Egypt Ready for Change, Professors Say

Though the protesters in Egypt shot at by riot police with rubber bullets were halfway across the globe, they were not faceless to History of Science Lecturer Ahmed Ragab. His  brother-in-law not only participated in the first demonstration of the ongoing uprising, but was also among the protestors injured by the Egyptian riot police.

When hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday afternoon in Harvard Square, Ragab joined them to show support for the Egyptian demonstrators.

“The Egyptian people are finally coming out to demand their rights for freedom and democracy,” Ragab said. “Everyone who supports freedom and democracy should stand with them and support their struggle.”

Ragab also signed an open letter to President Obama last week calling for a stronger stance against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

“The administration is still concerned with what they can gain from the Mubarak regime and what the Mubarak regime can offer them, but the people will not, cannot settle for anything but the absolute end of the regime,” he said. “Anything less than this, any discussion of political reform is too little, too late.”

Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Professor Malika Zeghal said the protesters want a “radical change” in Egypt’s governance.

“They won’t accept any superficial reforms, such as just changing certain people in the government,” Zeghal said. “They believe that it’s time for the regime to change, for Mubarak to step down.”

The US government has signaled support for the protesters, but has not joined them in pushing for Mubarak’s resignation. Some sympathize with the Obama administration’s difficult political situation.

“[The US wants] a managed transition to democracy, which is not enough for Egyptians in the streets,” Zeghal said. “Egypt is one of the United States’ strongest allies in the region, so it’s a very fine line to walk.”

Ahmed S. Belal ’12, who grew up outside Alexandria, referred to the US’s current stance as a “smart move” from a diplomatic standpoint.

“It is disappointing, however, considering the US is supposed to be a beacon of democracy, and it’s pushing for a puppet democracy instead of a true democracy,” he said.

Even if the US will not offer full support to the protesters, Belal said he does not think the Egyptian government will be able to maintain the status quo.

“Even if Mubarak isn’t ousted, there will be huge changes in Egypt,” he said.

The demonstrations may result in more than reforms in Egypt. Some pundits predict it will be a catalyst for change in other Middle Eastern countries.

“There is a feeling of hope that is spreading throughout the region,” Ragab said. “People are interested in creating something new, in creating a new future for themselves.”