Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Taking to the streets

Published: February 18, 2011
Section: Features, Top Stories

The Egyptian protests of the last several weeks have gripped the globe, monopolizing headlines and shaking a region. As the military is now in command of the government and the world ‘sattention on the country remains, one Brandeis student has a unique connection to the new regime.

Sara Enan ’11 is the great-niece of Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, who as army chief of staff and vice chairman of the new Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is the second-most powerful man in the country.

“I know my family will be fine,” Sarah Enan said, “but I understand peoples’ uncertainty about the military and it holding power.” She called her uncle “very conservative.”

Enan has lived in Egypt her entire life, and resides in the United States only when attending Brandeis.

“Because I’m from there, I knew it would be a big deal,” she said of the initial rioting. Last year’s brutal beating of an Egyptian man had tensions already running high in the country, and since the scholar-diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei “re-entered [the country] and began inspiring the youth and telling them that they are the change the country needs,” Enan said, such protests were all the government needed to reach a tipping point.

But Enan was also skeptical of long-term change at the outset.

“I wanted the president [Hosni Mubarak] to leave, we’ve been dealing with corruption for 30 years,” she said, asking, “But at the same time, what happens next? Once you have power, you set on a power trip yourself, and they may be in power for [another] 30 years.”

She called some too optimistic, saying “the military has never been on the side of the Egyptian people,” and wondered how they could trust the military.

Enan put the future of Egypt, and her caution in projecting a certain political future, down to the “mentality of the Egyptian people.” She called most Egyptians very conservative.

But she has some reason for optimism stemming from the revolution itself.

“Before those 18 days, [the protests began Jan. 25,] there was no solidarity,” Enan said. “Upper and middle classes looked down on the poor; Christians and Muslims did not speak,” she went on, describing a class system that was not conducive to an open democracy.

“But after the revolution, it’s a psychological transformation. About 325 people died; [can one] just go bribe someone after that?” Enan asked. She hopes the country will keep that newer mentality because they faced the events of the last several weeks together.

Enan said her sister is on the streets every day, protesting in the squares and streets of Cairo. Her family has lost much business due to tourism, a principal economic engine of the country.

At Brandeis, the administration reached out to Egyptian students, who were contacted by the Department of Community Living and other members of Student Affairs. They asked if the students needed support, counseling or other accommodation by the university during their country’s political chaos.

One other view Enan encountered both at Brandeis and in American media was anxiousness among friends of Israel about Egypt’s peace treaty with the country should Mubarak be replaced by adverse leadership.

“At first I thought it was unfair, because [they] haven’t lived in Egypt, don’t know what we go through,” Enan said, “but I understand their concerns: without the treaty, there could be a war.”

But she said that she believes “our leaders will use their common sense, look at our resources.” In an all-out war, Israel would win.