Our February 13th meeting provided that rare opportunity to SECWAC members and guests to hear first-hand what it is like to stand up to a dictator and try to change your country from within. Esam Boraey was one of the early leaders of the Arab Spring in Egypt, protesting the Mubarak regime outside the Supreme Court building in Cairo. For that, he and his young (high school/college age!) friends were arrested by the police and subjected to beatings and torture behind closed doors at what the police euphemistically – and cynically – called “The Party”. Eventually, 30 million Egyptians joined the movement. Esam told us of a particularly tragic day in the subsequent push for liberty: on January 28, 2011, he was with 100,000 people who were marching on Tahrir Square when they were attacked on a bridge by the police and military. Among the 1,500 people killed that day was one of his close friends.
Esam continued to fight for free elections, which resulted in his being arrested and sentenced to 2 years in prison for “accepting funding from a foreign power”; essentially, they accused him of being a CIA agent. Esam had no choice but to flee his native country. He arrived in the US via Europe and has now settled in Connecticut, and will soon become a US citizen. He has also married, is engaged in graduate work at the University of Connecticut, and is involved in local politics. The presentation ended with a lively Q&A during which we learned even more about Esam’s experiences in Egypt and as an immigrant to the US.
Strikingly, one of his last comments to the audience was to never assume that you can not do something to help those overseas who are less fortunate than us. He exhorted us to reach out to our elected representatives whenever the opportunity arises to affect US foreign policy in support of the politically oppressed. And, I would add, that by attending SECWAC meetings, we all learn a little more about the world and people’s efforts to be free.
In March we will have 2 SECWAC meetings: a Lunch Meeting on March 20th at the Old Lyme Country Club when SECWAC member Nina Garret will lead a discussion on “Minority Languages in World Affairs”, and a regular monthly meeting on March 26th at Connecticut College, when Dean Accardi, an expert on South Asian politics and society at Connecticut College, will speak on “India, Pakistan and the War over Kashmir”.
Executive Director & Program Committee Chair
The mission of the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council (SECWAC) is to foster an understanding of issues of foreign policy and international affairs by study, debate, and educational programming, primarily through a Speakers Series of 8 to 10 monthly meetings.