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Egyptian ACC Professor Watching Unrest With Concern And Hope

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Image courtesy Al Jazeera English http://www.flickr.com/photos/aljazeeraenglish/
Protestors on the streets of Cairo

Egyptian cities are bracing for major protests Tuesday as revolutionaries demand the ouster of that country's longstanding military dictatorship.  KUT News has been speaking with Egyptians in Austin since the turmoil began. Today, we spoke by telephone with Austin Community College professor Roy Casagranda. He grew up in Egypt and still has family in Cairo.

KUT News: What's going through your head as you watch the latest developments unfold?

Roy Casagranda: I'm amazed at the fact there's this mass popular uprising in the face of this 40 year long police state apparatus.  It's something that I don't think many people could have possibly predicted. If anybody had, they would have been called crazy or too far out there. That's because per capita, Egypt had one of the highest police to citizen ratios. The regime did not allow free exchange of information. Press was censored. Political parties were controlled or outlawed. One person ran for president last election. He got about 20 percent of the vote and was briefly jailed for punishment.

The Egyptian people seemed intimidated, threatened by this regime. Almost overnight, the Egyptian people have indicated that they are not in the least frightened or intimidated. It looks like they have the will to sustain these riots until the regime collapses. We're in Day 7, and predictions are that tomorrow is going to be the biggest day so far.

KUT News: How is your family doing?

Casagranda: Most of my family is essentially small business owners. I also have some that are big business owners. They've basically been shut down because you don't dare open your stores. There's no security apparatus. After Day 4, the Egyptian government withdrew its police force, so basically Egypt's been running three days without police.

There has been an attempt to deploy the military. There has also been an attempt on the part of average, everyday citizens to create community guard organizations.

One of the amazing things about Egypt is that as a consequence of being a police state, you always have a sense of being safe. That, all of the sudden, is gone because police became the targets of the protestors. Everybody has been shut up in their homes and hiding out for the last seven days.

Some of my younger relatives, I wouldn't be surprised if they're out doing the demonstrating. I don't actually know because the Egyptian government messed with the internet on Thursday and Friday.

I just talked to one of my cousins yesterday, and Egyptians are in the habit of not saying very much over the phone, because you don't know to what extent the government is listening. I would ask her indirect questions, and she would give me indirect answers. The problem is, that relies on me interpreting the answer and her having interpreted the question correctly.

As far as I can tell, everything on my family's end has been relatively peaceful. But I do know that I had a couple of cousins who were chomping at the bit to get into the demonstrations. One of them is a senior in college. And I mean, this is a dream. This is a dream of Egyptians to depose this dictatorship and then create a democratic state in the aftermath.