Egyptian American Worries About Homeland, Relatives

Egyptian American Worries About Homeland, Relatives

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Ahmed Tharwat left Egypt thirty years ago to pursue higher education and professional opportunities in the United States. He said there were no opportunities for him there. A Professor of Marketing at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Tharwat is also a writer and hosts a local Arab-American community television program entitled, BelAhdan.

Do you still have family in Egypt?

Yes. Most of my family is still there. I have one sister and five brothers there, and 30 nieces and nephews.

Have you been able to contact them?

I called my sister and brothers today.

What are they telling you about the current situation?

They are elated and happy to see this uprising, but they are of course fearful of what might come out of it. They live in the heart of where the violence and demonstrations are. They are glued to Al Jazeera and they can’t leave their building. They’re afraid for their personal safety, but also for the whole country.

How you do think the Egyptian government is handling it?

Terrible. It’s obviously terrible. They are following the same script of what the Tunisian dictator did. They cut communication, Twitter, facebook, cell phones. When you cut communication, what are people going to do? They are going to retaliate. And the violence from the police has backfired. Every move they have made has been the wrong move. On top of that the president has been missing. He is absent in all of this, and he has brought in the military.

What other ways are there to communicate, since Twitter, Facebook, and Cellular technology has been frozen?

Well, some people are managing to get still get into Twitter, but it is really land lines, and you have to be home to access a land line, but even those are not reliable.

How do you think this has been covered in mainstream media?

It is very disappointing. It is very skewed and very biased. The media is looking at it in the sense of how it is going to affect America. I was interviewed today by local media here and I said, this is not going to affect people in Minnesota, it’s not going to affect your shopping habits, it’s not going to affect gas prices. . This is very self-centered coverage. They are talking about Mubarak and how he has been an important partner [for the U.S.]. I also heard a report on NPR a few days ago where the reporter suggested that the movement was more successful in Tunisia because there, women do not use hijab as much. I was disappointed to hear that, because this uprising does not have gender issues. Everybody’s oppressed. They are not talking about the right for Egyptians to have change, what is the Egyptian human story, that’s it.

I watch Al Jazeera as well, and while no coverage is perfect, they follow up and document more of the comprehensive story.

How bad is this?

It is much worse than I thought. Not too long ago, Mubarak won 90% approval of his General Assembly. Last month he was speaking so confidently about Egypt’s future, but where is he now? Look at how many people are in the streets. It’s exciting, but it’s also very scary.

What do you hope Obama can do?

Obama cannot do anything. He cannot all of a sudden change how America works with the Middle East or policy there. The American Embassy in Cairo is like the Green Zone in Iraq. An Egyptian can’t drive through. Obama really has no saying, and personally I want Obama to stay out of it. A lot of the tear gas used on the protestors in the Cairo reads “made in the U.S.A.” America and the American people have lost credibility to be any player.

What do you think local communities can do to help?

They can talk to their local politicians, increase communication and those who know can help educate others who don’t know about the region. Also, public demonstrations to say that we are with our Egyptian brothers and sisters.