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Egyptian UNF family celebrates president’s departure, has high hopes for future

A UNF computer science professor and his family are keeping a watchful eye on the historical events unfolding in Egypt.

Sherif Elfayoumy moved from Egypt to the United States with his wife and brother 13 years ago for improved education and research opportunities. They came to Jacksonville in 2000, where Elfayoumy teaches and his wife, Doaa Gamal is a communication undergraduate student. She is a. With all the recent developments in their home country, the family has been glued to its television.

Elfayoumy’s parents, who live near Cairo, were scared when the protests asking for Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to step down started Jan. 25.

“When I called them, my mom was sobbing,” Elfayoumy said.

However, since Mubarak shut off the Internet in Egypt, it was very difficult for family members outside of Egypt to contact their loved ones.

The landlines were very slow because of the high demand, Elfayoumy said. When he was able to reach his parents, he was grateful to find them safe, but he remained concerned. The police had abandoned their posts, and youth groups from around their neighborhood had to step up to protect the people.

Throughout this ordeal, both Elfayoumy and his family in Egypt hoped Mubarak would succumb to the protesters and step down from the presidency. The people want freedom, Elfayoumy said, and getting rid of Mubarak is the first step toward that freedom.

The Situation in Egypt

The protests began Jan. 25 in Cairo, when as many as 20,000 protesters spilled onto the streets to demonstrate against the president’s suffocating rule, according to CNN. The number of protesters climbed steadily as the days went by, with more than a million hitting the streets Jan. 28, Elfayoumy said, when police brutality against the protesters reached its peak in numerous Egyptian cities. The police withdrew from their posts, including prisons, after their defeat at the protesters’ hands, Elfayoumy said.

After curfews and a brief Internet communication ban failed to stop the masses, Mubarak said he would hand over some powers Feb. 10 to his newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, but he would stay in office. When protests among the several million demonstrators intensified the next day, Suleiman announced Mubarak would leave office and flee Cairo, according to CNN.

The country erupted in celebration at this announcement, which protesters had sought for 17 days. However, the situation is not resolved. The widely trusted Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has taken control of the country after Mubarak’s departure, and it plans to guide the country to its next elections peacefully, but without an elected leader, the country is left in limbo.

As of Feb. 13 they have dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and told Egyptians they would rule until September elections, according to CNN.

The View of a UNF family

Last year, Elfayoumy and his family spent a year in Egypt while he taught at American University in Cairo. The family felt almost like tourists in their home country because of all the changes that had taken place since their initial departure in 1997.

“Things had gone from bad to worse,” Elfayoumy said. “I can hardly even compare the Egypt I saw to the Egypt I knew.”

Corruption had become acceptable in Egypt. People were depending on bribes for a living, Elfayoumy said. Outside of Cairo, the youth did not believe they had any opportunity to advance.

Possibly the most damage was coming from the police force, which had become a huge institution, he said.

In Cairo, the Arab world’s most populous country, there were only 40 citizens for every policeman, Elfayoumy said.

Police brutality in part led to the protests that will potentially change the political landscape in Egypt forever.

“I truly believe it will improve,” Gamal said. “It’s good to finally have a former President,” she said. Mubarak had been in power for thirty years.

Elfayoumy said he could never go back to live in Egypt, and Gamal enjoys Jacksonville’s quiet roads.

“It’s so much easier to drive here,” she said.

Plus, the weather is basically the same.

While Elfayoumy said he holds some reservations for being unable to do more than just watch the revolution on television, he and his family have found a new home in Jacksonville.

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