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.

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The Arab Spring in the Southland: Libya (Video)

five-day series of videos on the Multi-American and KPCC websites has been featuring the stories of immigrants from six Arab countries, all grappling with the political upheaval taking place in their native countries 8,000 miles away.

In two videos posted yesterday, Egyptian immigrants Mostafa Said, Tamer Kattan and Wedad Abdou shared their thoughts on the revolution there and its aftermath. On Monday we met Bechir Blagui, a Tunisian-born business and pro-democracy activist.

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The Arab Spring in the Southland: Egypt (Video)

A video posted earlier took a look at the revolution in Egypt through the eyes of two Egyptian Americans at Los Angeles' Habibi Cafe, manager Mostafa Said and a young patron, Tamer Kattan. Yesterday we met Bechir Blagui, a Tunisian-born businessman and activist.

The videos are part of a five-day series on the Multi-American and KPCC websites featuring the stories of immigrants from six Arab countries, all of them watching what has become known as the Arab Spring take place from 8,000 miles away.

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The Arab Spring in the Southland (Video)

It has been nearly six months since a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire in protest after a confrontation with police. His desperate act sparked a series of pro-democracy protests that have since engulfed the Middle East, driving masses into the streets and toppling governments.

Earlier this year, KPCC staff videographer Grant Slater began videotaping solidarity rallies held in Los Angeles by Middle Eastern immigrants in support of democratic reforms back home. This led him to a series of other stories, those of immigrants from six Arab countries watching these revolutions take place from 8,000 miles away. We’ll feature their stories this week in a five-day series, taking in the events of what has become known as the Arab Spring through their eyes.

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Quote of the moment: A local supporter of Iran's Green Movement

Photo by killerturnip/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An Iranian flag flown at a 2009 rally in Los Angeles

“We believe this: there is a democracy quake in the Middle East. People are looking to destroy the old model of politics."

- Hamid Shirazi, a Iranian American from Los Angeles area at a local solidarity protest


USC's Neon Tommy spoke with Shirazi and others during a pro-Green Movement rally on Sunday, one of several organized online to coincide with protests for democratic reforms in Iran. Thousands demonstrated today in the capital city of Tehran. In the wake of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's resignation last Friday, pro-democracy protests have spread throughout the Middle East, with protests also in Yemen and Bahrain today.

The massive Egyptian demonstrations were sparked by protests that last month led to the ouster of Tunisia's autocratic ruler, which in turn has prompted an exodus of migrants.

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