Al-Talib interviews Alia Ghoneum, an Egyptian-American senior at UCLA studying Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. She shares her thoughts on the current situation in Egypt.
A-T: Describe the social, political situation that led to the protests. why are people out there?
Ghoneum: Egyptians are in the streets because they feel that their basic rights as humans have been violated. That they have been living under oppression, under a tyranny led by Mubarak. This revolution came from the youth, it was led by youth who wanted to end the corruption in the Egyptian government and to have better lives for their families in the future. My well-learned cousin Khalid stated:
For the youth, they felt that they had no hope. All of the jobs and opportunities are with only 2% of the Egyptian population and the other large sector have no promising opportunities with regards to their careers.
We all know that Mubarak’s administration, with all of its corrupt ways and constant stealing from the public funds, are to blame for this injustice. How can a “leader of the people” have 40 million dollars in the bank with multiple mansions and villas, leave his people in such oppression? He is like a filthy rich king sitting on top of an abused country. We refuse to be in such a position any longer.
In addition, before this revolution, the youth had been afraid of the police. But now they feel liberated, part of something bigger than themselves and feel that no one can stop them now from changing their country and their future. Politically speaking, during the past few days Mubarak has appointed new people in his office (including a prime minister) and promised not to run for re-elections. His wish is to stay for the remaining 7 months. No doubt, these changes have led to progression, but are not enough to quench the anger of the Egyptian public. We want him to get out of office now. His thirty year regime should have ended many, many years ago.
A-T: You have family in Egypt right now, what has this unrest been like for them? Have you been able to contact them?
Ghoneum: Yes, I was able to contact them several days ago and they are safe, Alhamduillah. Even though my family has been away from the commotion in Cairo and Alexandria, there have been several protests and the people there are very happy that this long awaited revolution is finally taking place. Additionally, there have been “masakeen” or prisoners who have been released by the government to scare the general public. These prisoners have come all the way to my home and my cousins’ homes in Egypt. They are the main reasons for the looting and burning that have occurred throughout the major cities in Egypt. Fortunately, my cousins formed a local street patrol to protect our people and thus no rape, killings or serious raids have occurred in my village. These local patrol groups have been the major source of protection for the people living in the smaller cities in Egypt. The police themselves have offered very little protection for the people during the past week. (The Army however, has stood behind the Egyptian public stating that the public has a right to be protected).
A-T: How have you been affected by these recent events?
Ghoneum: Initially, we were all filled with fear and anxiety as we did not know how our families were doing. The internet and phone lines had been disconnected, and there was virtually no way to contact family in Egypt. We were horrified to see people on Al-Jazeera being run over by ambulances and buildings burning in the streets. It looked like scenes from a Hollywood horror movie!
However, these feelings turned into a most unexplainable feeling of pride and patriotism for us. Despite the challenges that our people faced, namely being sprayed with tear gas, being pushed down with powerful hoses while performing salaat in the Friday Jummuah prayer, being hit and shot at by police, the Egyptian people have stayed strong in their position and we refuse to back down. We are so proud of the Egyptian youth and our people there for enduring so much. This goes to show that the youth can take control of their future and change things for the better.
A-T: From here in the U.S., have you done anything to take part in the movements in some way?
My parents’ eyes have been glued to the channel Al-Jazeera watching every action that the governments, both in Egypt and in America, are taking. Now, we are all just waiting for Mubarak to step down and we will not rest until he does. On a personal level, I have advocated for protests in Los Angeles and urged others to sign various petitions to stop the violence and kick Mubarak out. To be honest, I only wish I could do more. I wish I were in Tahrir Square now, waving the Egyptian flag and fighting for the country’s liberation and for the liberation of all nations in this Ummah tal-Islam.