Egyptians across Northeast Mississippi hope for peace

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

For Egyptians living in Northeast Mississippi, the protests in their home countries inspire hope as well as concern.
Since Jan. 25, thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets, protesting the government and its policies. Egypt has been under the rule of President Hosni Mubarak – and under a continuous state of emergency – since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar El Sadat.
The protests are the largest Egypt has seen since 1977, and major issues include the state of emergency laws, free speech and elections, and high unemployment. Protesters are calling for the end of the Mubarak regime.
Sherif Abdelwahed, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Mississippi State University, said he has mixed feelings about the protests.
“It’s just a mix of hope for a better future, and worry for the uncertainty that is surrounding the situation now,” he said.
Abdelwahed is a native of Giza, and he still has family there. Though the Egyptian government has cut off mobile phone and Internet services at different times during these protests, he’s been able to contact his family.
It’s been a little more difficult for Ahmed Khidre, an engineering graduate student at the University of Mississippi, to contact his family in Cairo, but he has talked with them since the protests began.
His feelings are similar to his family’s in Cairo.
“You’re happy about what’s happening, in a sense – you don’t want this regime. But, of course, on the other hand, any Egyptian is not happy about the looting and chaos.”
Khidre spent his winter vacation in Egypt, and he said there was no talk of the protests while he was there.
Protests began in nearby Tunisia, which inspired the Egyptian uprising. After Khidre arrived home, he began to see talk of demonstrating on social networking sites like Facebook.
“No one expected this to happen,” he said.
Both Abdelwahed and Khidre said they would take part in the uprising if they were in Egypt.
“Yes, definitely, yeah – but peaceful protest, of course,” Khidre said. “I’m against any violent actions.”
Abdelwahed agreed.
“These people are looking for a better future, and I would certainly join them to bring about these changes, which we all need,” Abdelwahed said.
Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, a doctorate degree candidate in pharmacy at Ole Miss, also said he hopes for a peaceful solution.
“I would like the change to be smooth, without any violence,” the Giza native said. “I think we have to be practical. We have a message, and if people have a message then the message should be delivered in a nonviolent way, in a smooth way.”
American support
Abdelwahed said this is not just an Egyptian issue.
“We need the support of the American people. That’s very important,” he said. “I’m looking for my American friends to support this movement, and hopefully bring about this change that we are all looking for.”
Ibrahim said he loves his country and hopes for a better future.
“Egypt is not just my country; Egypt is my family,” he said. “Egyptians will show the world that they are doing this, changing the future, in a good way.”
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@journalinc.com.