AbuS and I, along with a dozen or so concerned Egyptian-Americans and people with ties to Egypt met with Congressman Keith Ellison last night for an hour and a half. Alhamdulilah, it went well. The congressman genuinely wanted our opinion and our view, and was concerned about how our loved ones in Egypt were doing.
And, our picture was in one of the local papers. Can you spot UmmS and AbuS?
AbuS gave the congressman a very good, brief history of recent uprisings in Egypt, including the 6 April movement from Mahalla, and asked Keith to look into the kidnapping of Wael Ghonim by the Egyptian government.
Unfortunately, I’m much better at communicating via written word than I am speaking. I didn’t quite say what I wanted to say, so I’ve written out what I meant, and inshaAllah I’ll be sending it to the congressman:
Although I am not Egyptian, I feel as though all of Egypt is my family. I am married to an Egyptian. My brother in law has been part of the civil patrols formed to protect families, neighborhoods and properties. My mother in law has not left her apartment since this all began. We can only hope and pray that she is well and will have enough food to last until it is safe.
My husband came to the United States from Egypt in 2005. When I first showed him political satire on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he asked with wonder, can you actually criticize your government here?
We were involved in the 2006 elections, and attended a rally for you Congressman, with Jessie Jackson and Al Franken. My husband was so excited at the prospect of actually being able to chose who would represent him, and to be able to participate in politics.
This is what the people of Egypt want, very simply. They want freedom. As an American, I have these rights and freedoms by mere accident of my birth, and I will admit that I have taken them for granted. But in this last week, as I watch the young people of Egypt march against an oppressive regime, asking simply that they be given basic human dignities like the right to chose their own government, the right to earn a living wage, and the right to have pride in their country, I have begun to understand just how precious the rights enshrined in our constitution are.
In 2010, a young man by the name of Khaled Said exercised a right we Americans take for granted – he questioned the corruption he saw in his government. He posted a video on youtube addressing police embezzling from the spoils of a drug raid. Shortly there after, he was beaten to death – in public – by police, who later dumped his destroyed body (you can see pictures of it here, although I warn you it is very graphic). The police denied any involvement in his death and no government investigation was ever made.
This is why the young people of Egypt are out in the street. They yearn for freedom, for justice, for human dignity. They do not want to be afraid of their government any longer. They want to get married, to be able to find work, to be able to support a family. Quite simply, they want to live, just as any person who was lucky enough to be born in the United States.
The US government needs to stand on the right side of history. Tahrir Square should not be another Tinnamen. The brave men, women and children who stood in the face of government sanctioned violence must be supported by the United States – a country that is founded on the principles of liberty that the people of Egypt are now dying for.
We need to admit that we made a mistake. For 30 years, we support a dictator. Through our support and foreign aid, we are complicit in the crimes against humanity committed by Mubarak and his regime. The time is now that we must make a change. The United States can no longer support petty dictators. Instead, if we truly are a country of freedom and liberty, we must live these principles in our foreign policy.
The President of the United States must listen to the people of Egypt who are chanting al sha’b, yurid, isqat al nizam! The people want the regime to fall. The people of Egypt are tired of the corruption that has mired their once great country. They want to have pride in Ummul-Dunya, the Mother of the World.
Mr. President, tear down this firewall, and be on the right side of history, the side of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.