How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

As violence mounts back home, are Egyptian Americans losing hope?

Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC

Egyptian Coptic Christians pray during a service at St. Mary of Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church in Newhall, Calif., October 2011

At the beginning of this year, as the protests in Egypt that eventually led to the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak were heating up, there were many Coptic Christian Egyptians in Egypt and abroad who were apprehensive, less confident about what might happen in Mubarak's absence than the majority of those in the crowds rallying in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

As a religious minority in a majority-Muslim country, the Copts feared persecution. Now, eight months after Mubarak stepped down, anti-Copt violence has spread and is growing increasingly deadly. It took on new proportions last Sunday, during a protest by Copts in Cairo over the government's failure to investigate an attack on a church stemming by a permitting controversy.

Witnesses said military vehicles sped into the crowd, crushing protesters. Others were shot. Twenty-five people were killed and hundreds injured. The violence has cast a pall on the elation felt months ago by Egyptians at home and abroad. Egyptian immigrants in the United States, once glued to the television as they cheered what they hoped would be the end of the repression many fled, are becoming more accustomed lately to bad news from home.


'It kind of took me by surprise:' Egyptian American voices

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Patrons watched Al Jazeera updates from Egypt last night at the Nubia Cafe in Anaheim, February 10, 2011

Last night, in one of the crowded hookah lounges that dot an Anaheim neighborhood known as Little Arabia, I came across a table of Egyptian immigrants tensely watching Al Jazeera via satellite, a group of friends grumbling over a shared smoke and many cups of hibiscus tea.

They were angry and frustrated, having hoped for a resignation announcement from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak yesterday that turned, instead, into a declaration that he planned to stay in power. But not for long. This morning, those who had managed to sleep awoke to the news they had hoped for: Amid mounting protests, with hundreds of thousands crowding Cairo's Tahrir Square and unrest throughout Egypt, Mubarak finally resigned, ceding power to the military.

Since then, I've caught up with several of the same people I spoke with last night. Today is a new day, they said, and they are elated. For some, mixed in with the joy is a bit of fear of the unknown, magnified by distance as they watch the country they grew up in, and where many of their loved ones still live, begin the difficult transition toward what they hope will be genuine democracy.


American snapshot: Egyptian pride in Anaheim

Photo by Shirley Jahad/KPCC

Mohamad Said celebrates outside a bakery on Brookhurst Avenue in Anaheim, a stretch dubbed the "Gaza Strip" for its many businesses catering to Middle Eastern immigrants. February 11, 2011

Said, 28, told KPCC reporter Shirley Jahad this morning that his family was in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and that "the biggest flag of Egypt is in his heart."


'Yes we can and we did it:' Egypt supporters react on Facebook

Photo by Asim Bharwani/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Since news broke earlier this morning of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's resignation after 18 days of protests that have spread around the country, people have been posting comments on the many Facebook pages that have sprung up in support of the demonstrators.

Here are just a few:

From Support the Egyptian Revolution 2011:

D-Nitikka Hoyer: The people did it they stayed strong even when told to leave always stand on truth

From I Support the Egyptian People:

Aatish Shah: MUBARAK OUT, ARMY IN !! Chearzzz Hoodies (:

From Support the Egyptian People and Democracy in Egypt:
Mohamed Ahmed Abdallah: can't believe it ...congrats Egypt .. it's time to shine .. it's time for change's time for real democracy's your time now ....we finally made it !!! Husny mubarak down !!

Seseme Ali: thank you tunisia thank you khaled saeid thank you wael ghoneem and group than you aljazeera from the heart thank you honest people from the whole world thanks god!!!!!!


Young Egyptian Americans identify with crisis from afar

LA's Egyptians mobilized with protesters at home from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

KPCC interns Cecilia Gregoriades and Faun Kime went out last weekend and spoke with a couple of younger Egyptian Americans, including a young woman from a half-Egyptian family who still identified closely with anti-government protesters in Egypt. Like their parents, these young people are closely monitoring the crisis from here.

The unrest in Cairo and elsewhere is well into its third week, with tension escalating between the protesters calling for democratic reforms and the Egyptian military. There have also been clashes between anti-government protesters and those who support president Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of the United States who has ruled for 30 years and is considered a dictator by many. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 297 people are known to have died in the violence.