Egyptian student at UMaine marvels at revolution

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 14, 2011, at 7:24 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Sherief Farouk had a strong personal interest in keeping up on the latest news out of Egypt during the latest upheaval, demonstrations and revolution.

Half Egyptian and a graduate of the Arabian Academy of Science and Technology in Cairo, the 24-year-old University of Maine graduate student also happened to be very close to the situation — literally and figuratively.

His parents’ house, he said, sits right across from the presidential palace in Cairo, putting his family at ground zero for the revolution that reverberated around the world.

Farouk, a graduate student in the UMaine computer science department, narrated his own public PowerPoint presentation about the revolution using his smart phone on Monday — ironic and particularly appropriate considering the integral role cell phone and Internet technology played in the Egyptian civil uprising that resulted in the departure of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, his Cabinet, and the dissolution of the country’s parliament.

About 20 people turned out at UMaine’s Donald P. Corbett Building to see the 45-minute presentation, which started out by chronicling the order of succession of the country’s leaders, from King Farouk to Mubarak, as well as the historical and political issues that accompanied each leader, their rule and rise to power.

Farouk did not allow pictures of himself to be taken for undisclosed reasons.

The presentation was informative, educational and even amusing as Farouk mixed in political satire and humor, while also marveling at how information technology and social networking had such a definitive effect on the upheaval, which he traced back to the beating death of a protester named Khaleed Saeed while in police custody. The flash point, according to Farouk, was the “official” medical report listing Saeed’s death as caused by asphyxiation after he tried to ingest marijuana, despite autopsy photos clearly showing his badly beaten and horribly disfigured face, which Farouk passed around on an iPad.

Farouk chronicled the 18-day revolution by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, cell phone, text and public demonstrations, from police responding to peaceful protests with riot gear, then water cannons, then tear gas and rubber bullets, and finally to real ammunition.

The presentation included vibrant photos of demonstrations, clashes with police, humorous banners, posters and graffiti created by protesters in addition to many examples of editorial cartoons and political satire.

Perhaps the most intriguing information shared by Farouk was how information technology was shut down, piece by piece, as part of the Mubarak government’s effort to stifle communication and organization among protesters.

“First, they shut down SMS or made it so people had to know the exact phone numbers of others to call or text them instead of doing it by name,” Farouk recalled. “Then they shut down 3G and then cell service overall, and finally eventually the Internet.”

Rather than quell the unrest, these tactics only inflamed it until the demonstrations culminated in a massive march on the presidential palace, which was already under way when Mubarak announced his resignation.

Other striking nuggets from Farouk included:

• A belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is now just a shade of its former self.

• Protesters returned the day after the mass celebrations kicked off by Mubarak’s resignation to clean up at the sites of the protests.

• The Egyptian military had orders from Mubarak to “level” the massive downtown demonstrations and the people, but did not heed the order.

• Christians joined hands and circled around Muslims during their prayers — and vice versa — to protect them from police during solemn religious ceremonies.

Farouk, whose parents and sister live in Cairo, would not comment when asked whether any of his family members took part in the protests or demonstrations, but did offer his opinion on what this means for the rest of the Arab world in the Middle East:

“I’m betting on a domino effect,” he said. “I don’t know which country is next, but I don’t think it will end with Egypt.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/02/14/politics/egyptian-student-at-umaine-marvels-at-revolution/ printed on August 21, 2014