Egyptian Arab Spring Organizers Address Occupy Harvard

Two Egyptian activists urge Harvard protesters to stay committed to non-violence

Speaking through the bars of the locked Johnston Gate, Egyptian activists Ahmed Maher and Esraa Abdel Fattah, two organizers of the recent protest movement in Egypt, addressed the protesters at Occupy Harvard Friday and sought to link the Occupy movement to the Arab Spring.

“We are suffering against our regime,” said Maher, who was introduced as the “Che Guevara of Egypt.” “We believe in people. People can do many things. People can do real change.”

“I am very proud to be here,” he said. “We are youth like you, searching for democracy.”

Although he acknowledged the differences between Egypt and the United States, he encouraged the Occupy movement to believe in themselves.

“You must believe in yourselves to reach real democracy,” he said.

“We are here to express our solidarity with you, and with all the youth in all the squares,” added Abdel Fattah. “We are activists from Egypt supporting all activists for freedom.”

About 130 students and community members gathered on both sides of Johnston Gate to hear from the Egyptian activists.

“Congratulate yourselves on supporting this movement, on keeping it alive, despite the University’s attempt to close it off to the general public,” said Jocelyn R. Eastman '13, one of the night’s facilitators.

Activists chanted “We are the 99 percent” as they marched across the Yard, altering the chant to “You are the 99 percent” when passing HUPD officers, who were stationed by Massachusetts Hall and Johnston Gate in preparation for the rally.

At the gate, protesters slammed the University for closing the Yard and preventing individuals without a Harvard ID from entering.

“The University has decided for us that our protest will be exclusive,” Eastman said.

During their address, the two Egyptian activists urged participants at Occupy Harvard to stay committed to non-violent tactics, calling on them to reinvent what they called an “age-old science” in response to a question from one student about when violent tactics can become justifiable.

—Staff writer Katie R. Zavadski can be reached at katie.zavadski@college.harvard.edu.

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