A Durangoan who saw firsthand the uprising that toppled Egypt’s 30-year president, Hosni Mubarak, has returned home to share the tale.
Luke Bolton, a Fulbright scholar and 2005 graduate of Durango High School, and wife, Caity, gave their impressions of the revolt and its aftermath Monday to students at Animas High School. They talked twice at Animas High and to students, at Bolton’s alma mater on Thursday. They spoke at Fort Lewis College Monday.
Luke Bolton graduated in 2009 with a degree in international relations and Middle Eastern studies from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. Caity Bolton graduated from Bard in 2007 with a degree in anthropology and Africana studies. She earned a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from New York University in 2010.
The Boltons arrived in Cairo in September. Luke received a scholarship through the Fulbright exchange program to study the role of Al-Azhar University, the center of Sunni Muslim learning, in people’s religious lives.
When Fulbright officials ordered scholars to leave Egypt, the Boltons flew to Nairobi, Kenya.
During a seven-week exile, the Boltons worked on social action programs with the Bahai community in Mombasa and Uganda.
The overall mood of the country was tense when they left, the Boltons said.
Upon returning to Cairo, they found army tanks or burned vehicles in the streets gone, Internet and cellphone service restored and people back to work.
“People – where the average wage is $80 a month – weren’t asking for much,” Luke Bolton said. “They want enough to live on, enough to have a home and send their children to school.”
They also want an end to repression and sham elections, Caity Bolton said.
“People don’t speak their minds,” she said. “They tend to censor themselves out of fear they may be betrayed to authorities.”
Young people and activists organized the rally through Facebook, Luke Bolton said.
Visiting the country, Luke Bolton said, would help because one in eight Egyptians is employed in some aspect of tourism.
The Boltons, who regularly finish sentences and ideas for each other, spoke earlier with The Durango Herald.
After the initial furor, the Boltons said the media appears indifferent to Egypt. Libya and Syria command their attention.
A lot is occurring in Cairo, however, as the country tries to figure out how a civilian government will take over from the military, now the central power, the Boltons said.
The populace is pessimistic because conditions have not improved, they said.
“There has been little change,” Luke Bolton said. “Just the top of the pyramid has been removed.”
Hooligan attacks on people gathered in Tahrir Square at the start of the holy Ramadan observation Aug. 1 was reminiscent of similar incidents at the start of protests, Bolton said.
It was discovered after the earlier attacks that the assailants were police or secret service agents.
In two weeks, Luke Bolton will be at Columbia University to begin studies for a master’s degree in social studies education. Caity Bolton will look for work with a nongovernmental organization.