Victoria man struggles to reach family in embattled Egypt
Jan. 29, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
TIMELINE OF PROTESTSJan. 25: Dubbed the "The Day of Anger," thousands marched in downtown Cairo and other Egyptian cities to protest growing poverty and unemployment under President Hosni Mubarak, who's been in power for 30 years
Jan. 26: A protester and police officer are killed in an escalating battle in which police are said to have used tear gas and water canons to disperse crowds
Jan. 27: Violence continues to erupt in more cities, and social media services are disrupted
Jan. 28: More deaths are reported in Suez, cell phone and Internet connections are down, and Mubarak dismisses his entire cabinet
Jan. 29: Protests continue, despite a government-imposed curfew. Mubarak names a new vice-president and prime minister
Every few hours during the past five days, Osama Hassan has desperately tried to reach his family in Egypt.
"It's very stressful. You cannot imagine. You don't know what's happening with your family, what's going on with them," Hassan said Saturday night.
In between international phone calls, the Imam at the Islamic Center of Victoria said he's relied on the news to provide what vague information he can find as to what his parents and two brothers could be going through in a country overwhelmed with political unrest.
Saturday morning, he found out just how bad the situation was.
Hassan, 36, said he was finally able to reach one brother and his parents living in the town of Panpa, which is between Cairo and Alexandria.
"He sounded sad because it's a miserable situation," Hassan said. "It's very hard for them. There's no food for them to eat, either. I don't know how long they can handle that."
Hassan's other brother and sister-in-law are in Cairo, and no one in the family has spoken to them since the protests began on Tuesday.
"Everybody outside the country is trying to check on their families as well, so it's kind of very complicated to get to them," Hassan said. "I barely got a hold of him, just the house phone. They blocked the Internet, they blocked the cell phones. It's very hard to speak to them because of that."
Adding to that detachment is the fact that his family has been unable to leave their home, Hassan said.
"They cannot walk the streets because the army's in the street, preventing the people from walking," he said. "Basically, there's no food available because there's no stores open."
Hassan, who moved to the United States 14 years ago, said he remembers a different Egypt from his childhood and finds it hard to imagine the images on TV are what his loved ones are experiencing in real life.
"When I was young, it wasn't that bad. It was OK, but now it's getting worse. A lot of people graduate from college and cannot get work," he said. "Most of the people now, they sit in the coffee shop, they don't have a job, and the prices go up, so they can't afford anything anymore."
While he's relieved to have finally reached part of his family, Hassan said he's going to keep to his schedule of trying to get through the phone lines every few hours.
"I hope God saves them and something happens soon," he said.