Two UK students forced to leave Egypt

Two UK students who are studying abroad in Egypt have plans to leave the country after the political rallies and protests have made the country unsafe.

Joshua Koontz, an international studies and Arabic languages and literature junior, is studying at the University of Alexandria through a program offered by Middlebury College in Vermont.

Christine Kindler, a history junior, is studying in Cairo through a program called BestSemester.

Koontz’s program flew to Prague Monday evening, said Susan Carvalho, associate provost for International Programs.

Kindler’s program has a flight booked Tuesday morning for Istanbul, Turkey, her mother, Marianne, said.

Marianne Kindler said the U.S. Embassy has arranged for charter flights out of Egypt, and Christine’s program will take an earlier flight out of the country if it needs to.

Koontz’s father, Tim, said Koontz has been in Egypt since August.

Tim Koontz said Joshua studied in Cairo for the fall semester and arrived in Alexandria in January four days after a car bomb killed more than 20 people at a Coptic Christian church.

Alexandria has become much more of a hotbed for riots and unrest because of members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are there, Tim Koontz said.

“Some areas are worse than Cairo,” Joshua Koontz said.

Tensions have been rising in Egypt, his father said, and Koontz realized something would break.

“(Josh) realized,” Tim Koontz said, “(and) I realized vicariously that something was very wrong in Egypt, and something was about to happen.”

The revolution in Tunisia has also had an effect in Egypt, Joshua Koontz said.

He said his last Facebook status before the Internet was shut down last week said no one could have predicted how wide an effect the Tunisian revolution has had in the Middle East.

Koontz said he had been staying in a student dorm at the University of Alexandria, but had to move to an apartment off-campus after protestors attempted to break through a gate at the university.

Middlebury College had arranged with Egyptian contractors to get Koontz’ program out of Egypt, but the contractors just took the money and never helped them get out, his father said.

Koontz said the police force had dissolved and many looters and rioters had taken to the streets.

He said he and some of his friends helped the local neighborhood watch group try to keep the neighborhood they are staying in safe.

“Josh and his fellow students banded together with the Egyptians and maintained a neighborhood watch with 4x4s, machetes and anything else they could get their hands on,” his father said in an e-mail to the Kernel.

Tim Koontz said the looters were captured and tied up with ropes until the police arrived.

Koontz has slept with his shoes on the past couple of nights, his father said, so he can always be ready to go.

Koontz said he had not seen the protests himself, but some of his friends had seen police buildings get burned down and some of his friends had been hit with tear gas.

He said that he has heard rumors of a million-person march in Alexandria within the next couple of days.

Unlike Koontz, who has been near the protests, Kindler’s program is located in an area of Cairo that separated from the protests, her mother said. Her program is on the other side of the Nile.

Kindler is studying through a Christian program called BestSemester, which is a traveling program, her mother said. The program was supposed to go to Istanbul anyway, so the group is leaving Egypt for somewhere they knew they would have accommodations and could study.

Kindler was 10 hours away from Cairo in the Egyptian city of Luxor when the protests broke out, her mother said.

Marianne Kindler emphasized that the program Christine is studying through has kept her up-to-date that her daughter is safe.

“I haven’t felt panicked at all,” Marianne Kindler said.

UK’s Office of International Affairs has been in contact with Koontz’ and Kindler’s family, Carvalho said.

Carvalho said she was “glad communication was so complete with programs both students were on.”

Koontz said that he was feeling “scared and secure at the same time.” He said Middlebury College has not decided where he and the students in his program will continue their studies.

He said that everything in Egypt has happened so fast.

“(It) hasn’t caught up with me yet,” Koontz said.

He also said he knew Egypt will never be the same.

“The Egyptian people have crossed the Rubicon,” Koontz said.