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.



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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs