The political future of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak may be unclear, but opinions of the man in Nashville’s Egyptian community are anything but.
“He has to go now,” said Zainab Elberry, who has lived in Nashville since 1969 and is considered an elder stateswoman for the city’s 6,000-plus Egyptian-Americans.
To a degree, the Mubarak crisis has been positive for local Egyptians who’ve rallied around a common cause. On Friday, a group demonstrated downtown in a show of solidarity with those in their homeland who want Mubarak to step down immediately.
“I have family in Egypt,” said Mohamed Salama, who organized the demonstration. “I called my brother and my mom, but the land lines were closed. Mubarak is controlling everything — Internet, phones, railways, buses.”
With loved ones on the other side of the planet and unrest at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the locals are doing their best to stay optimistic. Sherif Barsoum, director of International Student and Scholar Services at Vanderbilt University, said Nashville’s Egyptian-Americans are “worried and glued to the TV” monitoring the situation. Barsoum said that H.G. Bishop Youssef of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States — along with other Coptic Christian bishops in the U.S. — called for a three-day fast and prayer period.
“Many of my friends here are worried about their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers in Egypt and have been on the phone with them several times each day,” Barsoum said. “Many don’t even go to sleep.”
Elberry said the U.S. should assist in the efforts to bring democracy to Egypt.
“We have an opportunity to show the world that we mean what we preach,” she said. “We need to sincerely help Egypt with the application of our principles of democracy, self-dignity, freedom, economic equality and prosperity, as well as including presidential term limits in Egypt’s new Constitution.”
As of press time, Mubarak had said he would not run for another term but refused to step aside immediately. Still, Barsoum said the country’s foundation is solid.
“Egypt has survived for thousands of years,” he said. “I am sure it will survive this.”