A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, September 16, 2011

The AUC Strike

Today's theme at Midan al-Tahrir in Cairo was supposed to be a demand to end the State of Emergency, which instead was extended and strengthened a week ago after last Friday's violence and the attack on the Israeli Embassy. By most accounts, the turnout has been disappointingly low, perhaps due to fears of a crackdown.

Much of the twitter chatter among Egypt's young revolutionaries has been focused instead on events which occurred yesterday at the American University in Cairo (AUC). For some time now, students have been protesting high fees, and university workers have been protesting low wages; for the last few days AUC has been on strike. Yesterday two events drew considerable attention: University President Lisa Anderson walked away from a meeting with students that apparently turned confrontational, and protestors lowered an American flag. This apparently happened at the old campus on Tahrir Square, where the administration is, rather than at the new campus in New Cairo.

As some of the protestors have noted, these two events have perhaps been blown out of proportion, making the protests sound more anti-American and less about treatment of workers than they actually are. Many Egyptians see AUC as an elite school, which it certainly is, as well as a symbol of the US, but that really isn't apparently the core of these  protests. The students aren't taking a political stand but supporting university workers.

I have a certain fondness for AUC, having both studied there and, on one stay in Egypt, lived across the street from it, and I have little direct knowledge of the present protests. But it is one more indication that, whatever the next few months may bring in Egypt, the country remains a cauldron of shifting forces and new empowerment, which will be a challenge to the SCAF or any elected leadership.

On the AUC strike:  The Guardian has a piece here; Al-Masry Al-Youm here; and Zeinobia blogs her own useful perspective here, with many pictures. Activist Hossam al-Hamalawy collects links here, and this video comes via his site:

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