Bangor woman leaving Cairo in wake of riots

Posted Feb. 03, 2011, at 9:41 p.m.
Bangor resident Ellen Umphrey, who is studying at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, is seen on a tour at Mount Sinai in Egypt in October 2010. She is scheduled to leave the country Friday.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELLEN UMPHREY
Bangor resident Ellen Umphrey, who is studying at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, is seen on a tour at Mount Sinai in Egypt in October 2010. She is scheduled to leave the country Friday.

BANGOR, Maine — A local woman who earlier this week said she planned to remain in Cairo, Egypt, despite protests and violence in the North African city changed her mind Thursday morning.

Bangor resident Ellen Umphrey, 21, who graduated from John Bapst Memorial High School in 2008 and is a junior studying economics at the American University in Cairo, decided early Thursday that it was time to go.

“She has a flight out to Vienna,” her mother, Elizabeth Clayton of Bangor, said Thursday. “She’s scheduled to leave tomorrow morning.”

Umphrey is following in the footsteps of three University of Maine students who left Egypt earlier this week. More than 100 people have died amid the protests.

The Bangor Daily News contacted Umphrey over the weekend and again on Monday through Facebook, but with Internet communications cut by the Egyptian government on Thursday, Jan. 27, she was not able to respond until nearly a week later.

She posted at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday that she “is safe in zamalek dorms. just got internet!! mobile phones work now too. many stores and businesses opened today. just need curfew to lift, school to start, banks to open, and mubarak to step down peacefully.”

Later in the day, she responded to the newspaper’s request for an interview.

“After falling in love with the country and the people, I developed an understanding of the internal issues the country faced and the idea of revolution seemed only like a question of when it would happen,” she said.

She added later that, “My Egyptian friends are happy that their nation is standing up. The unbelievable strength they are showing to battle against all these evils that keep them down … inspires me.”

When she arrives in Vienna, Umphrey will stay with a cousin of her father, Lee Umphrey, former communications director for Gov. John Baldacci, while she decides what to do next, Clayton said.

Two UMaine study-abroad students and a graduate student already have left the county.

Andrea Groves, 26, of Topsham, a University of Maine graduate student studying anthropology at the American University, fled the country Sunday night. She is staying with her mother, Elizabeth Karasopoulos, who lives in Amman, Jordan, and is a teacher at the American Community School.

Two other UMaine students studying at the same Egyptian school, whose names were not released by the university, followed suit and left the country on Monday, Karen Boucias, director of UMaine’s Office of International Programs, said Thursday.

“Our two students were so lucky to get out,” she said. “By Monday night, they were in Istanbul. They’re safe and they’re good.”

The two students will be staying overseas, Boucias said.

“It looks like one student is going to Israel and one student is going to enroll at a Turkish school in Istanbul,” Boucias said.

U.S. Embassy officials in Cairo have been telling Americans to consider leaving Egypt, and Umphrey posted a Feb. 2 embassy notice on her Facebook page that states, “U.S. government flights after Thursday are unlikely.”

Protests and violence have erupted in Egypt over the past 10 days with protesters calling for 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, who has led the country for more than three decades, to resign.

Much of the turmoil is happening in Midan Tahrir, or Liberation Square, a pedestrian-only area of Cairo where thousands of protesters have camped out for more than a week, defying a government curfew.

Mubarak, who protesters blame for widespread poverty and corruption, has refused to immediately step down. Mubarak supporters on Wednesday charged into the square on horseback and camels while others threw firebombs from nearby rooftops, escalating the violence and killing three, according to media reports from the re-gion.

Umphrey said that in the past week she has smelled the tear gas, has witnessed a bank being robbed and has seen friends join the protests against Mubarak’s rule.

“My friends here who participated in the protests have been arrested, shot at by police, hurt by rubber bullets, BB pellets, tear gas, rocks, clubs, knives and rampant unprovoked physical violence,” she said. “I worry for them. But I’m happy that the revolution has begun and I hope that peace and justice will soon find itself upon Egypt.”

3 UMaine students flee Egypt

http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/01/31/news/3-umaine-students-flee-egypt/

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