News / USA

Mideast Students in US Riveted by Egypt Revolt

Both Arab and Israeli students feel a vested interest in outcome

For these Middle Eastern students at International House in New York, the events in Egypt could have a lasting impact.
For these Middle Eastern students at International House in New York, the events in Egypt could have a lasting impact.

Multimedia

Audio

Students from more than 100 countries live and socialize at International House while studying at New York’s universities. The peaceful atmosphere seems a world away from Egypt, where millions have demonstrated to force President Hosni Mubarak from power. Yet, for Middle Eastern students at the house, it all hits very close to home.

"I thought he’d be assassinated. That’s mean, but I thought he would end up like that because that’s what happens to people who rule like that," says Mary, an Egyptian law student who was born the year Mubarak came to power. "Honestly, I didn’t think people would go on the street. I would be scared to go on the street given how the regime is. They beat up people. It’s pretty scary."

Mary says her 55-year-old mother has watched Egypt’s public life and infrastructure crumble since she was a student in the 1970s. She is a middle-class businesswoman who also supports the uprising. But Mary says that Egypt’s wealthy class continues to support Mubarak because they're afraid the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political movements will come to power.

"They fear that the bad we know is better than the bad we don’t know. I agree with that statement, but not in this case. If the people taking care of the country are not corrupt, it will work out."

Mary doesn't believe Mubarak's recent promise to step down in September, despite his 2006 declaration he would stay in office for life.

Haleem, a 29-year-old international affairs student from Lebanon, adds that even if Mubarak does step down, it will not necessarily not mean that a democratic form of government will emerge.   

"There is a difference between democracy and liberalism. It’s not only about having free and fair elections. It’s also about the range of freedoms you can have in your country - any kind of freedom," he says. "Ask any Egyptian and he can tell you what he is deprived of. Transition is not an easy thing.  We can see for example what happened in the Iranian Revolution, and I cannot really rule out the Iranian case to repeat itself in Egypt. It can have also many spillover effects, either on Israel, and if on Israel, it can also have some impact on Lebanon. The Middle East is like a system in itself, and I include North Africa. It’s a dynamical system. We can’t predict."

Avner, a music student from Israel - which has had a cold peace with Egypt since 1979 - is divided over recent events.   

"As a human being, as a person, living in a democratic country, I think there is probably nothing worse than living under a regime you don’t believe in and there is nothing you can do about it," he says. "On the other hand, I think we’re afraid of what’s going to happen in Israel. People are afraid that some regime that’s unfavorable to Israel will rise. In my opinion, I don’t think Egyptians have an incentive to make war on Israel. I think if an agreement was made they’ll honor it."

Because of Egypt’s reliability as a staunch ally, Washington has supported Mubarak, giving his government billions of dollars in military and other aid over the years. That is one reason why many who oppose Mubarak also oppose the United States.

The situation poses a dilemma for Cairo-born Nesrine. She supports the uprising, but is in New York on a scholarship paid for by the Egyptian and American governments.

"For me, I felt freedom here that I never felt in my own country. I wear whatever I want. I say whatever I want. I am not afraid. So I am enjoying things here and this is the psychological thing. I can be anything in this country if I wanted," she says. " And at the same time there are people dying. So it’s really not easy. I cannot say I hate the U.S. but I love my country at the same time."

Nesrine has contemplated staying in the United States once her studies are complete, but now feels she would rather go back home. While she can't predict the outcome of the upheaval in Egypt, she is certain about what she wants.

“I hope for a future that will take away all the pain and all suffering, all the long lines and corrupt bureaucratic offices. I hope for better education, for water to reach everywhere, for new buildings to be built, new factories, new job opportunities, a better future, people getting married, people smiling again. I just want a better future that will take away the pain that the Egyptians have been suffering for 30 years.”

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs