Egyptian students share concerns about their country

Mandi Steele/FULTON SUN photo: Left, Mohamed Shahin and Martinos Botros, students at Westminster College, share their experiences about dealing with the recent turmoil in Egypt, their homeland.

Mandi Steele/FULTON SUN photo: Left, Mohamed Shahin and Martinos Botros, students at Westminster College, share their experiences about dealing with the recent turmoil in Egypt, their homeland.

It’s not every day that your country goes through a revolution. But for Mohamed Shahin and Martinos Botros, that’s what is currently going on back home in Egypt while they are thousands of miles away in Fulton.

Westminster College freshmen Shahin, 30, and Botros, 20, have been watching tentatively as events unfold in Cairo, where both lived until they left to start college. Their families and friends are in the middle of it, and when the Egyptian government caused a communication blackout on Jan. 28 in the wake of protests for President Hosni Mubarak to step down, Shahin and Botros were unable to reach anyone.

Shahin said he didn’t want to study, eat or talk to anyone; he was so worried about everyone back home.

“We couldn’t function at all,” he said.

“We kept thinking, what’s gonna happen?” Botros said.

The two stayed glued to the TV, watching news coverage until the blackout finally ended a few days later, and they could reach family members. Everyone they knew was fine, but they had plenty of stories to tell.

Botros said the looting in the country was terrible and the citizens had to become like police officers to patrol the streets and protect their own property. He said his parents told him: “There was massive chaos.”

“People are so divided,” Shahin said.

He explained to a small group of faculty and students in the Coulter Science Center Thursday that many Egyptians are not fans of Mubarak but are afraid of what might happen if the president leaves.

“If Mubarak leaves office right now, who’s going to take power?” Shahin asked.

“I’m scared that certain powers will take over,” he said, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood. “That’s not good for anyone.”

Shahin says he is Muslim, but doesn’t believe in Islamic extremism.

“You can’t really govern people by religion. It just takes away the rights,” he said.

Although, he fears a Muslim Brotherhood reign in his country, he admits he’s not a Mubarak supporter either.

“I want to see him gone. I want to see him publicly executed for all the things he’s done,” Shahin said.

Because of his disability, Shahin said he had few rights in his own country and could not proceed with his education there. Both Shahin and Botros are in the United World Colleges program. Shahin studied in Norway for two years prior to coming to Missouri, and Botros studied in Canada for two years as well. They are both majoring in computer sciences. This winter Botros experienced his first snow. Both students arrived in Fulton in August and were surprised by the humidity. Egypt is hot, they explained, but dry. Now they are trying to deal with what Shahin calls “bitter cold.”

“The weather here is interesting,” Shahin says.

The freshmen also answered questions from their audience on Thursday.

Bob Hansen, professor of leadership studies at Westminster, asked, “How much freedom of the press was there prior to all this?”

Botros said there really isn’t freedom of the press now or even before the revolution began. He went on to explain how events in Egypt are calming down. At first there were protests followed by violence, but he said his friends back home said the demonstrations have now become like a “carnival” scene with food booths and organized protests.

Shahin said what he would like to see for the future of Egypt is someone new from the youth protesters take power, because everyone from the old regime “failed miserably.”

As a Coptic Orthodox Church member, Botros said he wants to see someone in power who will recognize the rights of the minorities, like himself, in his country.

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