The University of California Office of the President issued a statement this week to protect the identities of students enrolled in study abroad programs in Cairo.

“This is a fluid situation,” the release said. “We are monitoring it closely and working through appropriate channels to keep any University of California students who might be traveling in the region at this time informed and secure. We cannot provide any further details at this time.”

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Egyptian protesters fill Cairo’s streets following a wave of political unrest, holding signs that contest the current regime under Mubarak.

Popular protests in Tunisia prompted the overthrow of the Ben Ali dictatorship in December and have proved contagious, leading to larger protests across the Middle East, namely Egypt where President Mubarak faces heavy sustained opposition. International media organizations report that protests in Egypt center on political, legal and economic issues while calling for the end of Mubarak’s regime and the formation of a new Egyptian government.

Dwight Reynolds, director of UCSB’s Center for Middle East Studies, said the nature of the political upheaval in Egypt precludes certain knowledge of what is to come next.

“The ground is shifting so fast that we are scarcely sure of what we’ll be looking at by next week,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think anyone is willing to make predictions.”

What is nearly safe to assume at this point, Reynolds said, is that Mubarak’s regime will fall.

“The only depth that I’m willing to offer is that it really does seem to me that Mubarak has to leave,” Reynolds said. “It’s almost impossible for me to imagine that he could reassert control short of ordering a military takeover. And the military in Egypt is highly respected — as much as the police force is hated, the military is respected — if Mubarak tries to give that order, I don’t know if the military will follow through or if they themselves would escort Mubarak out of the country.”

Last Wednesday, The Guardian likened Cairo to a ‘war zone,’ filled with ‘street battles,’ tear gas and violent protest. Two days later, the Egyptian government blocked internet access and cell phone service in the majority of the country.

UCSB experts will address questions about the current political upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt and the greater Middle East during several panels this month in hopes of providing the local community with a platform for discussion on the rapidly developing revolution.

Acting UCSB EAP Director Juan E. Campo, a specialist on Islam within the Religious Studies field, will host a discussion assessing the recent revolutions alongside Modern Middle East History professor Nancy Gallagher this Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Theater & Dance building room 1701. Campo is a frequent visitor to Egypt and the former director of EAP Cairo. Gallagher has authored numerous pieces on modern Tunisian and Egyptian history and is slated to be the next EAP Cairo director.

Next Thursday, a host of university departments and initiatives will sponsor a discussion in Corwin Pavilion at 7 p.m. According to the event program, the talk — entitled “Political Upheaval in the Middle East” — will address questions of whether the Arab World will democratize or if “current unrest will result in autocratic crackdowns, military coupes, Islamist regimes and chaos.”

Reynolds said the panel discussion will feature the finest Middle Eastern studies specialists at UCSB and visiting scholars from the region. Organizers also plan to attempt Skype video chats with individuals in the Middle East during the presentation.