What the heck is happening in Egypt?

Thousands gather outside the presidential palace in Cairo on July 2nd demanding the removal of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. (Photo by <a href="http://www.keithlanephotography.com/">Keith Lane</a>)

For a young Egyptian-American in Seattle, understanding developments in Egypt means a lot more than just tuning in to cable news.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post ever since June 30th.

There have already been hundreds of articles and pages of analysis written about Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, the installment of an interim government, the Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to their overthrow by the military, and the subsequent clashes on the streets around Egypt.

These days my life consists of frantically checking my twitter feed for updates on the fast-developing situation, texting friends to analyze the news, watching Arabic news channels, and talking to the Egyptian-American community around me.

Let me be clear. Although I was raised in the states and I am a proud U.S. Citizen, I also consider myself a very proud Egyptian. This is an identity that I chose. Although I don’t have an Egyptian passport and am not able to vote in any of its upcoming elections, I care deeply about what is happening.

I am not here to debate whether what’s happened over the last month is Egypt is a coup or a revolution. (But for the record, 33 million Egyptians took to the streets and 22 million signed a petition calling for change. Just because the implementation process is not one the U.S. is used to does not make it illegitimate.)

I am not here to praise the Egyptian army or demonize the Muslim Brotherhood.

I am just here to share the feelings of an Egyptian-American, who has to watch these events unfold from thousands of miles away.

Egyptians both living in the country and abroad are hungry for change. They want equality, social justice and freedom. They want to anticipate a better tomorrow for them and their children. People need a motive to anchor themselves to in order to go on living though their harsh circumstances.

Crowds gather outside the Presidential Palace on June 30th, a national day of protest, to demand that the president step down. (Photo by <a href="http://www.keithlanephotography.com/">Keith Lane</a>)
Crowds gather outside the Presidential Palace on June 30th, a national day of protest, to demand that the president step down. (Photo by Keith Lane)

Over the past two years, people in Egypt have been pushed to the brink because they started to lose that motive.

Many felt disfranchised by the Morsi government and fed up from the violations he committed. In November 2012 he issued a constitutional decree that gave him sweeping powers and placed him beyond judicial oversight. Prominent critics were targeted for speaking out against the government. Minorities were marginalized and subject to harassment.

Over the past year, the congregation at the Coptic Christian Church that I attend in Lynnwood has nearly doubled from 250 to 450 families. Most of the new members fled Egypt because they felt unsafe and persecuted.

Until recently one of those families lived a prosperous life in Cairo. The father owned a business. They left everything behind and came on a tourist visa and then applied for religious asylum once they landed in the United States because they felt their lives were at stake.

Now, following Morsi’s ouster, they are rethinking their decision and wondering if they should go back to resume their former life.

Are things perfect back in Egypt now? Far from it.

Conflicting reports keep coming in, and biased coverage from American news channels like CNN is not helping matters.

Egypt is on an uncharted course and on any given day there are reports of clashes and casualties involving people for and against the Muslim Brotherhood. The interim government is trying to reach consensus with the different factions. People still mistrust the military and are questioning their motives (for instance, urging by the army chief for a mass protest against terrorism this week). Minorities are still being persecuted and blamed. And there is a rising of hate towards people sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt feels more polarized than ever. And for that reason, it is more important to me than ever to be in touch with what is happening.

Egyptian politics explained by a 12-year-old genius.

So, you might ask, how does someone like me living on the other side of the world attempt to understand what is happening in Egypt?

Being part of the large Egyptian community in Seattle certainly helps. But Twitter has also been a great tool to keep me in the loop, so to speak.

I’ve met some great friends there. We laughed and cringed as Morsi said “legitimacy” 57 times in his last speech. We share the latest links for Dr. Bassem Youssef (the Jon Stewart of Egypt).We grieve together through clashes, as we see unnecessary bloodshed occur (the most recent was Monday, when 9 people died and 56 were wounded). We lament the indecisiveness of the Obama Administration in taking a stance and responding to the events. We cheer when people who know what they are talking about share their insights & school CNN about Egypt. We talk about who we wish the Egyptian President was.

Most importantly, on Twitter, people are not afraid to challenge opinions and discuss politics while drawing from their personal experience and feelings.

Although only a small percentage of Egyptians use Twitter, the users understand everyday Egyptians and many are there on the ground working hard to make the country a better place for all.

Is it always the best place to get objective news? No. It can be confusing and often a hostile ground. Is it the most realistic? For someone like me, yes. I rely on tweeps whose judgment I trust and their sources to help keep me informed.

So as we watch events unfold in Egypt, I invite you all to step away from reading inane articles by western analysts and pundits and join me and other Egyptian-Americans in conversation about Egypt.

Below is a list of tweeps that I encourage you all to follow. They all tweet in English and Arabic and represent a wide variety of views and perspectives:

@Sandmonkey; @RamyYaacoub; @DaliaEzzat; @Bassem_Sabry; @Mwhanna1@RanyaKhalifa; @RawahBadrawi; @Haheyller; @MonaElTahawy; @BasilDabh; @Zeinobia@Hany2m

Also the following are independent English news sites who crowd source articles from various resources:

@Egyptsource;@MadaMasr; @TahrirSquared

Maha Jahshan

Maha has worked extensively with various immigrant and refugee groups in the community, by providing organizing, counseling and tutoring opportunities. She is fluent in Arabic and her experience as a first generation immigrant helps her respect and commit to help in the fight for social, racial and economic justice. She currently is the Lead Organizer & Civic Engagement Coordinator for OneAmerica, Washington State's largest immigrant rights organization, where in addition to helping lead the civic engagement work, she develops and implements the vision for an innovative leadership youth program. She also serves as a women's commissioner in the City of Seattle. Maha's views are her own and don't necessarily represent OneAmerica or the City of Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @mahazja.
Maha Jahshan


  1. So, what is happening in Egypt? Nobody knows. The monster behind the “revolution” can’t been seen until it takes power. Democracy doesn’t work in Egypt or “they” don’t want it to work. There something more powerful than democracy in Egypt. What is it? It is not the Egyptian people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.