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Egyptian Man Watches Anti-Government Protests From Springfield

Thousands of people across the country of Egypt took to the streets Tuesday, calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s government, claiming that it is corrupt and that the country’s poverty rates are unacceptable. One Springfield resident who’s originally from Egypt is keeping a close eye on the situation from afar. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.

Mahmoud Salem is the owner of Latino Market on St. Louis Street. That’s an international supermarket selling mostly Hispanic products, but also food from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Salem came to the United States in 1986 as a student. He says he loved the US, and decided to stay. He began by telling me how he learned of the demonstrations.

Salem: "I heard about the demonstrations in facebook and from the newspaper. That’s how it started, from facebook, basically.”

Moore: “What were your thoughts? What went through your mind when you heard about the demonstrations on facebook?”

Salem: “I think it’s something good. Something needs to be changed in Egypt, really. Our president has been in power for 30 years. And I think it’s time to change a lot of things. Our country is a wonderful country, [but] we have a lot of people who are really poor. I know Egypt has too much money—oil, a lot of tourists go there, the Suez Canal. So, I don’t know, for some reason, the government doesn’t take care, or they don’t help the people there.

Moore: “Do you still have relatives back in Egypt?”

Salem: “I still have family there…my mom, my sister, my brother.”

Moore: “Have you been in touch with them?”

Salem: “Yes, I did. I called them today. And they said they have some demonstrations there in the town where they are in Cairo, but they said everything seems to be quiet and under control.”

Moore: “When I read about people demonstrating, and about the police fighting back, I got chills because I know what a risk it is to speak out against the government there. Can you speak about what people are risking when they stand up to Hosni Mubarak’s government?”

Salem: “Well, they risk their lives, they risk a lot of things. They can be in jail. But for the good of the Egyptian people, if I were there, I would demonstrate also. I don’t care what the police are going to do [to] us. But I have to show [them], I have to stand up, and I have to say, ‘It’s enough.’ We need to change. It’s time to change. We have democracy in Egypt, but I guess it is just a fake democracy. Our president has been in power for 30 years. Every six years they do an election, and he almost wins by 100 percent. This is not a democracy.”

That was Mahmoud Salem, owner of the international foodstore “Latino Market” in Springfield, talking about the anti-government demonstrations in his native country of Egypt. He says he hopes to see a new government that takes better care of the nation’s poor.

According to the Associated Press, at least two protesters and one policeman have been killed in the demonstrations so far in the cities of Suez and Cairo. The AP reports that the call for Tuesday’s rallies spread on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 people vowing to attend.For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.

The Egyptian flag is one of many displayed in Mahmoud Salem's store, Mahmoud Salem, originally from Egypt, is keeping a close eye on the demonstrations in Egypt. (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore) Fava beans, known in Egypt as Icons and statuettes from Salem's native country of Egypt are displayed in his store, Cans of soda bearing Arabic script are displayed in Salem's store. (Photo credit: Jennifer Moore)