Rally supports Egyptian protests

By Olivia Garber

When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power earlier today, he also… When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power earlier today, he also threw a wrench in plans for a rally on campus in support of the Egyptian protesters.

The gathering was initially planned as a showing of support for the protesters, who pressured President Mubarak to resign after almost three weeks of demonstrations. The Pitt students decided they would celebrate with them.

Sophomore Maryem Mabrouk was in the middle of a chemistry test when her friend texted her the news about Mubarak.

At first, she was excited and happy for Egypt. But as the initial waves of joy subsided, she was left with a few questions.

“So are we still going? ;)” she posted on the Facebook wall for the rally. Ryan Branagan, who created the event, titled Kefaya! Rally in Support of the Egyptian Revolution, quickly affirmed that the rally was still going on.

Branagan, a sophomore, said he was at work when he got a text about the news.

“I got elated, and immediately knew I had to switch the event,” he said.

The rally, which started around 3 p.m., quickly drew about 30 people. Red balloons, Egyptian flags and a tambourine attracted the honks and cheers of drivers and pedestrians passing through the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard.

Mabrouk was one of many celebrants holding signs — hers said, “It is better to die for something you love than to live for nothing.”

But while the crowd chanted “Free at last!” most of its members were aware that the turmoil that has been broiling in Egypt for the past weeks isn’t over.

With Mubarak gone and power in the hands of Egypt’s military leaders, analysts are worried that the current situation could lead to a political vacuum.

Al Jazeera, a satellite news service based in Qatar, assembled a number of opinions from foreign policy experts and pro-democracy campaigners in Egypt. They disagreed over where the country would go in the next few years, and what would be the immediate steps after Mubarak’s resignation.

This question “What’s next for Egypt?” was on Tolu Banjo’s mind when she found out about the cession of power on Yahoo! News.

Banjo, a junior who went with Mabrouk to the rally, said she isn’t sure what exactly will happen during the seven months before Egypt’s next election — a topic of contention for many analysts — but was still confident about the role this revolution will play in other African countries.

Many talk primarily about the role Egypt plays in the Middle East, but as Banjo noted, “Egypt is in Africa.”

Banjo, who moved from Africa to study at Pitt, said she thought the protests in Egypt could spur similar movements for democracy in other African countries.

Branagan called this a “ripple effect.”

He cited the recent street protests in Tunisia that ousted the country’s president as the beginning of the pattern.

That inspired Egyptians to take to the streets to protest their own long-standing government, and now there’s “a new age for the entire region,” Branagan said.

“There’s hope for the Middle East, for democracy,” he said.

Mehvish Ally, a junior who was among the first at the rally, said she thought the Egyptian protesters now have to make sure that the military does not become the new government.

But she thought the tenacity and determination of the protesters would make a future police state unlikely.

“I have faith that [the protesters] are not going to let that happen,” she said.

Both she and Mabrouk drew comparisons from the current Egyptian revolution to the one that happened in the U.S. more than two centuries ago.

Mabrouk said Pitt students should be aware of the events in Egypt because, in terms of national impact, it’s on the same level as the American Revolution.

Ally agreed.

“It’s the same exact battle, just in the Sahara,” she said.