Friday’s announcement that former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will step down was met with jubilation that spread from Cairo’s Tahrir Square to Penn's campus.
“I’m absolutely delighted at the way this has happened ... the Egyptians have shown exactly how you go about bringing social and political change without violence,” said Roger Allen, chairman of the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department.
The announcement signaled the end of anti-government protests that lasted 18 days in Cairo, Egypt’s capital city. The crowds gathered in Tahrir Square were overcome with elation at the news that the president would be ceding power to the Egyptian military.
For Arabic professor and Egyptian national Abeer Aloush, who has lived most of her life during the rule of Mubarak, one of the most important lessons to come out of the revolution has been the demonstration of unity between diverse Egyptians.
“Within 24 hours of the start of the protests, you could find different segments of the population participating — rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, women and men,” she said.
Wharton and College freshman and Egyptian national Afnaan Moharram met Friday’s news with disbelief, elation and suspicion — especially in light of the anticipation surrounding Mubarak’s speech the day before, when many people initially expected him to step down.
“The Egyptian people had been on a roller coaster of emotions during the 24-hour period before his resignation,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Their joy turned to utter disappointment and anger following Mubarak’s surprise speech, and then the anger turned into determination until they were finally given what they had been demanding for 18 days.”
The movement was “truly a revolution […] that succeeded in a way that made the world speechless,” Moharram added.
College junior and Egyptian national Marwa Ibrahim felt proud at the fact that “for the past 18 days Egyptian protesters have conveyed the finest representation of Egyptian and Arab culture.”
“The coverage of these 18 days almost entirely dispelled false and misleading beliefs some people had, for whatever reason,” Ibrahim wrote in an e-mail.
Engineering freshman Dahlia Kenawy, who is also Egyptian, felt the events “set a precedent that the Middle East doesn’t have to let dictators rule over [it] … it is important for rulers to listen to the people’s demands.”
Allen added that President Barack Obama’s administration handled the situation perfectly — contrary to recent criticism levied by prominent Republicans such as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who criticized the administration for undermining ties to United States allies like Israel in an effort to placate others such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
“There was a balance to be made between American interests — which may not always have been the best interest of the Egyptian people — and Egyptian interests,” Allen said.
Allen and Aloush agreed that the chain of events leading to Mubarak’s resignation needs to be taught to future generations.
“I’m about to retire from my job, but it’ll be the task of my students, who are now themselves teachers, to regroup and rethink what this means in terms of the relationship between government and society in Egypt and in the rest of the Arab world,” Allen said.
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