Egyptian pro-democracy activist Wael Nawara visited the University of Southern Maine Friday to share his experience with the uprising against former President Mubarak’s 30 year regime to raise awareness about the effects of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
Nawara, who was one of the featured protesters in Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year: Protester” issue last year, spoke to an audience on the seventh floor of the Glickman Family Library. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Harvard University Institute of Politics, where he studies the future of Egyptian democracy.
In his lecture, Nawara detailed his past political involvement leading to the Arab Spring protests, which ignited first in Tunisia in January 2011 and soon spred across North Africa and the Arab world, toppling autocrats in some countries and sparking armed conflict in others like Syria, where the bloodshed continues.
“Many years ago, I started to have this feeling that I had to do something. The feeling grew and grew until one day, it became impossible to supress,” Nawara said. “I just felt compelled to start this journey, rejecting injustice and oppression.”
The event was organized in part by Rezza Jalali, the coordinator of multicultural student affairs at USM. “We need to train our students at USM to become global citizens, so we really need to help them broaden their history, learn more about the world they live in,” said Jalali, who helped organize the event with Mikhaila Fogel, a freshmen political science major at Harvard University who grew up in Portland. “Our hope is that some of them would go outside of this country to work — to do some amazing work.”
Nawara helped form the El-Ghad Party in 2003 with Ayman Nour, an Egyptian politician who ran against former President Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election and was subsequently imprisoned for four years on forgery charges.
After the party’s newspaper was shut down in 2007, Nawara said he and others took their cause to Facebook, where they organized the April 6, 2008 general strike and the Arab Spring protests. Nawara said it was this massive organization through Facebook that helped Egypt overcome Mubarak’s regime.
After Nawara’s lecture, the activist fielded questions from the audience, including USM President Selma Botman, who opened the night’s presentation. The questions covered a wide spectrum of topics from the political direction of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the political disparity between American political groups like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
Despite Mubarak’s resignation, Nawara said the people had to concede to the army’s rule in exchange for peace and stability — an arrangement that will end this June when the power transition’s to Egyptian citizens. Nawara said though Egypt’s transformation is far from over, Egyptians can be proud of one major outcome.
“In this revolution, Egyptians discovered themselves. They realized their own political power, and that is the greatest achievement of the revolution,” Nawara said. “That is the absolute guarantee: that revolution will prevail.”