In March the Crossing Borders Building Bridges event series held a presentation on the crisis in Egypt, and the turnout was huge. Egypt is a highly visible topic in the media right now, and the guest speaker, Dr. Ayad Al-Qazzaz, is an Iraqi native that teaches Sociology at Sacramento State. Al-Qazzaz was very well-informed and knowledgeable in regards to the recent revolution in Egypt and the history of other nations in the Middle East.
He started the presentation with basic facts about Egypt, explaining that their population of 88 million is 90% Muslim and less than 10% Christian, but they have the largest Christian community in the Middle East. There is a 70% literacy rate and many of the citizens have degrees. These highly educated people are forced to settle for jobs (mostly created by tourism, agriculture, and industrialization) that pay only $1-$2 a day. The unemployment rate is 10% for complete unemployment and 30% total, if you factor in underemployment, or partial employment. Although ? of the world’s oil is produced in the Middle East, mostly for export, Egypt only produces about 700,000 barrels of oil a day, which is just enough for their local consumption. They do however, have the third largest reserve of natural gas in all of Africa.
According to Al-Qazzaz, many of Egypt’s military leaders were trained here in the United States, and the U.S. would have never been able to successfully accomplish the things that it has accomplished in Iraq if it hadn’t had been for the support of the Egyptian leaders, such as the 1991 bombing during The Gulf War and the invasion in 2003. In regards to the recent revolution he explains that the elements of uprising have existed there for a long time, due to their economics, politics, and social standards. “Once we exclude people from political processes we contribute to pushing them into becoming extremists.” He also states, “The Egyptians never acted, they just reacted.”
He claims that it was one of the most peaceful revolutions in history. It was leaderless, meaning there wasn’t one sole source holding all the strength or power. It was multi-religious, and according to Al-Qazzaz, there were no guns involved, no sexual crimes or attacks, minimal people were killed and injured, and there were different teams designated to clean up after the fact. Al-Qazzaz also explains that although this revolution could create powerful allies between Egypt and America, the United States needs to stop being so reliant upon Egypt. He feels that they will no longer go along with the wishes of Israel or America any longer. He stated that we need to be more sensitive to their local need and stop forcing them to do things that we believe they should do.
At the end of this “Pro-Egypt” presentation, he somewhat contradicts this sentence. He answers a question in regards to the growing population of Egypt by stating that some rules and regulations should be put into effect there to control the amount of children Egyptians can have, similar to the ones in China. Al-Qazzaz feels that if Egypt continues to populate their country, not only will there be too many people for the amount of jobs offered, but they will end up consuming so much more oil and naturals gasses.
It is my opinion that instead of focusing on ways to get Egypt to use less of their own resources so that there is more available to us, Americans should come together and focus on utilizing resources in our own country to become less dependent on other countries. Carpool, ride a bike, take the bus. Buy a hybrid. Don’t buy oil from gas stations that import oil from foreign countries. There are so many things that we could be doing but people need to gain knowledge and get motivated, and stop being so lazy and waiting on everyone else to solve our fuel dependency and economic problems.