Marchers in Bay Area show support for Egypt uprising
With the protests in Egypt to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime ally of the U.S. government, continuing to build momentum, several Bay Area organizations and community members believe the end of Mubarak’s rule is nearing.
“We have faith in the possibility that Mubarak, the iron grip on the nation of Egypt, will be loosened and overcome,” said Darah Macaraeg, a 26-year-old creative writing graduate student at SF State and member of the League of Filipino Students.
Macaraeg was one of the demonstrators at a downtown rally in support of the Egyptian people in San Francisco on Saturday. She saw a parallel between the oppressive regime in the Philippines and the regime of Mubarak in Egypt.
Professor Mohammad Salama of the foreign languages and literatures department at SF State left the country in 1999 because of its oppression of democracy and attacks on intellectual freedom.
He said that his reasons for leaving his homeland are the same reasons for the pro-democracy demonstration in Egypt.
“People understand … this is a struggle for human rights, which is a universal human struggle,” said Shiva Bayat, a 22-year-old art major who was born and raised in Egypt.
In response to huge protests in many Egyptian cities, Mubarak fired his entire cabinet this week and announced that he would reform the government.
“It’s ironic. He’s going after all his ministers rather than resigning, which is the demand of the people,” said Omar Ali, a 21-year-old SF State student organizer from the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition.
Ali, a junior history major, said the problem could be solved if Mubarak stepped down to end his 30 years of dictatorship; however, he has so far refused to step down.
Salama, who taught English when he was in Egypt, said that the Egyptians had a built-up momentum. The protest did not happen out of the blue and they demand Mubarak to leave the office.
“Enough is enough. We would not accept anything but to change,” said Ahmed Kamel, 35, an Egyptian who supported the demonstration in San Francisco.
Kamel joined the march with his wife and three children but said he wished he could do something more for the people in Egypt.
If Mubarak resigns, Salama sees an opportunity to go back to Egypt to help rebuild.
“I hope, finally, people who leave the country in desperation, all the expatriates of Egypt who live all over the globe, will be able to go back to their country with dignity and contribute to its progress,” Salama said. “I think it’s time to rely on these people.”
Regarding the sort of democracy that Egypt should look up to, Salama was not able to point to a single country but rather said Egypt should invent a new type of democracy.
“Egypt should look back to itself, to what it is capable of doing in this global world and it should create a system that would respect the law to prevent the creation a disaster of the Mubarak sort again,” Salama said. “Whatever democratic system has to be there. It’s the system that respects the rights and will of the people.”