Egyptian Fulbright Scholar Watches Homeland From Marlboro

02/12/11 9:34AM By Susan Keese
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(Host) The youth-led protests in Egypt are a moment of truth that Ayman Yacoub has waited all his life to see.

But as luck would have it, the 24-year-old Egyptian graduate student isn't IN his native Cairo. He says he's done his part by e-mailing his friends and encouraged them to stand fast. 

VPR's Susan Keese caught up with him at Marlboro College, where he's teaching Arabic on a one-year Fulbright Fellowship.

(Keese) Ayman Yacoub arrived in Vermont last August, and has kept a busy schedule since. He's teaching Arabic and taking classes toward his own advanced degree in education and linguistics.

Since the demonstrations started in Tahrir Square he's been even busier, rushing from his classes to check his computer for the latest news of his homeland.

He clicks on a You Tube video of downtown Cairo that was recorded before President Hosni Mubarak resigned.

(Yacoub) "So those are people in the Liberation Square and they're singing. They're just sitting in the square ‘til the government quits."

(Keese) People are singing, reciting poetry, writing articles, he says. He asks, "Isn't it beautiful to see such a peaceful demonstration?"

(Yacoub) "If I am in Egypt I'd be out there in the streets with my friends and all the Egyptian people demonstrating against the government."

(Keese) Yacoub says he's one of many Egyptian students seeking opportunities abroad because there are none at home.

Before events turned the world's eyes on Egypt, Yacoub struggled to explain to his students why Egyptian youth were so unhappy.

He says Egypt should be a rich country. But its people are poor.

(Yacoub)"We have oil. We have gold. We have agriculture. We have industry...  all the resources that any country in the world would dream to have to be an advanced country. ... So why this is going on?"

(Keese) Yacoub blames the Mubarak government for not developing Egypt's resources for the people's benefit.

He says the wealth is hoarded by elite businessmen who also work for the government.

He says a life without intellectual freedom and the ability to choose your leaders is a life without honor.

(Yacoub) "Before this revolution , people in Egypt were not even able to whisper about the corruption.... So it's really time to change"

(Keese) That change began with Mubarak's resignation.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese

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