What really happened and what will happen next?
Every seat in the Alice Peters Auditorium was taken on Friday as four experts spoke about the recent events in Egypt.
The panel included Dr. A. Sameh El Kharbawy, professor of art at Fresno State, Nubar Hovsepian, an Egyptian-born political scientist, Sasan Fayamanesh, professor of economics at Fresno State, and Egyptian-born author Randa Jarrar.
The four covered different aspects of the recent protests that occurred in Egypt that led to the eventual resignation of their leader Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak ruled over Egypt for nearly three decades. According to El Kharbawy, the revolution did not begin in January, but it actually began last June, when a teenage boy was tortured and killed by their police simply for using the Internet.
After that event, a Facebook page was created to let the world know what had happened to the teen. The page attracted nearly a quarter of a million people. Because of this, technology is greatly credited for the success of the revolution.
Fayazmanesh agreed that technology aided in the success of the revolution. Television, Facebook and Twitter are so common worldwide, and many can access all three with their cell phones.
“We are seeing changes in technology that make revolution easier,” he said.
Even though the government attempted to cut off the Internet to its citizens, there were several who were tech-savvy enough to use the Internet anyway.
“There was no way they could lose,” El Kharbawy said.
El Kharbawy had just returned from Egypt and was able to witness some of the events in Egypt first-hand.
“There is much I hope to forget, but there are a lot of images that will be impossible to forget,” El Kharbawy said.
El Kharbawy called the recent events a beautiful revolution, and also stated that the challenges are far from over.
“There is no question that [the events of the past several weeks] are historic — a turning point for Egypt and the world,” he said. “But they are also still very recent and still developing. It is too early to speculate on what might happen — but you can be certain that the coming weeks will bring expected challenges and opportunities, just as the past ones brought hopes and aspirations.”
Political scientist Nubar Hovsepian commented that this revolution, along with most others in history, included people who were mostly of a younger generation. He noted that 60 percent of the population in Egypt is 30 years old or younger.
He added that the discourse in the United States is that of fear, mainly for the economic impacts the conditions in Egypt will have in the U.S.
“They need to learn from the young who are struggling and dying for their freedom,” he said. “Instead of recoiling in fear, we must embrace [the revolution].”
Fayazmanesh said the problems in the Middle East have to do with dictatorship, political dependency and economic dependency.
“Many dictatorships contain lack of basic freedom, secret police and jails overflowing with political prisoners,” he said.
Author Randa Jarrar added that another problem is with the way women are treated. She has visited Egypt several times, and has been harassed on the streets simply for being a woman.
She added that Arab stereotypes, from the way the world views Arabs to the way Arabs view themselves, added to the unrest that led to the Revolution. She said that Egyptians stopped believing the stories they were being told by their own government.
“This time it’s not foreign entities and agents that people on the street are protesting,” Jarrar said. “It’s the very story they have been told — the story that they are a chaotic and savage people that need the iron fist of a decades-long government for their own good, that they don’t deserve dignity or freedom because they would squander it, and that they are violent and infantile.”
The discussion actually wrapped up an hour later than expected, due to the flood of questions the panel received from the audience. Many were turned away in disappointment because the auditorium filled up so fast.