American Students Abroad Tread Lightly During Egyptian Protests

The rioting, protests, and demonstrations occurring in Egypt over the last several days have worried parents, family members, and the government in the U.S. as the situation shows no signs of slowing down. While universities and American institutions in Egypt remained closed and curfews remain in place, the U.S. government is busy arranging charter flights to get hundreds of American students back to the U.S. safely.  With about 500 U.S. students currently studying abroad in Egypt, directors for the American University in Cairo are doing what they can to keep parents and advisors for study abroad programs in the U.S. informed on the current situation, according to an article posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The demonstrations come from protesters who are trying to overthrow the current government of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak. Mubarack, the president in Egypt for more than 30 years, is being targeted by protesters because they blame him for the lack of freedom and poverty that they have had to live through. Students and professors who gathered to observe, and even take part in the protests, do not see the demonstrations as dangerous and threatening, but rather a time of a desperate need for change. Said Sadek, a sociology professor at the American University who was attendance at the demonstrations on Saturday, told the Chronicle that the younger generation made up about 40% of the protest population and they felt that the president is "out of touch" with them.

The demonstrations, put together with the help of online groups and Facebook, garnered much more attention than anticipated. While university students played a large role in organizing the protests thorough Facebook and other online networks, the large gathering of people of all ages and social groups was not expected to become an entire revolution. In an effort to stop such plans and organized protests, Egyptian authorities suspended Internet access across the country on Friday. However, large groups still turned up in Tahrir Square anyway. Damages to the downtown university can be seen through graffiti and a guard post that was set on fire. Signs of looting and street fighting between police and protesters were visible in shops surrounding the area as well.

Between airports and airlines observing the curfew imposed by the Egyptian government, sporadic outbursts of violence, and the lack of Internet access, getting American students out of the country proves to be a challenge. While U.S. students are not necessarily in any physical danger and most have been moved to other locations to ensure safety, there is still pressure to get those students back home. Fortunately, there have been no reports or incidents that have impacted the safety of American students in Egypt.  In fact, many students who have relocated are passing the time by taking cooking lessons and staying out of harm’s way, and most of these students also have landline telephones to keep in touch with their families overseas regularly.

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