Egyptian activist to give talk at Towsley Auditorium
While large-scale protests and violence have helped to oust an unpopular president, Egyptian activists have seen little difference in their tumultuous economic and political situation.
“I think that people saw that we were happy and celebrating, that it was embraced by other countries as a success,” said Shimaa’ Helmy, 22, from Cairo. “It may have been over celebrated when (President Hosni Mubarak) resigned.”
As a contributor to the protests in the country’s now infamous Tahrir Square, Helmy has begun a speaking tour in America across college campuses to raise awareness and to dispel myths on uprisings happening throughout the Middle East. Taking time between talks at prestigious colleges such as Yale University, Helmy has agreed to give her lecture to the students of Washtenaw Community College on Feb 22.
Long characterized by buzzwords like revolution and a political spring, Helmy told The Washtenaw Voice that there is still much to be done in Egypt before a truly “free and dignified” government chosen by the Egyptian people can flourish.
Currently, the ruling military council controls much of the government and holds all of the political decisions made within her country, Helm said.
Out of all the different demands that Egyptians have called for, which include lowered food costs, better jobs and a stronger education system, what her people really want is the respect and dignity of the U.S., not funding or military intervention.
“When people ask if we will become militant, I ask ‘what is more militant than a government ruled by the military or army?’” Helmy said. “The U.S. believes that we will either support dictators or turn to the Jihadists. But there is another narrative there that people don’t see.”
That narrative includes young people, seeking an educated working class who are willing to have a relationship with the U.S., as long as that relationship isn’t characterized by investments and meddling.
“If the U.S. hadn’t supported Mubarak for more than 30 years, we wouldn’t have the problems that we face and are fighting against now,” she said.
Speaking preliminarily to a class taught by WCC instructor Elisabeth Thoburn, who helped coordinate Helmy’s visit to the college, students had a chance to ask questions about various topics that she will cover in her lecture.
“If you don’t want support and aid, then what should we do?” asked Anne Farrah, a student in Thoburn’s class.
While tough to answer, Farrah’s question was exactly the kind Helmy wants to embrace.
“You can make people aware of what’s going in the region, or participate in protests here,” Helmy said. “You have the ability to call your representatives and tell them what you want.”
A right that Helmy and her people are still fighting for.