It began Jan. 25, inspired in the wake of the Tunisian revolt, as nearly 20,000 protesters went to the streets in opposition of Egyptian President Honsi Mubarak. The numbers grew, police forces clashed with protesters, cell phone and Internet services were shut down, anti-government journalists were detained and curfew was imposed, but Egyptians stood strong adamantly demanding Mubarak’s immediate departure after thirty years of rule.”Everything that happened in the last three weeks was a big surprise for everybody, never thought this was going to happen,” said Hashem Setouhi, former Castleton State College student and citizen of Egypt. “I couldn’t contact anybody because phones were down, cell phones were down, and Internet was down.The whole country stopped working.”
But Setouhi wasn’t the only former Castleton student impacted. Alberto Silva, a recent grad, was actually in Egypt when the revolt started.
“I was thrilled to hear back from him that everything was fine,” said Dean Joe Mark about Silva, who is in Cairo going to graduate school.”He was ecstatic, jubilant.His first response was essentially things were great, still. Within a couple of hours he sent me another response saying it has changed dramatically.”
Police forces and protesters battled in the streets, the National Democratic Party, Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters, was set on fire and Egyptian troops, for the first time since ’85, moved into the streets to instill order and peace.
“There was a period of time in Cairo when the police became completely ineffective,” said Mark. “The military were very present and for most of time the military and the protesters seemed to be having a pretty positive relationship.”
On Jan. 29, Mubarak announced that his Cabinet had been fired, a vice president, Omar Suleiman, had been named for the first time since ’81 and that economic and political demands would be met. Shortly after, on Feb. 1, a day dubbed ‘The March of Millions,’ Mubarak declared he would remain in power until Sept. 1, despite protesters’ demands to step down from power immediately.
“The television in Egypt was not showing anything of what was happening,” said Setouhi. “They were actually denying it and telling them the opposite. People really were blindfolded there, they were hearing things that weren’t going on, believing other things . It seems like they were recorded all at once, all his speeches, and he was picking one of them.It was like a war plan.”
Although Silva couldn’t be reached for an interview, Mark and CSC President Dave Wolk have been in touch with him.
“A lot of the citizens began to organize these local neighborhood groups, Adalberto called them militia,” Mark said. “They would get out there at night together with clubs and other things trying to make sure that nobody robbed anybody.”
Setouhi was also getting news from home.
“My brother was just visiting Egypt,” said Setouhi. “When he was there he went on the street with a couple people who live in the same building just to protect the building.Just waiting on the street for someone to come and attack.”
On Feb.11, 18 days after protests first began, Mubarak resigned as president leaving the country in control by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
“I think this is a really exciting moment in Egypt’s history,” said Mark. “I guess I’m one of those people who doesn’t think that this is going to result in quick and certain positive change.”
But Setouhi said he’s hopeful and feeling positive about what’s happening in his homeland.
“Yesterday he said he’s not leaving and just today, a few hours later, he left without saying anything,” said Setouhi last week. “They shouldn’t be afraid of the government, it should be the other way around . I was surprised to see how powerful people could be. This was kind of a miracle for people.