published Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Local Egyptians look for change

As Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak announced he won't run again, a local Egyptian native hopes his country can start a new chapter.

"We are looking for change," said Dalton, Ga., resident Ahmed Salama, a 51-year-old who left Egypt 20 years ago and still has brothers and in-laws living in Cairo.

"It's been 30 years now since Mubarak has been in government, so hopefully this is time for him to go and we can start a new time, a new era," he added.

"We are worried about what's happening in our country because there's big change happening all of a sudden but, at the same time, we are very proud we have a new young generation who can change the country."

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of cities throughout Egypt since Jan. 25, seeking a new government. They were inspired by a successful uprising that ousted the government in Tunisia in early January, a movement that took many by surprise.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State ordered all nonemergency government personnel and their families to leave Egypt.

About 1,600 U.S citizens and their family members have been evacuated from Egypt in an operation that began Monday and the U.S. Department said in a news release "it will continue evacuation efforts to facilitate the safe transport of every U.S. citizen who wishes to leave the country."

The movement of citizens from Cairo slowed slightly on Tuesday, the release said, as U.S. citizens encountered difficulties traveling to the airport because of road closures related to demonstrations. So far, more than 3,000 U.S. citizens have said they want to be evacuated.

There are thousands of Americans in Egypt, both tourists and those living there permanently, Assistant Secretary Janice Jacob said during a press briefing.

Salama said his relatives have told him that most people in Egypt are not working at the moment due to a 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew instituted by the government. Banks are closed, public transportation is not running, "regular life is not there yet," he said.

Whatever happens now in Egypt will have a great impact on the entire region, said Fouad Moughrabi, head of the political science department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"I expect that the new Egyptian government will be more responsive to its public opinion and will therefore be more critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, very much like Turkey," he said.

"I also expect that regimes like Jordan, Saudi Arabia [and] Morocco will be forced to make some significant changes and create more openings for their people," he added.

Some effects from the Egyptian protests are already being seen.

Jordan's King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the wake of street protests, asked an ex-prime minister to form a new cabinet and ordered him to launch immediate political reforms, The Associated Press reported.

Also on Tuesday, the Palestinian government in the West Bank said it will hold local council elections "as soon as possible," according to the AP.

To some extent, the recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia are a result of the current worldwide economic crisis, Moughrabi said.

"The recent economic crisis in that the U.S. suffered, and the western world in general, made conditions in countries like Egypt and Tunisia and other places much worse," he said.

Economic effects have been numerous, from high unemployment and higher prices of food, gas and other necessities to a decline in foreign direct investment.

"In the good old days we used to say, because of the global system now, 'If the American economy sneezes, the economies of countries that are dependent on the U.S. will catch a cold and some of them will catch pneumonia,'" he said.

Moughrabi, who teaches, among other subjects, classes on the politics of the Middle East, said he expects to see a transition in the Egyptian government to more democracy.

For Salama and most people in his generation, just living long enough to see young people get together and accomplish what they've done so far in Egypt is a big deal.

"I couldn't imagine we had this kind of community and what people could do together," he said.



THE STORY SO FAR

Since Jan. 25, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Egypt, demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak -- the country's authoritarian ruler of nearly 30 years -- and his entire regime.

The government cut off access to the Internet across the country early Friday morning. Cell phone service also was suspended in some areas.

Mubarak announced the dissolving of the government Friday but protesters rejected the move as an attempt to cling to power.

Schools are closed and businesses boarded up. A curfew went into affect over the weekend and expanded Monday.

Mubarak said Tuesday he will not run for a new term in office in September elections, but rejected demands that he step down immediately and leave the country, vowing to die on Egypt's soil.

Source: The Associated Press



WHOM TO CONTACT

Persons interested in departing Egypt by way of a U.S. government-chartered transportation should contact the U.S. Department of State and the embassy in Cairo.

U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy at EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov, 1-888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444.



Follow Perla Trevizo on Twitter by following this link.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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DEB said...

Isalmic countries should be allowed to annihilate themselves. Leave Egypt alone. Let the Muslims kill each other. Bring all our boys home and let them protect our southern borders.

February 2, 2011 at 9:24 a.m.
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