Despite protests, Egyptian student says he must return
By Alexandra Brandt
(Webster Groves. Feb. 3, 2011) Everything Webster student Moustafa Khamis has worked for is in Egypt. Khamis, a marketing major in the graduate program, dropped his classes on Jan. 27 and planned to leave St. Louis and fly into Alexandria, his hometown, hoping to find his house not vandalized and money still in the bank.
“All of my money is in foreign banks. But the banks still have to abide by Egyptian authorities and stay closed,” Khamis said. “There’s no police to protect banks. They don’t want to move any money out of the country because billions of dollars could be stolen. It’s good and bad — bad because I can’t access my money and good because no one else can.”
On Jan. 25, Egyptians took to the streets, protesting against President Mubarak and the overall treatment of the people.
Khamis said his childhood home, where he will be staying when he goes back, has housed generations of his family. He hopes that when he returns, he will find it still standing.
“I called home and the operator said the number doesn’t exist,” Khamis said. “The house has existed for 50 years. There are lots of memories there.”
Khamis said his family, who left Egypt five years ago, does not know of his plans, and he doesn’t intend to tell them.
“They’d freak out if they knew,” Khamis said. “If anything happens to me, friends inside and outside Egypt will inform my parents.”
Khamis said he never liked his life in Egypt. He said that President Mubarak, who has been in office for the last 30 years, was as unpopular when he was a little boy as he is now.
“I didn’t like him (Mubarak) at all, of course,” Khamis said. “It is a jungle, not a country. People are dying of hunger and sickness. If you are poor, you don’t get what you deserve.”
According to a Jan. 30 New York Times article on Egypt’s unrest, there has always been a huge difference between the rich and poor in Egypt , but the space between the two have widened in the past five years. Mubarak’s administration has been privatizing government businesses, making some very rich, and therefore creating an extreme distinction between the classes.
“(Ordinary people) couldn’t buy a loaf of bread,” Khamis. “Most rich people are in government, so they benefitted from it. You can always do whatever you want to do as long as you’re rich and know the right people.”
Khamis said even people like his parents, who are both doctors and have been practicing for 27 years, would receive a salary of only $250 a month if they still lived in Egypt.
“How can anyone live like this?” Khamis said. “This is why people are in the streets after hundreds have died already. There’s nothing to lose, nothing to go back to.”
Tahmineh Entessar, the professor of an international relations course dropped by Khamis, said she understands why he would want to go back.
“I always feel bad for students from third world countries,” said Entessar. “They are indirectly pushed into situations (back home).”
All flights in and out of Egypt are pending, and many Americans have been stranded in the airports. According to The Christian Science Monitor, more than 2,400 Americans have tried to reach U.S. officials to get out of the country.
Khamis said he thinks many Americans, especially tourists, will be fine.
“Most Americans go to Sinai, and there are barely any Egyptians there, so they are safe,” Khamis said. “Any place outside of Cairo is safe, Americans will just be stuck. Inside of Cairo, Americans are stuck inside airports hoping protesters won’t enter.”
Khamis said he is also concerned about returning home because he needs the permission of the government to leave the country once he gathers his things. Every Egyptian man between the ages of 18-30 is called to serve in the army for 12-36 months according to the CIA World Fact Book. This is unless they are the only son in the family, which applies to Khamis, or have dual citizenship. However, in this Egyptian state of emergency no one is exempt.
Khamis said he would need permission from the government to leave and not serve, but he believes they will not grant him exemption.
“I have a back up plan to go in and out of the country,” Khamis said. “I think I can sneak through borders in Libya with the right person to guide me.”
Alisha Shakya, a business administration major in the graduate program and good friend of Khamis, said she is scared for him.
“What we see in the news is scary,” Shakya said. “I don’t want him to go back. But looking at his personal matters, it’s good for him to go. If I was in his shoes, I’d go back.”
Although he may face hardships, Khamis said he intends to come back to the U.S., no matter the circumstances, to finish his degree.
“I have been dreaming of America since I was seven,” Khamis said.