Egyptian turmoil

Suddenly, Ahmed pressed the gas pedal. The car accelerated so quickly I could only catch a glimpse of what seemed to be a police officer fighting a man and several people running. Traffic had seemed completely stuck, but now everything was moving. Ahmed skilfully zigzagged the car through traffic and we were out of sight before I even fully realized what had happened. The true danger of such incidents is not the incident itself, but the panic it can cause. Even a simple brawl like this would erupt into a panic that made it seem as if something far worse had happened. Apart from this one incident, the protests that had caused massive traffic jams in Alexandria, had been largely peaceful. People were celebrating the 48 hour ultimatum the army had given Mr. Morsi. Within a few hours, Mr. Morsi would have to resign, or the army would take over the power, would stage a coup. That is what almost every Egyptian believed, but it was not true. The army would not force Mr. Morsi to resign, it even explicitly said it would not stage a coup. It would only intervene in the political process from which it had been largely absent since Mr. Morsi took office a year ago. And since the Egyptian army is sponsored by the US, pressure would certainly be coming from that side not to take over a democratically chosen government. In my opinion, the statement from the army to intervene in this turmoil has given the Egyptian people an incredibly dangerous false hope. The Egyptian people expect Mr. Morsi to resign. If he does not do so before the army’s ultimatum, this situation might escalate for the worse, so I thoroughly hope he does resign.

Yet what would happen after his resignation remains a mystery. During the transit year between Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi, the army did a horrible job at governing the country, so they will probably refrain from such a disaster a second time. Now who would govern? Elections would take months to organize, after which Egypt would go through yet another transit period. The Egyptian people want Mr. Morsi to be gone, so the country would prosper again, but throwing him over does not necessarily mean sudden and massive improvement. Economic conditions will not improve, nor will the fuel shortage or the diminishing wheat supplies. In fact, revolutions such as this hold back the tourists Egypt quite desperately depends on. The Egyptians are absolutely right in protesting and showing their discontent, but they should respect their own democratically chosen president by giving him his chosen four years and instead telling the president the change they want, while also realizing changes take time. Why would the president not want the best for his country? Which president would want his country worse off than before his term? If he is incompetent, give a viable solution instead of throwing him over and sending the country into worse, yet perhaps less visible chaos. This is just what I think and I am willing to explain further to anyone that asks.

Right now, no AIESEC intern is allowed to leave the place where he or she is staying, so I am sitting alone in the hostel where I will be spending a second night tonight, since the host family where I was supposed to stay is not in Alexandria yet. I have a very basic room with three beds that each have a mattress and pillow so hard I seriously considered sleeping on the floor, but with an absolutely amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea that makes up for everything. As I lean over my balcony and watch the Corniche, the main highway of Alexandria, I see men, women and children of all ages out on the streets with Egyptians flags and the symbolic red cards. I hear shouting, firework, whistling and of course, car engines and car horns. Egyptians are really skilled drivers and they have to be, as everyone drives as a madman around here. They communicate with their horns extensively. I managed to decipher that one horn means “I’m coming on your left”, while two horns means “I’m coming on your right”. Two long horns and three short ones means “We want Morsi gone”. I have not yet deciphered the insults, but I am quite sure they exist. Some cars even have a device that makes a police sound so they can pass quicker through traffic, but Ismail told me true Egyptians know the difference between a fake and a real police sound.

As I watch the people below and listen to this cacophony of sound that forms a city’s voice, I cannot help but think that the festive atmosphere that was in the city last night seems to have subtly changed for one where anger and anxiety is bubbling underneath the surface. Maybe it’s just me.

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3 comments

  1. “Right now, no AIESEC intern is allowed to leave the place” That seems like a fair policy. Could you tell me to what extend AIESEC is responsible for the safety of their interns? For instance, did you have to sign any sort of liability waiver? Are there any specific directions regarding the protests? I am interested because of a recent incident involving what I believe to be an AIESEC intern. This might come across as nosy, and you obviously don’t have to answer.

    It’s not just you who thinks the situation might turn sour. Also, nice writing.

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    1. Every AIESEC intern in Egypt has received at least one e-mail with information about the current situation, guidelines on how to keep yourself safe and an emergency number. AIESEC is ultimately responsible for their interns and its members very much care about the interns in Alexandria. If I am not accompanied by an AIESEC member, I get called every so often to ask about my whereabouts or whether I arrived home safely. Of course, referring to the incident you are talking about, which I believe to have heard as well, there is no stopping an intern doing things out of his/her own free will.

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      1. Thank you for your answer Thomas. What happened was a veritable antithesis of “creating mutual understanding between the two cultures”, quoted text being the mission statement of the AIESEC summer project. In some way I feel someone should have stopped the intern. Failing to do so would mean they are partly accountable for what happened. Then again, shit happens. As you said, an individual acting out of free will can’t be stopped.

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