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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs