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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Reverberations from Egypt felt by Macalester students

By Max Loos

For Cairo native Omar El Zoheiry ’13, Friday morning was the moment when the revolution in Egypt finally started to feel real. After talking with family and friends, hearing about the millions who had gathered in protest, and watching protesters tear down pictures of longtime autocratic president Hosni Mubarak, he began to believe that things were going to change for good. “That’s the first time I wrote something negative about [Mubarak] on Facebook, that’s the first time I said something negative about him over the phone, because I felt safe,” El Zoheiry said. “The unity [of the people], that just made me cry.”

Though El Zoheiry is perhaps one of the most personally invested Mac students in the events unfolding in Egypt, he is certainly not the only one affected. Over the past week, Macalester students have been navigating the reverberations of the .

Egypt has been in turmoil over the past two weeks as a popular protest movement, inspired by the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Egypt, has worked to bring down the 30-year-old autocratic regime of president Hosni Mubarak. The movement has been punctuated by highs and lows as

Yacoub Shomali ’13, co-chair of Mac’s Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA), has been working to organize informational events and discussions. MESA held a discussion on Tuesday night about the diplomatic reaction of the United States to the uprising in Egypt, and plans to hold an open forum on a different topic each week this semester.

“We’re going to focus more on the politics” of the Middle East this semester, Shomali said, as opposed to last semester, when MESA focused mainly on culture.

For Shomali, it’s important that students understand that the outcome of the protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa will have major effects throughout the global system.

“We should all care, starting from me to you to campus to everybody, we should actually give a damn about what’s going on everywhere else.because directly or indirectly it will affect us,” Shomali said.

More personally, it’s important to Shomali that the protests are led by the youth of the Middle East.

“The people who are controlling the revolution in Egypt, the people who actually organized the protests in Jordan, those are people of my age, college students,” he said.

For both Shomali and El Zoheiry, it has been difficult to watch the unfolding of the protest movement in the Middle East from Minnesota.

“When you are part of 10,000 people protesting, your freedom to say whatever you want grows exponentially. I missed out on that opportunity, and I regret that deeply,” Shomali said.

“I truly believe that this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” El Zoheiry “I think that it would have been nice to be there, to say the I can say to my grandkids, ‘I’ve been through this revolution.’ That’s the part that sucks the most. I can’t say that I went through it,” El Zoheiry said.

El Zoheiry did as much as he could from Minnesota, organizing petitions, working on MESA’s agenda, and offering communications support to his friends and family in Egypt while the internet was out.

Sifting through media reports on the situation has been one of the biggest challenges for El Zoheiry.

“I don’t trust the media,” he said. “I stopped watching four, five days ago.” He noted that Al Jazeera English has mistranslated several statements, and that what he heard from friends and family at home often did not match what was being reported on the news.

MESA has not been the only student organization working to make some sense of Egypt – Macalester’s International Socialist Organization (ISO) held a discussion on Wednesday night about Egypt and how to support their revolution.

Hae-Ryun Kang ’11 attended the ISO talk because she was looking for more information than the news media could offer.

“I wanted to hear the Egyptian “story” outside of the TV screen,” she said in an email. “I don’t want to look at it as another romantic narrative of Revolution. Real things are happening to real people.”

Shomali and El Zoheiry, though concerned with the on-the-ground realities of the struggle in Egypt, also allowed themselves to think idealistically.

“I think people are gonna be united for a long time,” El Zoheiry said.

Shomali believes that the process of change in the Middle East would be long and difficult, but ultimately fruitful.

“After each night, the dawn will always come,” he said.

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