By Joelle Leib '17
In 2011, what many of us read in the news about the Arab Spring, visiting Pitzer and Claremont McKenna College Professor Mona Prince lived. Prince shared her story as an Egyptian revolutionary at the CMC Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Wednesday, Feb. 25 to an audience composed of students, community members and professors.
Prince worked as an assistant professor of English literature at Suez University in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s regime, a time in which she claims she did not suffer much because of her middle class status but felt that Mubarak’s corruption tarnished the Egyptian character. Thus, she declared herself a revolutionary and joined throngs of protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square demanding “Freedom, honesty, jobs, and better life conditions,” according to Prince.
The revolutionaries toppled Mubarak’s regime and held democratic elections in 2012 to replace the former dictator. Prince, a well known activist and academic, was amongst the potential candidates to replace Mubarak, but Mohamed Morsi, the nominee from the Muslim Brotherhood, narrowly won the election and ascended to the Egyptian presidency.
Morsi’s presidency brought much turmoil to Egypt and led to the formation of what many experts dubbed a “mobocracy,” or a legion of relentless protestors demanding greater freedom. Morsi responded to the mobocracy with violence and force, and was eventually removed from power in 2013 by the military.
Prince believes that Morsi’s failed presidency proves that while “We may have succeeded in removing Mubarak, we did not change as people that much.” She stressed that until the Egyptian people question themselves, the oppressive regime will remain in place, regardless of who is leading it.
Recently, Prince has penned the memoir “Revolution is My Name” to recount her experiences in Tahrir Square. Under Morsi, “revolutionary” was a dirty word, and because the university administration accused her of being one, it suspended her for six months. Upon returning, she faced death threats from her students and the Muslim Brotherhood who accused her of being Islamophobic, although Prince asserts that she was encouraging her students of both Christian and Muslim faith to engage in debate with one another.
A dean from Suez University, where Prince worked, told her that she could no longer discuss sex, politics or religion in her classes. Fed up with the immense academic censorship, Prince applied for and received a one-year rescue scholarship. Prince expressed her gratitude to be teaching at Pitzer and CMC, institutions that value freedom of speech and allow her to talk about anything with her students.
Currently, Abdel Fatta el-Sisi serves as president of Egypt. Prince claims that many Egyptians are content with Sisi, and more than anything are happy that the Muslim Brotherhood is out of power. “Egyptians are happy with stability and order. Freedom and democracy are luxuries people don’t care much about. The Egyptian people are not ready for democracy… Change is going to take a very long time, change takes generations,” Prince said.