The organizer, Mohammad Abdeljaber, is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. Much like the students that coordinated the first demonstrations in Cairo, Abdeljaber used Facebook to get the word out about his event, which he posted on Wednesday after seeing no Washington solidarity rally had yet been organized.
“This whole thing has been a grassroots effort from the start. I did it on the spot…it wasn’t anything that was related to any organization,” Abdeljaber told Vox, “My involvement with this project has been a matter of seconds. I just created the event on Facebook and it took a life of its own. I cannot take credit for it.”
By Saturday morning, over 900 people had signed up to attend the event. Abdeljaber estimated that around 600 people showed up.
Abdeljaber told Vox that he wanted the protests to send three messages. First, the protestors in D.C. stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people, despite the distance and lack of ability to communicate with them. Second, that the Egyptian government should stand with its people, and finally, that the U.S. should stand in support of the protestors.
Abdeljaber, who grew up in the West Bank, admits that he is completely taken aback by the protests. “You see, for the longest time, I’ve given up on the Arab people, like so many people have,” he lamented. “You look at apathy, especially in Egypt, and you lose faith.”
He thinks the protests in Tunisia that brought down a longstanding dictator served as a wake-up call. “It was the moment of realization that the rule of dictatorship exists only in the imagination, and that it doesn’t have any real, substantive force on the ground,” he said.
As for his own rally, Abdeljaber said that, “it exceeded all of [his] expectations.” While many lament the absence of an activist culture at Georgetown, Abdeljaber contends that student commitment to global issues is what made his event such a success.
“Georgetown is a diverse campus. It brings together many voices from many different perspectives,” he noted. “I always find enough voices to stand up for justice and freedom. I’m really proud to be a part of this campus, to be a part of a student body that is very involved in things that happen outside of their own campus.”
Photo: Brett Davis (COL ’11)