UVM Student surrounded by revolution

Senior William Roman wanted to go to Egypt after he discovered his passion for Arabic in high school, but when he left to spend a semester there, he had no idea he would witness history in the making. Roman evacuated Alexandria, Egypt on Jan. 30, with his study abroad program after bullets were shot outside his apartment building, he said. “At 2 o’clock in the morning, we were woken up by shotgun blasts right outside our window,” Roman said. “We went to the balcony to look out, and saw guys crowded around to one side of the street. They were 50 yards away and shooting shotguns in the air to scare away the looters.” Before Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president on Feb. 11 after 30 years of leadership, the Egyptian people spent 18 days protesting and demanding an end to Mubarak’s rule, according to The New York Times. On Jan. 28, now known as the Day of Rage, protests took place throughout Cairo and Alexandria. Though Roman did not witness the protests, he said Alexandria’s streets were filled with taxis and minis buses transporting people to the protests. He and his friends didn’t think anything would come of the Egyptian people’s actions, Roman said. “We still felt comfortable enough to go out and try and take pictures and things,” he said. The people participating in the protests were targeting the security forces by burning government vehicles and government buildings, Roman said. “The police forces aren’t like they are here,” he said. “They’re a tool of the government for oppression and torture.” The military entered the city Friday night because things had gotten so bad. The protesters welcomed them as they entered in tanks, Roman said. Director of Middle East Studies Program Bagac Ergene said that these types of uprisings do not happen often in the Middle East. “It’s interesting because Egyptians are very subservient and don’t usually demand rights,” Ergene said in UVM Communications Egypt Uprising. “But now they’re making demands and want a complete creation of a new democratic government.” Roman said that Friday’s crowded streets were nothing compared to events that took place on Saturday, when things really got out of control. “That night a lot of criminals escaped or were let free, depending on which story you listen too,” he said. “Massive gangs of escaped criminals were going around the major cities.” The curfew was 4 p.m., but the Egyptian people didn’t pay attention to it. Men built barricades on both sides of the street to block anyone trying to get through, Roman said. “We could hear gunshots on two different sides of our building,” he said. “They were relatively far away but close enough that we could hear them and distinguish them as riffle fire.” Roman said he watched from his apartment balcony as men on the streets below him were arming themselves with anything they could find including knives and pieces of wood. “They were running toward the gun shots with nothing but sticks in their hands,” he said. “It was incredible.” The stairs inside Roman’s apartment, the only exit, were barricaded to keep out the looters, he said. Even after all of the violence he witnessed, Roman said that was moved by the sense of community that he saw between the Egyptian people. “The entire community just came together to protect themselves and protect each other,” he said. “Egyptians have such a strong sense of community and duty. It was so inspiring to watch.” Roman said that one of the most unforgettable events was when a group of college-aged men got together to direct traffic because there were no policemen there to do it. “They were able to organize this with out the use of cell phones and Internet, which were cut off on Friday,” he said. After all the events he saw while he was abroad, Roman said that he would go back right now, even with all changes that are going on in Egypt. “We were there for less than two weeks and we had fallen in love with the Egyptian people,” he said.