Giving a voice to Egypt

Protestors gather outside JDUC to provide support for Egypt’s democratic movement

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After nearly two weeks of protests in Egypt, Queen’s students are showing their support and attempting to spread awareness about the country’s mounting turmoil.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protestors have gathered in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, demanding changes to the constitution, the dissolution of one-party rule and President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. According to human rights groups, over 150 people are estimated to have died in Egypt since violence erupted on Jan. 25.

Last Friday, nearly 100 Queen’s students and members of the Kingston community gathered in front of the JDUC to demonstrate in an international day of solidarity with Egypt. Protests have also occurred on Canadian university campuses in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor and Winnipeg.

Dana Olwan, a professor in gender studies, helped spread word about the protest and said she was pleased with the turnout.

“We were just trying to get the word out about Egypt through social media and word of mouth,” she said. “The intended purpose is to show solidarity for people in Egypt, so that Egyptians can see that people are supporting them.”

According to Olwan, because Canada is so far away from Egypt there’s a limit to what students can do to directly stop the chaos in Egypt. This protest, and others occurring on university campuses across Canada, shows that Canadians are interested in what is happening in Egypt, she said.

“The campus isn’t disconnected from world politics. We should be listening to the will of the Egyptian people,” she said, adding that students should be using a variety of different media sources to inform themselves of Egypt’s situation.

Olwan said she agrees with what the protestors in Egypt are currently demanding.

“I’d like to see the will of the people respected and the president to leave as soon as possible,” she said, adding that the events in Egypt are occurring in relation to developments in the Middle East, such as the recent revolution in Tunisia.

January’s Tunisian revolution led to the overthrow of the country’s President of 23 years, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and sparked protests against growing unemployment and governmental corruption in several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud, ArtSci ’11, organized Friday’s protest in a Facebook event called Kingston in Solidarity with Egyptian Protesters.

Even though Friday’s show of solidarity has ended, Abdelmahmoud said students are still able to actively show their support for Egypt’s protestors.

“People can call on MPs to declare their support for Egypt and show their solidarity,” he said.

Protestors held signs up to passing cars calling for President Mubarek’s resignation, and joined together for over an hour of chanting and speeches from various protestors. Hossam Hassanein, a professor of computing and president of the Islamic Society of Kingston, spoke at the protest and said he heard about the protest in an email he received last Tuesday.

“Egypt needs a government that is representative of what people need and doesn’t just act how the government wants,” he said in his speech to the audience.

“I want to see a peaceful transition to a government that’s more representative of Egyptians,” Hassanein said. “Students can talk to MPs and put more pressure on the government.”

Hassanein said he’s confident that change will come soon for Egyptians.

“Egypt will never go back to the way it was. I am very confident that Egyptians will get the freedom they deserve very soon,” he said, adding that he’s worried about the violence protestors are facing. Azza Osman, Comm ’11, attended the protest.

“I lived in Sudan and know what oppression is like. It’s not fair that the Egyptians have no voice,” she said.

According to Osman, the only thing students can do to protest is speak up.

“Even though we are miles and miles away, protests like these help because they show that we still care. This is the only thing we can really do,” she said.

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