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Egyptians in Sweden: Tunisia was the trigger

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Egyptians in Sweden: Tunisia was the trigger
Protests in Egypt on Friday
15:45 CET+01:00
Egyptians in Sweden plan to demonstrate in solidarity with protesters in their home country as Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt slammed Egyptian authorities for shutting down internet access.

Egyptians in Sweden are planning to gather in Sergels Torg in central Stockholm on Friday evening in support of the protesters taking to the streets back home.

“We put the word out via Facebook to Egyptians in Sweden. We've been communicating actively since the protests started in Egypt,” Kholoud Saad, and Egyptian living in Gävle in eastern Sweden, told The Local.

Saad has been living and working in Sweden since July of 2010, but has been following events in her home country carefully. She described the current protests as a “revolution”.

“It's Muslims, Christians, moderates, liberals…Egyptians of all kinds who are fighting for their freedoms,” she said.

“We're not going to stop until we established democratic reforms and get a government that represents the people and not their own agenda.”

The Friday night gathering in Stockholm was initiated by Hassam Selim, an Egyptian living in the Swedish capital.

"There is a big revolution sweeping across the Arab world," he told The Local.

"We want to support them. I'm an Egyptian and it's my country and we're all looking for our freedom...it will be great to see 80 million Egyptians regain their humanity."

In a statement issued on Friday, Bildt said Egypt's decision to shut down the internet as "almost unprecedented".

“I have not been able to come up with any previous example of this happening other than in Burma in 2007,” he said.

“Obviously, the future of Egypt cannot be shaped by closing the internet - instead it must be shaped by opening up the political system.”

Bildt's comments come amid continued demonstrations in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and Alexandria. The protests, which began on Monday, are considered to be the largest anti-government protests since 1977.

The pro-democracy demonstrators are pushing for regime change in the North African country, which has been ruled by President Hosni Mubarak since 1981.

While Saad explained that pro-democracy forces in Egypt have been organising for more than a year, the recent political upheaval in Tunisia played a role in bringing Egyptians to the streets.

“Tunisia was the trigger,” she said.

“We saw what they were doing and said why not try to do it like they did in Tunisia.”

Egyptians are set to head to the polls in September for presidential elections which Bildt said were of “vital importance”, but it remains unclear what effect current events may have on the country's political future.

Saad said she was looking forward to demonstrating with other Egyptians in Sweden, but admitted it was hard to be away from her home country.

“I'm boiling with anger and want to get on the first plane back so I can be there,” she said, adding that the current regime was “putting Egypt back in the dark ages” by shutting down communications.

Bildt also slammed the government's decision to close down the internet as “downright dangerous”.

“In the long run, free access to information is better for confidence and stability than restrictions and prohibitions,” said Bildt.

“Measures such as this, that aim at short-term stability, may very well lead to more long-term suppression.”

According to the Swedish foreign ministry, around 250,000 Swedes visit Egypt annually, primarily as tourists.

While the ministry has stopped short of issuing a travel warning for Egypt, it is advising Swedes to follow developments closely and avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place.

Selim estimated that Friday's demonstration in Stockholm would likely draw about 200 people, but that other demonstrations are being planned for next week.

"Things in Egypt are happening so fast, it's hard to keep up," he said.

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