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Egyptian students join local rally

When a rebellion against the Egyptian government erupted Jan. 25 in Cairo, similar protests began cropping up throughout the world – even in Bulls Country.

Tampa residents, representing a wide array of ethnicities and beliefs, held a rally Friday evening on the corner of Fowler Avenue and 56th Street that called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign. Among them were three USF students and cousins who came on behalf of their families in Egypt.

Sally Soltau, a senior majoring in business management, said her dad and sister came to Tampa last week during the clash between the Egyptian soldiers and anti-government protesters. Her mom had to stay behind in Alexandria.

“There was so much she had to take care of before she left, so they had to leave her behind,” she said. “It’s really sad. We have so many (pet) dogs there that we don’t know what to do. She plans on coming (this) week.”

Even though her mother was not able to come to Tampa, Soltau said she has remained in contact with her family who are remaining indoors, away from the violence.

“It’s always good to have everyone you know come together to speak up for what they believe in and to want justice for your country,” she said.

Egyptians began protesting Mubarak’s reign by flooding Tahrir Square in Cairo, demanding that he resign from his position before their presidential elections in September. Though the protests were initially peaceful, things turned violent Feb. 2, when Mubarak supporters began mixing with the protesters.

The protests and subsequent violence have subsided, according to the Washington Post. On Sunday, leading members of opposition groups agreed to meet with Mubarak’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, to discuss potential changes to the Egyptian government and a more gradual removal from office.

According to CBS, protesters are demanding his removal because of the high cost of living and failed economic principles of the country. About 40 percent of the 80 million people in Egypt live on $2 or less a day. Food inflation is about 17 percent per year, and unemployment was at 10 percent before the political riot, which initiated conflict between citizens and government.

When Suzanne Soltau, a freshman majoring in mass communications, first heard of the protests, she said she feared for citizens’ safety.

“(I wasn’t) sad or depressed. I was scared. I feared for the people over there,” she said. “It’s really sad and something should change and something should be different. I love them and support them.”

Reem Darwish, a senior majoring in psychology, also showed her support for the protesters. She said her dad is still in Cairo near where the protests originated last month.

“I think that (Mubarak) needs to step down. They’ve been protesting for a whole week,” she said. “They had to put up with him for 30 years, and they are not going to wait for September for him to step down.”

The idea of holding a similar rally in the Tampa area came from various community leaders and local mosques, said Ramzy Kilic, communications director for the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He said that while the rally itself was not partisan, most of the attendees sided with the anti-Mubarak protesters.

“You see the majority (of the protesters) are anti-government and for revolution and freedom and democracy and against the dictatorship,” he said. “I think they are history-making. It’s always wonderful being a part of a country that revolted. We had a revolution of our own for freedom and democracy, and we’re witnessing that in Egypt.”

Kilic said they do not know when they will hold their next protest.

“We want to show the world we do stand with Egypt,” Kilic said. “We are going to continue doing this until the demands of the protesters have been met … until the dictator is out of power.”