Egyptians in Lebanon are divided over the current political situation in Egypt after the eruption of anti-government protests in late January, but all of them are concerned about one issue—the safety of their homeland.
Egyptian workers who travelled to Lebanon to seek better living standards, mostly to work in gas stations, coffee shops, or small businesses, differ in their stance on the protests that demand the immediate departure of President Hosni Mubarak.
For Hamdi, who works in a gas station, the protests have made Egypt an unsafe place and the drastic changes that took place have destabilized the country.
“For the first time we see the army shooting at civilians and the president assigning his duties to a deputy,” he told Al Arabiya. “Since when has Egypt been like this? It is the safest of countries and is mentioned in the Holy Quran.”
Jalal, who sells vegetables, disagrees with Hamdi and argues that change is necessary, noting that the president has been ruling for a very long time.
“Thirty years are too much,” he told Al Arabiya. “We have always wanted change and not only now.”
To this his friend Ahmed replied that there is no point in demanding the immediate ouster of the president.
“It’s not worth it,” he told Al Arabiya. “The president is leaving anyway within six to seven months.”
Ahmed argued that the ongoing protests threaten to turn Egypt into another Iraq and agreed with many Egyptian officials as far as the involvement of foreign powers is concerned.
“There are many countries conspiring against Egypt.”
Hamada, who obtained a certificate in agricultural engineering yet works in a gas station, slammed Egyptian celebrities who pledge allegiance to the regime in public.
“Those actors and actresses do not feel for the people,” he told Al Arabiya. “They live in luxury and get five or six million pounds for each film while an average Egyptian earns 300 pounds per month.”
Like Hamada, Mohamed graduated from a technical institute and works as a laborer in Lebanon because he couldn’t find a job in Egypt. He also agrees with Hamada regarding the financial conditions of average Egyptians.
“My wife passed away and I couldn’t go back to Egypt to attend her funeral because I didn’t have money,” he told Al Arabiya. “I have a daughter in college and a son in high school and my financial situation is really bad.”
When asked about the political unrest in Egypt, Mohamed said he is in favor of change provided that it happens peacefully.
“I support peaceful demonstrations and peaceful transition of power,” he told Al Arabiya. “I am against sabotage because this ruins Egypt’s 7,000 year long history.”
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)