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Scholar provides inside look at Egyptian uprising

Amal Hamada told Lehigh students she brought her three children to the protests so that they would understand that “freedom and liberties don’t come for free.”

A day after joining a mass demonstration of professors and students in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Amal Hamada offered Lehigh students a candid picture of the political unrest in Egypt over the past three weeks from her home in Cairo. The Global Union and the Office of International Affairs sponsored a videoconference to connect Cairo with the campus.

Hamada, associate professor of economics and political science at the University of Cairo, was a Fulbright Scholar in Residence in Arabic Culture and Politics at Lehigh in 2008. She has been a part of the movement in Egypt seeking freedom and democracy and demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

“I’m really glad you’re interested in hearing what’s happening,” Hamada told a room full of students Wednesday afternoon.

Through the videoconference, Hamada was able to extend the dialogue on Arabic-speaking cultures and politics that she started while at Lehigh. During her time on campus, Hamada taught the undergraduate course “Dialogue on Democracy in the Arab World,” which examined the cultural and political ideologies of the Middle East and discussed issues related to the Arabic and Islamic application of their own democracy that does not have to match the western liberal democracy.

During the videoconference, Hamada provided a brief overview of the situation and offered some historical context for the uprising. The demonstrations were first organized by a group of youth and activists through Facebook, she said, who were not part of a political party, as many believed. As a result, the government underestimated the call to protest and dismissed the organizers as amateurs and Facebook users.

More than two weeks later, Hamada says the revolution continues to gain considerable momentum. On Wednesday, she joined fellow members of the University of Cairo community in a seven-mile march from the university to Tahrir Square. There, she says, they joined millions of people from all across the Egyptian population—rich and poor, religious and secular, men and women. The university even has a “headquarters” within the square where they meet and organize.

“It’s a new experience for us all,” said Hamada, who brought her three children to the protests so that they would understand that “freedom and liberties don’t come for free.”

Victoria Rolandelli ’11, an international relations major, has been closely following events in Egypt. She and four other Lehigh students studied at the American University in Cairo last spring.

“When I was there, the attitude was anti-Mubarak, but I never expected such a mass protest,” Rolandelli said. “It’s shocking and inspiring. The society is so divided, so to see everyone united toward this cause is nice.”

“As a journalism professor, I realize the value of getting viewpoints from people on the scene,” said Jack Lule, Joseph B. McFadden Distinguished Professor of Journalism and Director of the Globalization and Social Change Initiative. “But to be able to talk face-to-face is a real privilege and a real opportunity.”

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011

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