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Locals eye Egyptian candidate nervously

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | MARCH 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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A group of University of Iowa students watches from afar as violence and political unrest unwinds in their home country of Egypt.

Alisar Hassanein is a UI junior who lived in Egypt until the age of 5 and later moved to the United States with her family. Hassanein said she has a large number of family members in Egypt and visits them on an almost annual basis.

However, Hassanein said, if Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi becomes president she may not visit her family as often. Sisi announced Wednesday he will run for the Egyptian presidency in this summer’s election. Hassanein said she thinks the future of Egypt would be in danger if Sisi were to become president.

“The country will in no way move forward …” she said. “He’s an excellent military leader and knows how to plot and execute; however, that also makes him a horrible leader. We do not need someone to use the same force and violence on our people as he does on our enemies.”

Former President Mohamed Morsi, who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was forced out of office just one year after Egypt’s first democratic presidential election in July 2013.

Gerald Sorokin, the executive director of Hillel in Iowa City and former University of Iowa faculty member in the Political Science Department, said Sisi is regarded as being a representative of the old system of Egypt and most affiliated with the military and not the Muslim Brotherhood.

“In Egypt, the military did a better job meeting the economic needs of the people and being an anti-democratic figure,” Sorokin said. “The simple inability to deliver goods and provide public service is one of the major reasons Morsi was pushed out.”

Sorokin said Sisi would have to answer the question of what he will need to do for the Islamists, who were the major supporters of the Islamic Brotherhood.

“They will not support him unless he can promise something that can meet their concerns,” Sorokin said. “He also needs to make a credible promise that he can help improve the economic and political development issues.”

Sorokin said he believes Sisi has the “inside track” of winning the election for this summer because he has a large military support; however, he says Sisi has to take a few more actions to show he can be the leader.

UI sophomore Sandy Gaber, who is also from Egypt, said she also believes some people in Egypt may be a little vulnerable and want a leader to follow.

“I feel so bad for the people there because how much worse can it get? So many people have died,” Gaber said. “The violence going on in Egypt was happening through the military, and he was the head of the military.”

Gaber said she hopes that Sisi does not become president because many of her family members would not want to stay in Egypt but would not have the resources to leave.

Hassanein said she believes throughout Egypt’s history people who would run against the government would usually be forced out by military rule. She said even though she does not support Sisi, she said she thinks it will be hard for Egypt to not have a military-based government.

“I don’t think Egypt will see a day it is not run forcibly by the military,” Hassanein said.


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