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Last updateWed, 18 Sep 2019 12pm

Politics

Revolution in Egypt Up Close: A GUC Presentation

An event that encompassed both imperative world problems and promoting global understand­ing was the presentation titled, “Studying Abroad in a Revolu­tion: My Experience in Cairo from 2010-2012,” where Geoffrey Cloepfil enlightened the audience on his first-hand account of the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo, Egypt. This presentation took place on Tuesday April 9 at 7:25 in Turrell Boardroom.

Cloepfil is now a graduate stu­dent studying Public Policy at the University. He had previously at­tended the University of Califor­nia in Santa Barbara, where he studied Arabic. The combination of studying Arabic and the study abroad opportunities, the allure of Cairo, Egypt was a “no brainer” for Cleopfil.

Originally, the study abroad program that Cleopfil was partici­pating in was scheduled for a year. However, six months into the pro­gram, the revolution started.

Cleopfil stated, “January 25, 2011 is a date I will never forget.” He had previously been traveling for the winter break holiday, when the revolution started. Ironically, he was “in the air” when the up­rising took place. The Cairo Air­port was shut down and he was literally stuck. During this confu­sion, everyone believed he was a reporter because he was the only “white guy” in Cairo.

Cleopfil distinctly remembered when he was finally told about the revolution. He simply stated, “Nobody expected this. Nobody. It just caught everyone by sur­prise.”

Before continuing the presenta­tion, Cleopfil declared, “I really want to express that what you saw on the news, like BBC and Al­jazeera, Cairo was not a war zone. We were like normal study abroad students.”

Cleopfil elaborately explained that the revolution was isolated in Tahrir Square, and if he left that area, people led normal lives.

The presentation was filled with first-hand account pictures. One picture looked like a parking lot, when in reality it was a highway. Everyone had gotten out of their cars to watch the revolution take place.

Another picture was shown that depicted the government build­ing covered in smoke after being bombed. Even with the revolu­tion clearly going on around him, Cleopfil never felt nervous or scared. Instead, this event turned into a once in a lifetime experi­ence. Phones, Internet, and text messaging were all turned off during the revoltution.

While experiencing the revo­lution, Cleopfil said, “I have never seen that many people in one spot.” That simple statement made it clear how many people were revolting in Tahrir Square.

During the revolution, Cleopfil observed strange behavior be­tween the people and the mili­tary. The people and the military were working together to over­throw Mubarak. He witnessed the people chanting in the streets, “The people and the army are one hand.” He described that tanks were everywhere. The people were supporting the military by giving them water and gifts.

Cleopfil was not used to a mili­tary presence.

“More soldiers, more tanks. One of the craziest things is see­ing children next to tanks; I can­not even describe it. It is just something that you do not get used to,” said Cleopfil.

The streets were filled with people revolting against the gov­ernment and Cleopfil enjoyed ev­ery moment of this experience. Regretfully, the school he was studying at shut down because of the revolution and Cleopfil was forced to evacuate the country.

The airport was chaos; every foreigner in Egypt was trying to escape. After only waiting two hours, a fighter jet took all the study abroad students to their respected homes according to Cleopfil. He stressed his love for Egypt and his willingness to re­turn. Through the study abroad program, he went back to Cairo exactly a year later.

This time was a completely dif­ferent experience. Instead of wit­nessing bombs, smoke, and army tanks, Tahrir Square was a huge party. Everyone was celebrating the first anniversary of the revo­lution, a year without Mubarak. The presentation had photos of people waving flags and selling clothing that stated, “I was there.” Now, the people were terrified of the military, but still ecstatic that Mubarak was gone, according to Cleopfil.

He described that the mood completely changed after the Port Said Soccer Riot. At this event, a riot broke out and 30 people died in the soccer dome. The people believed that the new leader, Scaf, was responsible for this massa­cre by releasing criminals into the crowd to wreak havoc, block the doors, and turn off the power. Tahrir Square was no longer a place of celebration, but violence.

Cleopfil said, “Out of all the time I was in Cairo, this is when I was scared.” The Egyptians be­lieved that all western foreigners were Israeli spies, and so they be­lieved he was a spy.

Tahrir Square was no longer safe when the fighting began, tear gas appeared and ambulances were all over. Scared for his life, Cleopfil and his friends escaped to a nearby café.

In the café, he watched the event he had just fled from on the news. Cleopfil concluded his presentation by stating “It was the most surreal feeling, being involved in it and then the next moment watching it on the big screen.”

Adit Patel, a junior chemistry major, said, “The overall presen­tation was funny and interesting. I was quite surprised with the lack of trials and tribulations Geoff had gone through with a coun­try’s revolution going on around him. Overall, the presentation was amazing.”

Kyle Hasslinger, political sci­ence major, said, “I thought the presentation, overall, was re­ally interesting. It really grabbed my attention, hearing the inside scoop on the revolution. Geoff showed the Egyptian people’s re­actions, whether outraged or sat­isfied, during the string of events that composed the revolution.”

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