Unrest in Egypt hits home: Students with ties say unity trumps corrupt government



By Becca Clemons

UK students may not be actively involved in on-campus protests, but some have direct connections to the events occurring in Egypt.

Unrest has plagued Egypt in recent days because of unhappiness with the current leadership. Protesters are favoring a more democratic government without President Hosni Mubarak as leader.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a graduate student in computer science, and Shady El-Maraghi, a biology and French junior in the Gaines Program, shared their perspectives on the events. Both said they were surprised the Egyptian people have begun protesting about a government that has been corrupt and oppressive for years.

Ibrahim moved to Lexington with his family last August to work on his Ph.D. at UK. He is from “one of the quietest areas around Cairo,” and he did not expect to hear from his family that the unrest had spread there.

“Suddenly I realized that this is not really happening only in downtown — it is happening in many, many, many places,” Ibrahim said. “I could not believe that this could happen in my area.”

Ibrahim said he stays in contact with his family through landline phones.

He believes the Egyptian government has needed a change for many years, and the government is not the source of what is good in the country.

“A way to succeed is usually … to change people to get new ideas, [so] the new people can see other points that people in positions cannot see,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim urges people to look beyond what is “under the microscope,” — his term for what the media emphasizes. Even though the government is the hot topic, he said most of the good in Egypt comes from its people.

“I believe that everything good that happens in Egypt has nothing to do with the government,” he said. “Just the normal people do it; not the government.”

He thinks the unity of the Egyptian people holds the potential for change.

“This is the beauty of this protest, that it is completely with no leader,”  he said. “All the people are agreeing on just one thing … they want (Mubarak) out.”

Ibrahim hopes to help people here, in the U.S., learn from the good of the Egyptian people, and he hopes to take back to Egypt what he has learned here.

“The world should appreciate what the Egyptian citizens have done because they’re doing it peacefully,” Ibrahim said.

He added that Egyptians have faith in forgiveness and support each other wholeheartedly, whether it be through charities to help the poor or simple guidance through hard times.

Amid the corruption and bribery rampant in Egypt’s current government, he said there is much more good under the microscope.

“Whatever the media focuses on, it usually gets big, whether it’s good or bad,” he said. “All the things I’m telling you are what kept Egypt surviving throughout Mubarak’s rule.”

El-Maraghi was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to Kentucky when he was nine but has family in Egypt.

He said people have had to take on security themselves, and that his uncle is taking shifts guarding his street.

“I personally didn’t think anything was going to happen,” El-Maraghi said. “I definitely support what’s going on right now. I definitely support the efforts of the people overcoming the oppression.”

“I would like to be with the guys in front of the White House (and) the embassy in New York,” Ibrahim said. “I wish that I were there to join the majority of Egyptians in their protests. There’s a huge gap between the government and the citizens.”