Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Egypt the Revolution" Conference

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

"Egypt the Revolution" Conference

Article excerpt

Some 200 Egyptian Americans gathered at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, VA Oct. 21 to 23 to attend a conference on "Egypt the Revolution." The conference provided a forum for the Egyptian-American community to interact, exchange ideas, and develop action plans on how they can help support Egypt as it emerges from decades of authoritarian rule.

Throughout the weekend, a variety of panels discussed topics ranging from the future of U.S.-Egypt relations to the role Egyptian Americans can play in supporting Egypt economically and politically. Conference attendees and panelists alike were deeply engaged and highly passionate, resulting in at times highly emotional exchanges. The future of Christian-Muslim relations, the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt's economic development, and the voting rights of Egyptian Americans were among the issues of most concern.

Those who flew in from Egypt to attend the conference included youth activists Ahmed Maher, Waleed Rashed, Asmaa Mahfouz and Esraa Abdel Fattah, founders of the April 6 Youth Movement that helped organize the Jan. 25 Tahrir Square protests. Also in attendance was Zahraa Kassem Said, sister of the late Khaled Said, a young man whose death at the hands of Egypt's secret police in 2010 inspired a popular online movement (see November 2010 Washington Report, p. 38). Independent presidential candidates Medhat Khafagy and Bothaina Kamel were conference panelists, while Mohamed ElBaradei spoke via a recorded video.

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) addressed the conference Friday night, but declined to deliver a prepared speech, saying he instead preferred to listen to those attending the conference, whom he described as "people who speak from the mind and the heart."

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), noted that, according to his polling results, Arabs currently see Turkey as the region's leader, but want Egypt to assume that role. "Turkey leads, but is a surrogate for Egypt, who they [Arabs] want to lead," Zogby explained. Zogby concluded by stressing the importance of Egyptian Americans supporting Egypt economically. "Egypt needs your investment, your ingenuity," he emphasized.

Many conference speakers emphasized the importance of a unified Egyptian-American voice. Akram Elzend, a member of the Egyptian-American Cultural Association, pointed out that Egyptian Americans send about $2 billion a year to Egypt-more than the $1.3 billion the U.S. government sends to Egypt's military on an annual basis as a reward for Cairo's peace treaty with Israel. Thus, Elzend maintained, if Egyptian Americans begin to act collectively, they could have significant weight in Egypt's politics and economy. …

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