News  Canada’s day of rage

Egyptians in Montreal and Ottawa rally for democracy

Amid chants and songs in Arabic, English, and French, several hundred from Montreal’s Egyptian community converged Friday in front of Montreal’s Egyptian consulate. If the rally had a single overarching emotion, it was one of joy, as Egyptians gathered to celebrate the four consecutive days of mass protests that threaten to end the thirty year reign of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The rally was held in front of the Egyptian consulate a week after a similar rally was held by Montreal’s Tunisian community in Dorchester Square, in response to the popular uprising and overthrow of Tunisia’s five-term president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Ihab Khandil, a McGill student and Cairo native, attended the rally. “We’re all here to support them. We’re all here to help this revolution, and it’s going to happen,” he said. He added that he has been in contact with family in Cairo, despite the Egyptian government’s shutdown of much of the country’s communication infrastructure in response to the protests. “We want real democracy for once in our lives,” added Khandil.

The rally was organized by Taghyeer-Canada – Arabic for “change” – along with similar events outside Egyptian embassies and consulates in Ottawa and Toronto. Ehab Lotayef, an employee in McGill’s Information Technology department, was one of the rally’s principle organizers.

“Our demands are an echo of their demands,” said Lotayef, referring to the demands of thousands on the streets of Egypt’s cities for the ouster of Mubarak.

Lotayef said that he and others had scheduled a meeting with officials from the consulate, but were turned away by the building’s security. They had planned to deliver an open letter asking for, among other things, the criminalization of “abuse and torture committed by the police,” the release of all those detained in the Egyptian protests, and an address of the “problems of poverty by raising the minimum salary.”

Shokry Gohar, a McGill Arabic professor and an Egyptian himself, spoke to the nature of the protests in his native country as reason for his attendance. “The movement came from the street, it didn’t come from any party. … Christians and Muslims are together against this tyrant.”

When asked if he expected Mubarak’s government to fall in the coming weeks, he said he “can’t wait.” Gohar said that he hadn’t been able to reach his family in Egypt. “This tyrant already cuts the network, cuts the telephone lines, so that he can torture and kill our people.”