“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

As it was task of the course “observatorio de la actualidad” to find and interview a person related to the region we are observing the whole semester I chose to speak to a classmate from Austria, John Sourial, 34. He is originally from Egypt and he was part of the revolution in 2011. As my group is following the occurrence in the Middle East, I have decided to interview John about the Arab Spring and the current situation in Egypt.

The Arab spring changed a lot in the Middle East. But before writing about the revolution my interview partner will be introduced. (Illustration 1)

John first started our conversation with an interesting phrase – “I see myself as a cosmopolitan”. Undoubtedly the reason for this has been his interesting upbringing.

He was born in 1978 in Suez, north of Egypt, and grew up as a son of a public officer and a teacher – his sister and mother still live in Egypt. After attending the school for Higher Vocational Service Industries and Tourism Management, he started his tourism studies. Austria was not only his choice for the international semester but also it was supposed to be his new home. At the age of 21 he moved to Vienna to learn German and complete his studies. Although, after his father got sick, he decided to give up studying and work in Austria to support his family. Working in all kinds of areas, for example hotels, restaurants etc., and after spending 5 years in the country he became an Austrian citizen and was subsequently awarded with an Austrian passport. An unfortunate event, his fathers death in 2007, made him move away from Vienna to Innsbruck to do his high school diploma for Austria and apply to study at the same university as me.

Through a somewhat “lucky” incident, he was in Egypt when the Egyptian revolution began. Inspired by the protests in December in Tunisia, the revolution started in Alexandria and Cairo. It was the 25th of January 2011 in Suez, when a policeman shot an innocent civilian in front of all demonstrators during a protest against the president. This was the trigger for the people to stand up against the regime, which was rife with corruption, arguably created an economic crisis, and suppressed many of the citizens. The anger and the hatred against “the system” (John used this phrase to describe the government) were so strong that within 24 hours millions of people gathered around and protested together against the regime of Mubarak. The revolution spread like wildfire throughout Egypt because people were communicating over social media, like facebook and twitter, other social media and radio. Mostly young, politically committed people organized “structured and peaceful” demonstrations that were destroyed and “interrupted” with massacres over and over again by the military. Their demands were for the resignation of the president Muhammad Husni Mubarak, change to a democratic political system and the equality of Muslims and Christians. This was because the people believed in a better life and in a new Egypt they would stand strong together and achieve the resignation of Mubarak.

John Sourial was part of the demonstrations and the celebrations at the main square of the city Suez (as illustration 2 and 3 show). During this whole period of the revolution he was spreading information and pictures, and kept his Facebook ‘friends’ updated.

Since then the military took over and the “revolution” stagnated. According to John: “Nothing has changed”. The situation today is difficult and complicated to describe. It needs a lot of background information to understand the current and possible future government. In the next couple of months the first democratic election will take place. Interestingly, at the moment the parliament consists of 75% Islamic members – it seems that the Christian minority is suppressed again and that it will not change in the future. A radical Islamic group, which was forbidden during the Mubarak regime, has risen up again and according to John people fear a “new Afghanistan” if this party gets to power. Egypt is suffering at the moment from a bad economy, decline in tourism, unemployment, and in parts of Egypt people are suffering from hunger. His family is included in this. His brother-in-law, who is employed in the tourism sector, suffers from irregular work and therefore there is always a “fight” for the money. But John is trying really hard to make provide for his family and make it possible for them to survive such a difficult period.

As I witnessed myself; he works long hours alongside his studies to provide his family in Egypt with a better life. Yet he is still worried about Egypt and its citizens. In his opinion the situation will not change if the Islamic party gets into parliament and this will mean no improvement, even a worsening of the situation.

The hope lies, therefore, in the people and the Egyptian system to let the right people ‘control’ the country and get Egypt back-on-track. And it definitely needs more people like John, who is making an effort and fighting as much as he can to make Egypt a better place – the place it should be.

Danira Milosevic


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