Amid Cairo Riots, Students Learn Political Lessons

With another political protest set to hit the streets of Cairo today, a handful of Georgetown students studying abroad in Egypt are getting a first-hand look at a subject central to many of their studies.

On Tuesday, thousands across the country protested the regime of Hosni Mubarak, after a similar uprising in Tunisia led to the toppling of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14. The Egyptian regime responded forcefully, and over 700 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday, according to the BBC. Another protest is scheduled for Friday following midday Muslim prayer.

“The current events in Cairo, in light of what’s happening in Tunisia recently, are certainly interesting for anyone to witness, especially students of political science or those interested in the Middle East,” Michelle Saks (COL ’12), who is currently studying at the American University in Cairo, said in an email. “The ability to witness individuals gather in unity, truly passionate about their nation’s future is admirable.”

Saks said that while she did not witness Tuesday’s protest in person, she is excited for today’s developments.

“Apparently, the Muslim Brotherhood will be participating officially this time and some say it may be larger than Jan. 25th’s protest,” she said. “Based on protests in November in response to parliamentary elections in Egypt it is certainly not shocking that Egyptians would gather the way they have been over the past few days.”

Egyptians are protesting Mubarak’s regime, which has placed a stranglehold over the Egyptian democratic process using emergency law, corruption and election fraud, according to Saks.

“Reading some of the protesters’ demands makes it quite clear that [they] have legitimate demands and I am pretty sure that most Egyptians are at least sympathetic to their cause,” she said.

None of Georgetown’s students studying abroad in Cairo have been endangered at this point, according to Laurie Monarch, overseas studies adviser for the Middle East in the Office of International Programs.

“Both the American University in Cairo and Georgetown are carefully monitoring events, including updates and advice from the U.S. Department of State,” she said in an email. “We have advised students to avoid all areas where demonstrations are occurring, and we have also urged them to maintain regular contact with their parents to assure them of their well-being.”

Monarch said that the protests had not affected orientation week activities and the university will start classes next week as planned.

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