Q&A: Appalachian alumna in Cairo amidst political upheaval


Michael Bragg

Egyptian military tanks were common on the streets before and after President Mohamed Morsi's ousting.  Lena Aloumari  |  Courtesy PhotoDuring a political movement that has captured the world’s attention, an individual with ties to Appalachian State University saw it all firsthand.

Egypt’s first democratically elected leader Mohamed Morsi was ousted by Egyptian military officers Wednesday, according to the New York Times. Interim leaders have been put in place since the ousting.

Appalachian alumna Lena Aloumari moved back to Egypt in early June to stay with her family. While living in Cairo, Aloumari was on hand to witness Morsi’s dismissal from office.

The Appalachian had a chance to ask Aloumari a few questions while she stays in Cairo.

The Appalachian: Where are you staying in Egypt?
Lena Aloumari: “I’m currently in Cairo. My family’s house is in Nasr City, a district in Cairo, but since there were large amounts of Pro-Morsi rallies near my home, less than two miles away, I decided to go stay with a friend in New Cairo, which is a suburb of Cairo.”

TA: From your experience, could you give a summary of what has been happening with the Egyptian government recently?
LA: “During the past year of Morsi’s rule, the country was collapsing through his bad decisions. He had given himself more power than Mubarak had before, which included amending the constitution that made it impossible to remove him from office without a civil uprising. The economy and infrastructure of the country was in total ruin. I didn’t recognize the Egypt that I came back to. There were no tourists, extremely high cost of basic living necessities, constant power cuts, fuel shortages, mountains of trash in the streets… it was horrible. But for the sake of ‘democracy,’ or what Egyptians thought was ‘democracy,’ they put up with it. So, they gave him a year. And during this year he put many of his fellow Muslim Brotherhood members into power trying to make Egypt into a very Islamic state, similar to that of Iran or Saudi Arabia, by terrorizing the ‘non-believers’ like Christians and other non-Sunni sects of Islam, and saying all of their actions were in the name of Islam, or what they believe to be Islam. In my opinion, this was long overdue. He was taking this country backward and luckily, Abdul Fattah El Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister and head of the army, who was appointed by Morsi and has had close links with the Muslim Brotherhood, decided to side with the people who finally realized they didn’t deserve this.”

Appalachian alumnus Lena Aloumari, center, stands at a protest at Itahedeya, the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, Wednesday after the announcement President Morsi was removed from power.  Photo submitted
TA: Have you attended any of the rallies?

LA: “I was only able to attend rallies at the Itahedeya, the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, on the night of July 3 after Abdul Fattah El Sisi made the announcement ousting Morsi. Many of my friends went down to Tahrir Square and the Presidential Palace.”

TA: From what you have seen, would you describe the events as a coup?
LA: “Not at all. What happened was that millions of Egyptians legitimately, democratically and peacefully protested against an Islamic fundamentalist with the aid of the military. The military did not take power but decided to side with the Egyptian people to oust Mohamed Morsi and remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power. There has been violence, yes. However, the majority of the violence, I feel, has come from the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters who are refusing to give up the power that they have acquired over the past year. They are the ones who are encouraging their supporters to kill in the name of Morsi and Islam.”

TA: What are some reactions you have had to recent events such as Mr. Mori’s arrest? Has that changed anything?
LA: “I’ve heard nothing but positive reactions. Everyone who is not a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, a very tiny religious group when compared to the entire population, suffered greatly during the past year Morsi has been in power. Since I am surrounded by political and social circles that are very much against Morsi, I have not heard any positive outcomes of Morsi’s term as president. If anything, you can argue that the country is in a worse state than when Mubarak was in power. So with Morsi’s ousting, I think everyone is hopeful that everything that Morsi failed at will be accomplished and life would become better.”

TA: Could you tell something like this was coming? If so, when and why?
LA: “I honestly didn’t know there was even going to be a revolution until I landed in Cairo in the beginning of June. I heard nothing about it until my friends and family kept bringing it up to me after my arrival. While I did hear a lot about the June 30 plans, I also heard conflicting ideas and expectations of what was going to happen. Many people were very optimistic thinking that it would be a successful revolution, and others were pessimistic, thinking it wouldn’t accomplish what the people wanted – ousting Morsi – so I really didn’t know what to expect. I was still having mixed emotions during the whole thing. I wasn’t in Cairo during the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution so I was excited that I was going to be here. But I was also worried about the safety of my friends and family in Cairo and Alexandria.”

TA: What do you hope the outcome will be?
LA: “I hope that this renewed sense of national pride and love of Egypt will continue on into the future. It is a beautiful site to see everyone waving the Egyptian flag and singing their love for their country through chants and songs. I also hope that Egypt achieves the true democracy that it deserves, but only time will tell what will happen.”