Seeing the turmoil up close and personal
On Feb. 1, in Port Said, Egypt, 73 people were killed at a rivalry soccer match with little intervention from police.
On Feb. 2, thousands protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere over the Egyptian government’s lack of legitimacy and lack of control during the bloodiest soccer match since 1996.
On Feb. 4, the death toll amounted to 12 protesters who partook in the street fighting.
And on May 15, 38 Drake students will travel to the heart of Egypt to study abroad for three weeks.
Mahmoud Hamad, assistant professor in the department of politics and international relations, said many precautions have been taken to ensure the students’ safe trip.
Hamad and fellow coordinators have changed the location of their Sheridan hotel to a more secure neighborhood, further from Tahrir Square, and changed domestic transportation from train to airplane. They also requested additional security from the Egyptian government and increased the number of faculty members on the trip from two to three.
“I don’t expect it to be dangerous, but I usually err on the side of caution,” Hamad said. “I have no problem with Cairo and (the protesting); I just don’t want to be in a situation I can’t control.”
Hamad said that if the protest is not too large, there is a chance he might allow the students to go see it. Last year, students were able to briefly visit Tahrir Square to witness the protest. The Egyptian uprising has been consistent since January 2011.
“Our hotel was only a few miles away from Tahrir Square. We drove past it a few different times,” said Mandi Plagman, a senior accounting and information systems major who went on the trip last summer. “We witnessed a lot of the aftermath of the protesting such as graffiti and the burnt building in downtown Cairo. I remember one day we were scheduled to be in Cairo, but there were rumors about another large protest, so we had to leave the city for the day just in case.”
Plagman said she did feel safe due to the protection provided by the Egyptian security, who will also play a big role in this year’s trip. Two armed guards accompanied the group of 28, and this summer, Hamad has requested to increase that number.
“At first, it was strange to have them with us. When we were in crowded areas, they would rush us along, but when we were in more secluded areas, they were more relaxed,” Plagman said. “I was glad they were there. I felt much safer knowing they were looking out for us.”
The trip will consist of trips to the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, the Bibliotheca Alexandria, the Valley of the Kings, the White Desert National Park and Cairo University, among others.
“I think what’s going on is hopefully going to make our students better understand democracy and appreciate what we have in the states,” Hamad said. “Hopefully they will be more engaged when they come back… I have no doubt (the trip is) going to be a smashing success.”