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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More