Astoria’s Arab Street

Lam Thuy Vo Jan 24, 2012

It’s been almost a year since Hosni Mubarak was ousted by his own people as part of an uprising that started with massive protests on Jan. 25. Since then, Egyptians have nervously watched their country’s first steps toward democracy — even those all the way in Astoria, Queens.

“To us, this was like a dream come true,” said Sherif Ahmed about Mubarak’s resignation last year.  But the shop owner in the borough’s “Little Egypt” isn’t satisfied with the aftermath.

Ahmed, 38, is particularly unhappy about the interim government, known as the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. This temporary junta has been leading the country with an iron fist, and he worries that its repressive rule has endangered recent parliamentary elections in Egypt.

“We are very disappointed,” he said. “After the revolution that inspired the world we had hoped for a better outcome.”

The neighborhood burst into jubilant celebrations when Mubarak resigned. But as the Feb. 11 anniversary approaches, this joy has subsided and turned into skepticism. Many residents of Little Egypt watch the political events in their country with mixed feelings.

Sixteen-year-old Randa Elgamal laments that the revolution has failed to resolve any serious economic issues, many of which led to the protests in Egypt. She still supports her people but wishes more had been done since the revolution to improve lives on the ground.

“Nothing is changing,” she said. “After everything that’s been going on we had hoped things would be better.”

Usama Shafik is still hoping that the change in leadership will pave the path for a better future in his country.  The 45-year-old electrician only relocated to New York from Egypt two years ago and will visit his home country “to see how things are” in the coming weeks.

“We won’t know for sure how things will be until after parliamentary elections have ended,” he said. “I hope it will be better because the president before wasn’t good.”

As for Ahmed, he still hasn’t given up hope. During last year’s protests he started organizing weekly meetings for the local community to discuss ongoing issues in their home country and hasn’t stopped since. He screens videos from an Egyptian group that is monitoring political progress in the country, hoping to keep up interest in the long and rocky road toward democracy.

“Just because I’m in the United States makes me no less of an Egyptian,” he said.

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