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UI students offer differing views of post-revolution Egypt

BY RANA MOUSTAFA | JANUARY 25, 2012 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa students offered mixed reactions to Egypt's progress since citizens there rebelled a year ago.

Egyptian and senior Amr El-bokl was taking classes at the UI when the protests began. El-bokl said he became more concerned about his family's safety in Egypt as the violence grew.

"My dad and brother had to sit outside of our house all day and night to protect the house from [looters]," he said. "I was worried about my family, who couldn't go to work."

Though the revolution was a positive step for the country, he said, there is still a lot more progress to be made.

"[Today] should be a day to celebrate because it marks the first day the people had a voice against the dictating president," he said. "But the revolution needs to continue, because I've always been against military rule. It's not what I want for my country and my people, because it goes against everything I believe in."

Egypt wasn't the first Arab country to protest against the government — Tunisians had begun their revolt a few weeks earlier.

Egypt's revolt had a larger effect, however, said UI political-science Professor Vicki Hesli, because of its size, military, and regional power.

The two countries were among the first in a series of anti-government movements that spread throughout the region. The mass uprisings were soon labeled the Arab Spring.

Mubarak eventually stepped down, and Egypt has fought to rebuild since.

"The changes in Egypt in the past year have ramifications for the entire Middle Eastern region," Hesli said. "We're beginning to see incremental movement toward reform in places such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel."

One UI senior who witnessed the revolution said he wishes the removal of the military's power in the country would move faster.

Dan Olinghouse witnessed the protests at Tahrir Square when he was in Egypt to study last year.

"I saw people fighting for things that we have in the U.S that we often take for granted," he said. The protests became too dangerous, however, and Olinghouse was sent back to the United States two weeks after he arrived.

"I'm totally in support of the revolution, but as it stands now, there is still a lot of progress to be made," he said.

Hesli said Egypt's progress has been relatively peaceful compared with past revolutions.

"I think Egypt is making remarkable progress, in particular with regard to the free and fair elections that have brought the political party associated with the Muslim Brotherhood such a large number of seats in Parliament — especially considering the problems that the country faces in terms of poverty and history of authoritarianism."

Egyptian UI sophomore Abdullah Azkalany echoed Hesli's outlook.

"I don't think another revolt is necessary at all," he said. "I think we're on the right track."

Egyptians have achieved what the country has not seen in a long time, he said.

"There is much less apathy with the Egyptian people now," he said. "Before, if Egyptian citizens questioned Mubarak or the government, they'd disappear the next day, and God knows what happened to them. But now, people are more courageous to say what they want to say; the fear is finally gone."


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