In response to Egyptian citizens’ protests against their government, University students are taking a stand in Ann Arbor.
The grassroots activism that ignited the Egyptian revolution also appeared on the Diag yesterday afternoon, as about 20 students from the Egyptian Student Association led a protest to raise awareness about military brutality against unarmed civilian protesters in Egypt.
Members distributed flyers that read, “stop sales of tear gas to the Egyptian Military” as they chanted phrases like “from the desert to the sea, all of Egypt will be free.”
Since last January, anti-government protests in Egypt have exploded, and the reactions of the government have become increasingly aggressive. The military used rubber bullets and tear gas against civil protesters. About 40 civilians have died, and at least 2,000 have been wounded in this month’s protests alone.
ESA members said they hoped to bring awareness of the military brutality in Egypt to the University.
“We don’t want our U.S. tax dollars to go towards tear gas, bombs and repressive weaponry against peaceful protesters,” Rackham student Atef Said, a member of ESA, said in an interview at yesterday’s event.
Though Egyptian citizens have made considerable gains toward a more democratic government since January, Said said there is still much to overcome, including a resilient military and questionable police force that holds extensive power over daily bureaucratic activity.
“There is worry that the future of Egypt will remain a military state (and) not a democratic civilian state,” Said said. “Street politics must continue to put pressure on the military.”
While Egypt and the U.S. are geographically distant, members of ESA along with other University students argue it is the responsibility of U.S. citizens to support international issues of democracy.
“This does affect you,” LSA junior Sarah Awad-Farid, an ESA member, said. “We do not live in a secluded world anymore. We are all interconnected.”
ESA members urge students to get involved by contacting their U.S. representatives and the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C. The organization’s members also believe voicing their opinions through these outlets will promote universal democracy that benefits international and domestic affairs.
LSA junior Daniel Hast, a passerby at the protest, said he has noticed similarities between Egyptian goals for democracy and the existing democratic ideals in the U.S. Hast said he feels controversies including the University of California-Davis pepper-spraying incident — in which a police officer sprayed a nonviolent group of students — and the Occupy Wall Street movements are related to what is going on in Egypt.
“The parallels are disturbing … the tear gas used against unarmed protesters in Egypt. That sounds familiar,” Hast said. “They’re using the same tactics. It’s just a matter of degree.”
Despite the controversies over civil protests, LSA junior Amre Metwally, a member of ESA, said he is thankful for democracy in the U.S.
“Don’t take things for granted,” Metwally said. “Assembling in a square could mean the end of (Egyptian citizens’) lives. They could be shot by police. Be thankful and be politically active.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified LSA junior Daniel Hast’s year.