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Egyptian Americans Call on US to Support Protesters

  • Mohamed Elshinnawi

Amro Eobaz leads Egyptian protesters during a demonstration outside the White House in Washington, D.C., January 28, 2011

Amro Eobaz leads Egyptian protesters during a demonstration outside the White House in Washington, D.C., January 28, 2011

A coalition of Egyptian American organizations expressed their concerns this week over the reaction of the Egyptian government to anti-government demonstrations and urged the U.S. government to support the Egyptian people's efforts to achieve freedom and social justice. Hundreds of Egyptian Americans demonstrated in front of the White House to relay this message.

Egyptian American activists sent a delegation to the State Department to voice their concern over the way Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried to suppress Egyptian demonstrations. Mokhtar Kamel is the spokesperson for the Alliance of Egyptian Americans, a non-profit organization which says it exists to empower the Egyptian people.

"Obviously, what was discussed is the dire situation in Egypt,” said Kamel. “Our point of view was that the U.S. should stand by the people, not by the tyrants, because the people are there and they are going to be there permanently, but tyarants are temporary. We talked about the demands of the Egyptian people and we said that now it is too late, the demand is for Mr. Mubarak to go”

Professor Saad Eldin Ibrahim is a prominent Egyptian American professor of sociology and a democracy activist who was imprisoned by the Egyptian regime for his call for political reform. He told U.S. officials at the State Department and the National Security Council the time has come for the U.S. to take the side of the people.

"Mubarak hasn’t done anything for peace. Mubarak hasn’t done anything for democracy and this trade off of peace and democracy which the Obama administration entertained for two and half years - and they got neither democracy nor peace. So we say for the Americans [to] stand by the Egyptian people for a change and the Egyptian people have spoken loud and clear; we want freedom, we want human and economic rights and we say to Mr. Mubarak, it is time to go," said Ibrabim.

Key Players in Egypt's Crisis

  • President Hosni Mubarak: The 82-year-old has ruled Egypt for 30 years as leader of the National Democratic Party. With no named successor and in poor health, analysts say the president is grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him. Egypt's longest-serving president came to power after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
  • Mohamed ElBaradei: The Nobel Peace laureate and former Egyptian diplomat has gained international attention as a vocal critic of Mr. Mubarak and his government. Until recently he headed the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, and he has lived outside Egypt for years. ElBaradei founded the nonpartisan movement National Association for Change, and has offered to lead a transitional administration in Egypt if Mr. Mubarak steps down.
  • Minister Omar Suleiman: The head of Egyptian intelligence and a close ally of President Mubarak, Suleiman is seen by some analysts as a possible successor to the president. He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.
  • Ayman Nour: The political dissident founded the Al Ghad or "tomorrow" party. Nour ran against Mr. Mubarak in the 2005 election and was later jailed on corruption charges. The government released him in 2009 under pressure from the United States and other members of the international community.
  • Muslim Brotherhood: The Islamic fundamentalist organization is outlawed in Egypt, but remains the largest opposition group. Its members previously held 20 percent of the seats in parliament, but lost them after a disputed election in late 2010. The group leads a peaceful political and social movement aimed at forming an Islamic state.

The White House and the State Department have been watching the situation in Egypt for several days. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called repeatedly on the Egyptian president to respond to his people with reforms, not with force. But instead of allowing freedom of speech or assembly, and respond to demands for constitutional reform and free elections, he deployed the army to Egyptian major cities. The U.S. response was swift with Secretary Clinton's demand.

"The Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political and social reforms," she said.

"We continue to raise with the Egyptian government, as we do with other governments in the region, the imperative for reform and greater openness and participation to provide a better future for all. We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government to realize their aspirations to live in a democratic society that respects basic human rights."

The U.S. counts Egypt as an ally in the Middle East and has so far been cautious about taking sides. However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Washington would review its aid to Egypt based on events in the coming days.

Egypt is the fourth largest recipient of American aid, after Israel, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Egyptian Americans gathered in front of the White House chanting slogans calling for Mubarak to leave and asking President Obama to take the right side by backing the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

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