Sophomore fears for family in Egypt as father reports on anti-gov’t protests

At 11:30 Wednesday morning, sophomore Hannah Fleishman received a call from Cairo, Egypt. It was her mother.

Clare Fleishman told her daughter that protesters in Egypt, who are demanding a democratic country, have split into two opposing parties after President Hosni Mubarak announced he will not seek re-election in September. One half has been satisfied, while the other wants Mubarak to resign immediately, Fleishman said.

The marketing communication major watched as the two parties tossed Molotov cocktails at each other on Al Jazeera live.

“I told my mom I was scared,” said Fleishman, who moved to Egypt in 11th grade and speaks to her parents in Cairo every other day. “I’ll be in tears, and they’ll say it’s not that bad. My mom goes to the grocery store and dad goes into downtown. I want to be there; be there to witness it.”

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Fleishman first heard of the prospects of a protest when her father, a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, called to tell her he was going to report on it. Three days later, Egypt made frontpage headlines in every major newspaper.

“I consider it home,” said Fleishman, who most recently visited the Middle Eastern country over Christmas break and hopes to return in the Spring. “I feel nostalgic for it all the time. When I saw it happening on TV, I started crying. It’s hard to see a place you come from falling apart like that.”

Fleishman added that most of the protesters are in their mid-20s, not much older than her classmates at Emerson, many of whom are seniors hunting for jobs.

Similarly, those in Egypt are facing unemployment in a repressive environment, according to Joshua Rubenstein, northeast regional director of Amnesty International U.S.A.

“People go to college, graduate with skills and training but can’t find jobs,” Rubenstein said in a phone interview with the Beacon, speaking from his office in Somerville, Mass. “In a society where they cannot express themselves, that frustration doesn’t have a legitimate outlet, which is part of what’s fueling these demonstrations.”

As the events in Egypt unfold, Rubenstein said there have been executions and imprisonment of journalists. Just yesterday CNN’s Anderson Cooper was pummeled by protesters’ fists.

“Got roughed up by thugs in pro-mubarak crowd… punched and kicked repeatedly. Had to escape. Safe now,” Cooper tweeted Wednesday.

More than 1,200 American citizens in Egypt have been evacuated, according to a daily press briefing Monday on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

But Fleishman said her father Jeff is still stationed in Cairo. Although he was supposed to move to Kenya in March, the revolution in Egypt may keep him in Cairo for another year, Fleishman said.

“He doesn’t even want to leave; that’s where the story is,” Fleishman said, adding that her parents have a 4 p.m. curfew for safety, imposed by Mr. Fleishman’s job. “When this started I got really scared, but he doesn’t seem too worried about getting attacked or hurt.”

Fleishman said she will be participating in a protest for Egypt in Boston this Saturday at an announced location. The protest is the second of its kind, following a demonstration last Saturday where hundreds marched from Harvard Square into downtown Boston.