Fayette County

Lexington families have ties to Egypt

Framed by  Egyptian and American flags, Dr. Mostafa Amr sat in his Harrodsburg Road office on Tuesday. He was born in Egypt and still has many family members there.
Framed by Egyptian and American flags, Dr. Mostafa Amr sat in his Harrodsburg Road office on Tuesday. He was born in Egypt and still has many family members there.

His worst fears were for what would happen Tuesday.

But Egyptian-born Lexington doctor Mostafa Amr, as he had for a week, watched CNN throughout the night, relieved at last by what he was seeing.

"We have ownership now in our own country," he said, "and without new violence."

Amr, who says he left his country for the first time in 1983 because he could not stand the corruption and the suffering and the slow death of the dignity of Egypt, has called back home every day to his parents, four sisters and a brother who still live in or near Cairo. Amr has wanted to be there — to be on the streets, in the midst of the thousands, since the protests began to gather strength a week ago. Even if it had meant he was in danger.

"I know more people will be dead," he had said Monday night, fearing the worst. "It is important that someone should sacrifice. We have to pay a price, so that 84 million will live."

Khaled Ghoneim, an IT consultant in Lexington, could tell as early as 18 months ago "things were going downhill fast," even in Egypt where the economic and social fabric of the nation had been tested for so long, he said. Panicked, he admitted, and unable to sleep for the first four days of the conflict, he was heartened when his friends told him Friday that "every neighborhood was mobilizing a task force to defend itself."

President Mubarak had told the police forces to stay home, he said, to make the populace dependent upon the president for security.

"But no one expected the people to bind together to protect their families and properties and businesses like they have. It makes me proud."

Stacy Closson, a distinguished visiting lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy, is married to Sabry Hanna, 32, a petroleum geologist, Egyptian and Coptic Christian. Closson says her husband is excited about the future.

Consider that Hanna spent his entire life under a regime "where the quality of life was so dire, in any future sense," says Closson, "that if you were not a part of the Mubarak clan — and he wasn't — your chance of living a decent life was slim."

Closson and Hanna learned Tuesday morning Hanna's whole family, including four working-age men, has gathered in a small village near the Nile Delta. A family of traders, they probably have a better chance of obtaining food in the coming weeks during whatever transition period that follows.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, has been in touch with his brothers every two or three hours, via cellphone, since the networks were restored Saturday.

Ibrahim, 27, and Ghoneim, 38, have watched any coverage they could find on TV or the Internet. Ghoneim said it was instructive to watch the tear-gassing of a crowd on live TV from Al Jazeera and CNN, then watch as state-owned Egyptian television explained how things were going fine at the same demonstration.

Each of the local transplants spoke at length of their long-held belief that, as Amr, 44, said, "it is long past time for this."

"This," the nephrologist said, "is Egypt, after all. We were a richer country 50 years ago. We had writers and scientists. Things disappeared under Mubarak's regime. There has not been a poet that has come out of Egypt since 1952. They disappeared with a loss of our freedoms."

Ibrahim says this moment is one that Egyptians finally believe in.

"It is not a minor change."

What he wants is so much more than minor.

"I want for my country to be a real democratic country. I want it to have a better education system, medical treatment and economic standard. I wish that everyone, including myself, be able to implement our dream projects successfully without making every easy process get complicated for no reason, to have a better future for the next generations."