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Arab Americans React as Egyptians Struggle for Freedom

posted on: Feb 2, 2011


BY: Ryah Aqel/Staff

Over a week has passed since Egyptians first took to the streets on January 25th in the largest protests Egypt has seen in decades. Every once in a while, Arab Americans are met with a new crisis affecting the citizens of their native countries and each crisis is met with mobilizing efforts of the Arab American community. When the streets of the populous Arab American cities aren’t filled, most surely are the living rooms.

Since the protests erupted, Arab Americans have been glued to Al Jazeera on their televisions, scouring for any news on the situation. Some watch in hope, some watch in fear, and some watch in envy that they’re missing out on another Arab revolution.

Ani Toumajan, a student who had spent her summer in Alexandria in an Arabic language abroad program, recounts, “The revolution in Tunisia was a wakeup call for all Egyptians. I’m surprised these demonstrations did not occur after the elections that were held in November.”

Toumajan also adds, colorfully, “And it’s about damn time.”

Rallies have been organized in support of the Egyptians from Washington DC to San Francisco and everywhere in between. College campuses have hosted their own similar rallies and Egypt has consistently been among the top trending topics on Twitter for the past week.

Though Egyptians are currently on a communication blackout since the beginning of the uprising, they have found ways around the government imposed block. Speak2tweet, a twitter service, was created to allow Egyptians to send voice-mails that will turn into tweets available to the world.

Donia Jarrar and Suby Raman found themselves listening to the voice-mails and thought it was important to share the message of the Egyptians to those unable to understand Arabic. Creating the blog Translate Speak2tweet, Jarrar began translating the voice mails with her family in Alexandria in her mind.

“People here in America now have a place to go to read the translations and those messages are reaching more people in English,” Jarrar says of her blog, adding that she needs as much help as possible as the number of voice mails needing translation keep increasing.

Khaled Beydoun also took the virtual route in support of the Egyptian people, by co-founding Free Egypt Now, a group of Americans who seek to promote democracy, human rights, and equality in Egypt.

“Free Egypt Now is driven by the mission that the people of Egypt deserve their fundamental human rights,” Beydoun writes, “The events of the past week have vividly conveyed to the world the democratic will of the Egyptian people, and their ability to initiate, coordinate, and carry forward an organic revolution aspiring toward democratic reform.”

Beydoun then asks Americans to urge President Obama to support the Egyptian people’s call for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately.

Arab American author, Randa Jarrar, expresses her support as well, saying that the most exciting thing has been that the people’s apathy has disappeared. “Now they have had enough. The youth in Egypt have shown, over the last six days, that they, not the pyramids or the sphinx, are Egypt’s treasure.”