Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered yesterday at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center to discuss ongoing political turmoil in Egypt and the Middle East.
Political demonstrations that began in Tunisia last December recently spurred protests across the Middle East. Tensions first escalated in Egypt last week and have grown in intensity. Rallies turned violent yesterday as supporters of the development of a new Egyptian government clashed with allies of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Although attendees expressed a variety of opinions on the state of the recent Egyptian protests there was a definite anti-Mubarak sentiment throughout the discussion.
Attendees conversed about today’s violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in which pro-government protesters on camel and horseback opened fire on anti-government protesters. According to Aljazeera, the Egyptian capital reported the struggle left at least five people dead and several others injured.
Computer science graduate student Hassan Wassel claimed that the pro-government protesters were police officers in disguise.
“They’re mostly not protesters,” Wassel said. “They’re mostly thugs and undercover police. No protester would come in on a camel or a horse. No protester would use Molotov cocktails on the Egyptian Museum.”
Mohamed El-Zeftawi, electrical and chemical engineering graduate student, said the ongoing conflict is a result of Mubarak’s selfish concerns for his own administration’s longevity.
“Who would do this?” El-Zeftawi said. “If you care only about your regime, it’s very brutal.”
The meeting took an even more solemn turn when Wassel — after talking on his phone — said a friend in Egypt just informed him that pro-government forces were using live ammunition on anti-government protesters.
“I want to make an announcement,” Wessel said. “They are attacking them right now with live ammunition, in Tahrir Square.”
Wessel’s announcement was met with expressions of concern as many event attendees were either from Egypt or had family in the country.
Computer science professor Amr El Abbadi, a native of Egypt, said Mubarak should be removed from power.
“There are people who are worried, saying we should give him a chance,” El Abbadi said. “But we don’t have the option. If you give [the Mubarak administration] another six months, everyone who’s been in the streets is going to suffer. We cannot afford not to do something. “
El Abbadi said Mubarak’s government has orchestrated much of the violence.
“Look at the pictures; who is going out and doing this stuff?” he said. “It’s paid thugs and beneficiaries of the system.”
El Abbadi said a plan is already in place for a transitional government to take over when Mubarak resigns from office.
“Yesterday before Mubarak’s speech there was an announcement from various opposition groups, where they said ‘We have a plan,’ and the plan was to make a committee with 10 people representing these factions and Mubarak would step down and this would be a transition government for two months before a free election,” El Abbadi said. “So there is a plan.”