved, in other countries, for times of extreme national danger, namely being under attack by another country. Prior to the 18-day riot, emergency law allowed for police to search a person’s home without a warrant or reason.

“You couldn’t visit a neighbor after eight o’clock,” Aboueisha adds. “Everything the government did, you could not question.”

Factors such as these led to the massive demonstrations that ended in President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation this past Friday. After nearly 30 years in power, Mubarak relinquished control of the country to the armed forces. Eighteen days of consistent protesting against the government paid off as the Egyptian activists got what many have waited for.

Though elation pulsed through the crowd still congregated in the country’s town squares, many Egyptians remain wary of the military’s control.

“Parties don’t win by 90 or 95 percent of the vote and his party has been winning by this margin for years,” Dr. El-Kikhia said recalling on Mubarak’s constant manipulation of the government.

Whether it was through imprisoning his opponents or throwing elections, Hosni Mubarak kept the citizens of Egypt under emergency law for almost three decades, suppressing minor oppositions in the past. By controlling the media outsourced from the country, Mubarak was able to keep most of Egypt’s problems silent to the world. However, with dire living conditions and little to no support, the youth of Egypt rallied together and took a stand against the status quo.

“It is their revolution,” Dr. El-Kikhia said. “We take [having our voice heard] for granted [in America], with only ten to twenty percent participation. Over there, they have a government that does not serve the people.”

Thanks to the recent globalization of the World Wide Web, Egyptians were informed about the protests taking place. Activists and demonstrators utilized the internet, Facebook, and Al Gezira throughout the 18-day protest to gain international support in their endeavors. Over the course of the two and half weeks, countries rallied alongside the young Egyptians calling for change.

They were met with a harsh backlash, as Egypt’s president hired thugs and used the military to clear streets. Three hundred Egyptians have lost their lives during attempted crowd disbursements. However, curfews and militia forces could not stop the overbearing power of the thousands of activists remaining in market squares and plazas through the ensuing protest. Videos throughout Mubarak’s resignation speech show Egyptians waving their shoes in the air and calling out “He must leave.” Their wishes have been granted as elections will be held this September for a new president.

Aboueisha says that, “the day he left, my sister texted me. She said, ‘He stepped down.’ I went crazy. I ran out of class… I went psycho! I was telling everybody, ‘He stepped down!’ People didn’t know what I was talking about, of course, but I felt like the world knew what I was talking about.”

As the 20 million citizens that were in the streets return home, Aboueisha comments that “the youth [are] going back and cleaning the streets… They’re getting involved. They’re painting back [the graffiti-covered walls]. They’re fixing everything. They know this is their country, so they’re making those changes.”

Egypt’s call for a change in government is part of a recent chain reaction in the Middle East, beginning with the uprising in Tunisia in mid-January resulting in President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s resignation after 23 years in power. Demonstrations for change have started in Yemen as well as protesters call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down from a 32 year reign. Hope and ongoing persistence have become the light as things begin to look brighter in the Middle East.

“It took ten years for this to happen,” says Dr. El-Kikhia with smile. “This is the power of youth and American youth should take an example from what’s going on in the world. It’s your world; it’s your life.”

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