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Boston’s Egyptian Youth Watch Protests From Afar

From left to right, Habib El-Magrissy, Dr. Hesham Hamoda, Ibrahim Samir, and Ena El-Hadidy (Jason Breslow/WBUR)

The voices coming out of Egypt are many. And they are young. One third of Egypt’s population is below the age of 14. Half are younger than 30. Many are educated, connected, and deeply concerned about the future of their country. And many are here in Boston.

As the ninth of the so-called Days of Rage in Egypt erupted into violence today as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, we listen to the stories of Egypt’s youth here in Boston.

We talk with roommates Ibrahim Samir and Habib El-Magrissy, both 18 and from Cairo. Neither have known an Egypt without President Hosni Mubarak in power. This summer, they traveled to Boston to study at Northeastern, but they remain close at heart to their families and friends in Egypt.

“It took a turn for the worse, definitely, today,” Ibrahim says. “The violence that happened isn’t what this revolution was about, at all. This was all about the people of Egypt coming together. And what’s happening right now isn’t what we were hoping for.”

Habib and his family are members of the Coptic Christian minority. Yesterday, Habib was proud for Egypt. Despite recent religious conflict – including a New Year’s bombing that killed over 20 worshippers at a Coptic Church in Alexandria – Habib says the protests had brought the Copts and Muslims together. But now, after the violence today, Habib says, “the overwhelming fear is for Egyptians as a whole.”

“I’m angry. When I woke up this morning and I saw this, I’m angry,” Habib says. “Because Hosni Mubarak is not keeping his word. He’s doing nothing to try to protect the people of Egypt that he yesterday claimed he was so proud to be one of.”

We talk with Ena El-Hadidy, 25, a part time student at UMass Boston. Ena’s cousins have been on the streets in Alexandria. They tell her “the world is watching us.”

“Egypt basically has been silenced for the last 30 plus years – I would consider it more 50 years,” Ena says. “Egyptians have been trying to get their voice heard. And they have been trying to let the world know that they deserve a democracy. [That] they’re also human beings. That they don’t deserve to be under dictatorships just because they are allies of the U.S.”

Ena says she’s never been more proud to be an Egyptian, especially a young Egyptian.

“It’s the best time in the world right now,” she says. “Though it is a difficult and trying time.”

And we talk with Hesham Hamoda, 30, an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard. Hesham’s mother fled Alexandria when the revolt started, and he’s been following the events closely online. Hesham describes the revolt as a popular movement started by the Egyptian youth.

“Egypt is a country of 80 million people. 5,000 years of civilization. Most numerous Nobel Prize Laureates in the Arab world,” Hesham says. “Definitely there is an Egypt without Mubarak. And it’s definitely going to be a better Egypt without Mubarak. This country has always been rich off its talent and its young generation, and we will definitely be doing better when Mubarak leaves. ”

All four have their eyes on Egypt. All are hoping Democracy will prevail. All are waiting.

Guests:

  • Dr. Hesham Hamoda, instructor of psychiatry, Harvard
  • Ena El-Hadidy, part-time student at UMass Boston
  • Ibrahim Samir, student, Northeastern University
  • Habib El-Magrissy, student, Northeastern University

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Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer is co-hosting Radio Boston while Meghna Chakrabarti is on maternity leave.

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