Americans in Cairo fear fallout of VP's message

Andrew Simon

February 3, 2011 7:23:52 PM PST
Egypt's new vice president, Omar Suleiman, blames foreigners for the unrest in Egypt. The fallout from his message is being felt in the streets, and some Americans in Cairo fear a growing resentment of foreigners.

"They ripped open my suitcases, they took my passport, passed it around," said Andrew Simon who spoke with ABC7 via Skype when describing how he had been repeatedly rousted at civilian-manned checkpoints near Tahrir Square. "[They] threw things on the ground, went through all of my belongings."

Simon, who is waiting to hear if he well get into graduate school at UC Berkeley next fall, says he wasn't even heading into Tahrir Square, he was just trying to get into his apartment. He said in the square the battle for Cairo continues, with pro-democracy demonstrators clashing again with those who want President Hosni Mubarak to stay.

At the last of three checkpoints, Simon was assaulted.

"A man came up to me after I was pulled out of the car, with a knife, as if he was going to attack me," said Simon. "[He] had to be restrained. Everyone's just screaming."

The anthropology student told ABC7 he could not believe how much things had changed in just 24 hours.

"This is a coordinated policy. These are not haphazard. We have heard many repeated stories about foreigners being targeted," said Professor Khaled Fahmy, chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo.

On sabbatical from NYU, Fahmy has spent the past week in Tahrir Square. Thursday his sister took food and bandages to the wounded. Fahmy stayed home to tune into Suleiman's speech.

"He said that there is a conspiracy, but this time the conspiracy is being hatched by foreign agents," said Fahmy. "He did not name them."

Fahmy says the government is fanning reports that Wednesday's violence was the result of foreigners. No surprise that foreigners, including reporters for ABC, CNN and NPR have all been roughed up. Suleiman promised a thorough investigation, but Fahmy fears it will not be.

"We do want an investigation, but we want a thorough, transparent and open investigation that will not cover up what I saw with my own eyes," said Fahmy.

Fahmy says he saw for himself in Tahrir Square that some of the pro-Mubarak demonstrators were identified as members of the government's security police.

Another mass demonstration is planned for Friday in Tahrir Square. Fahmy says he will be there. Simon says he will not, and that both sides are calling it a jihad.