The Hawk Eye
Soliman sends sympathy to family in Egypt Monday, March 07, 2011 By MATT KELLNER
When sophomore Ahmed Soliman left Egypt, he had never experienced the reign of a president other than that of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak attained control over Egypt in 1981 following the assassination of then-president Anwar El Sadat. To quell the post-assassination chaos, Mubarak employed an emergency law that granted him totalitarian-like powers to censor, restrict rights and imprison citizens without cause. For nearly three decades, Mubarak gradually usurped control and ushered in an era of government malfeasance. Soliman witnessed firsthand the corruption that plagued Egypt. "It was impossible to go to college or get a job," Soliman said. "The country is so rich, but governors and politicians take all the money and [restrict] jobs." On Jan. 25, 2011, conditions in Egypt reached a critical level and protests erupted across the nation. Citing the extreme unemployment, government embezzlement and Mubarak’s oppressive regime, protestors demanded their president’s resignation. For 18 tumultuous days, dissatisfied civilians assembled in Egypt’s major cities to voice their discontent. In Tahrir Square in the capital city of Cairo, approximately two million Egyptians transcended economic and religious differences and congregated. Though the protestors generally maintained non-violence during their gatherings, occasional reports of police brutality and general disorder surfaced. In Alexandria, where Soliman’s family resides, looting became a fairly frequent occurrence. "The government let prisoners out of jails and there were no police in the streets," Soliman said. "My family was so scared because there were criminals [walking around] on the street." To make matters worse, the Egyptian government temporarily shut down internet access and placed heavy restrictions on the media. As Soliman recalls, interaction with his family members abroad became nearly impossible. "We didn’t know how to communicate," Soliman said. Despite Mubarak’s obstinacy and over 300 reported casualties, the demonstrations culminated in the president’s resignation and departure on Feb. 11. According to Soliman, Egypt is in the process of drafting a new, democratic constitution. "Maybe my country will be better and have democracy now," Soliman said. "I wish Egypt will be like America [in regard to] education, democracy and its military." In post-Mubarak Egypt, vociferous protestors have transformed into rebuilders. According to Middle Eastern news agency Al Jazeera, a massive civilian-led campaign dedicating to cleaning the physical damage of the demonstrations has risen from the chaos of the revolution. Instead of rallying, citizens of Cairo and other major cities have taken to the street to sweep and remove graffiti. Although Egypt’s future remains uncertain, a climate of pride and hope has come to characterize what Soliman refers to as "the New Egypt." Soliman has still never known an Egyptian president other than Hosni Mubarak, but with democracy on the horizon, that fact is no longer troubling him.