Voices of Cairo: UW-L professor connects campus with Egyptians

2011-02-04T00:00:00Z Voices of Cairo: UW-L professor connects campus with EgyptiansBy Chris Hubbuch | chubbuch@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students Thursday learned about political unrest in Egypt from some of those involved in the anti-government protests.

"I want you to hear their voices," said Heidi Morrison, an assistant professor of history and Middle East studies who organized the Internet conference call.

Morrison, who spent three years doing research in Egypt - as recently as last summer - said the recent revolution in Tunisia combined with increased access to international media inspired the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year authoritarian regime.

"They can see what life is like abroad," she said.

Speaking via Skype from Cairo were Ala'a, a student protester; Karim, a protester who said he'd just come back from Tahrir Square; Nadia, an animal rights activist and magazine editor; and Amira, a medical student.

The Egyptians were not in agreement.

Mubarak is instilling a terror, shooting demonstrators, Nadia said. "It's our own president, our own government fighting our people."

Amira, a medical student who said she earns about $100 a month, argued that protesters should go home and let Mubarak follow through on his promise to step aside in the September elections.

"Why don't we give them a chance?" she asked.

"He brainwashed people to think he's making change," Nadia said.

Amira said she fears the protests are pushing the country toward chaos.

"Who gave you the right to speak for 8 million people?" she said. "We are much more than you."

Nadia described listening to Mubarak's speech and sympathizing with him.

"I did," she said. "Until yesterday, when the massacre - he killed people last night. Imagine a couple more months of this man."

Ala'a said police had tear-gassed protesters, shot at them and even killed one of her friends.

"It was the most peaceful protest I have seen," she said. "Youths were cleaning the streets."

One UW-L student wanted to know if Egyptians had access to food and clean water; the Egyptians said they did, for the most part. Another woman asked if leaders were emerging to fill the void if Mubarak steps down.

Political science Professor Cecilia Manrique noted their views mirrored the stalemate in Egypt.

"How long can this situation be sustained and where will this lead?" she asked.

Ala'a responded by quoting Benjamin Franklin: "He who trades liberty for security deserves neither."

Karim and other protesters expressed frustration the U.S. government has not pressured Mubarak to step down.

"We're asking for the rights that every American has," he said. "We want the president out. That's the least we can have."

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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