Local Egyptians showed their support for protestors demanding democracy in Egypt at demonstrations held at the University of Manitoba and on the steps of the Manitoba legislature last week.
U of M students Halim Mohammed and Mohammed Moustafa, who are both Egyptian, helped organize a demonstration outside of the administration building to raise awareness on campus about the movement in Egypt.
Moustafa said that while he didn’t believe President Hosni Mubarak was always a corrupt leader, he did feel that risk of corruption increases the longer a leader stays in power, and that the level of corruption in the Egyptian government had substantially increased over the past five to seven years.
“If someone stays in power for that long, corruption increases. [ . . . ] If you have a bottle of water and you keep it closed for 30 years, it will go bad,” Moustafa said.
Mohammed told the Manitoban that he has been in close contact with his family, who live approximately 80 kilometres from Cairo, since the protests began. He said he did not fear for their safety, since they live relatively far from where the larger protests are taking place.
“People manage to survive and take care of themselves. Still, there’s a bit of instability, so you always worry about the situation,” said Mohammed.
Both students stressed that the movement was not motivated by religion or about pitting one political party against the other. “It’s not a point of Muslims taking over; [ . . . ] part of the people in the streets are Christians,” explained Moustafa.
Manaar Mekkawy, a first-year student at the U of M attending the Friday demonstration on campus, felt that the way Mubarak’s government has been treating the Egyptian people is “inhumane” and wanted him to step down immediately. “I don’t want him to be leading our country anymore. We have 80 million people who are suffering from his regime. [ . . . ] He must step down,” she said.
Some protestors at the Manitoba legislature Saturday echoed Mekkawy’s sentiments, demanding for Mubarak to resign.
“It’s going to be such a relief when he leaves,” said Basil Elmagergi, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
Elmagergi said the demonstration was organized so that local Winnipeggers could show their support for the Egyptian people asking for a democratic government.
“[ . . . ] We’re here just showing our solidarity with the people sleeping in Tahrir Square, waiting for Mubarak to leave. We’re here to show that they’re not alone; the whole world wants that same change,” said Elmagergi.
Elmagergi felt that Western governments have not taken a strong enough stance on the issue thus far and felt that direct pressure from Western governments was necessary.
“The governments keep saying, ‘Let the people of Egypt decide who governs them,’ but that’s never been the case. Over the past few decades, it’s always been the Western governments who decide who rules the people, so how come now they’re silent and not doing anything?” said Elmagergi.
Israa Elgazzar, a student at Kelvin High School, said she had spoken with some of her family members who live in Egypt who told her that some of their neighbourhoods had been “destroyed.”
“I’ve been there a lot of times. It’s just so heartbreaking,” said Elgazzar.
“Some of them live in an apartment building, and they’ve had to take shifts guarding the apartment building from being robbed.”
However, she said, “At the same time, I’m proud of everything that’s going on there.”
While I sympathize with Egyptians and people in general about demanding social change to ensure justice I am sure that Canada and other democratic leaders have done their part in response the protests in Egypt in their diplomatic way. Do we need to directly intervene and make the change for the Egyptian people? They got to do it themselves. That is the only way they can become an independent democratic nation. I am not saying we should ignore the whole debacle, we have human rights violations and humanitarian obligations but the change needs to happen from WITHIN. Also, people here need to be happy that we are not in a situation like Egypt because we have responsible government with people who respect the democracy dogma. They should be thankful that they do not have to march in the streets and literally fight for change.