Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Strength of "Patient" Egyptians

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes TWM intern, Agnes, as a guest blogger this week:

Agnes is a junior at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Queens, where she is studying Urban Studies, Religious Studies, and Mathematics. She's a TWM intern and she's in love with New York City.

I knew I wanted to study abroad, and I thought I wanted to go to India. It took a good deal of researching before I finally chose the program. It was going to involve living in five different Indian cities, with an emphasis on modernization. But when the time came to do all the registering and paperwork, I found myself applying to the program in Cairo. Something called me to Egypt this winter break and I didn't fight it.

One driving force was the rest of the world’s growing interest in Arabic and the Middle East. The region was becoming ever more important and I wanted to take part in it. (I didn't know just how true this statement would become.) While I'm an ethnic Egyptian, I was born in New York and felt like my knowledge was lacking. Studying in Egypt seemed like an adequate cure for my ignorance.

A big part of the classes I took was a discussion on how the Egyptian regime sustains itself. Dr. Dina Shehata of Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told us that, "not alienating anyone fully is a mechanism for regime survival." That is, the regime allows for limited political pluralism. Some other theories had to do with the Egyptian people. Dr. Riham Bahi, a professor at Cairo University, explained to us that Egyptians are "patient with their government."

This idea of "patient Egyptians" was a repeated sentiment. It seemed that passivity and submission were adequate descriptions of the way the Egyptian people participated in their political process. But the events of the last three weeks have proved just the opposite. These statements have been so tangibly invalidated, and I've never been so happy to hear that something I've learned was wrong. While this revolution has rendered a good deal of what we learned in our political science class about Egypt useless, I think it's a good trade-off. Eighteen days of protest is far from passive. And overthrowing your regime through as peaceful a means as one can hope for in revolution is certainly something to be proud of.

To quote my cousin, who has lived in Cairo all her life and just witnessed her country change forever: LONG LIVE THE YOUTH POWER. LONG LIVE EGYPT.

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