The Egyptian revolution triggered a mix of emotions for Dr. Mohamed Gaballa, not the least of which was concern for his family living in that country.
Egyptian-born Gaballa is a senior scientist at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, and most of his family still lives in his home country, including his mother and brothers and sisters and their families.
Gaballa said when he first heard about the protests that had erupted in Egypt and captivated the world’s attention over the next 18 days, he was both excited and worried.
“I’m very happy actually,” he said in his office Tuesday morning, only days after the revolution ended when Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday.
“I was very worried that people would die, that it would turn to violence,” Gaballa said of the mostly peaceful revolution. “This whole thing happened without a lot of innocent people dying.”
Even though Gaballa was pleased with the outcome of the revolution, he is still concerned about where Egypt will go from here.
“I would have felt better if he had stepped down 20 years ago,” Gaballa said of Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years.
Gaballa, who is working with stem cells derived from cardiac muscle as a potential remedy for cardiac repair after a heart attack at the Banner Research Institute, has lived in the United States for 27 years.
He said he is worried about how Egypt will recover after the change, partly because Mubarak allowed for no competition while in power, so there are no real political leaders to step up. The former president also fled with a hefty amount of cash that has left the country financially strapped.
“The problem now is the country has no money,” Gaballa said. “I think part of the problem was, when you’re in power for that long, you feel like you own the place.”
Egypt is under military rule, which will likely be in place until the country can conduct regular elections in September, Gaballa said.
He also pointed out the Muslim Brotherhood, which is not viewed favorably, is the only organized political group now, but Gaballa doesn’t think it will be in power over the country, although it will probably have some say.
“And yeah, I think the U.S. will play a major role,” the doctor said, although it may not be in the best interest of the Egyptian people, but rather the best interest of the United States.
Gaballa also said revolutions could erupt in other parts of the Middle East — the situation in Egypt, which he called a “world example for the Middle East,” proved to him that governments around the world cannot continue to take advantage of their people.
“Egypt has always been a leader in that area,” Gaballa said. “It could happen any place where you’re not respecting people.”
The Egyptian revolution was largely driven by young people and their means of communication, including Internet giants Facebook and Twitter, even though, Gaballa pointed out, that up until his last day in office, Mubarak urged the protesters not to heed information they found on the Internet. The former president tried to shut down the service to slow the revolution, and Gaballa received a text message from his son, a U.S. Marine, about that very issue: ‘If the government shuts down the Internet, shut down the government’ the message read.
“It’s going to be tough,” Gaballa said.
But he does trust that Egypt’s recovery will come.
“This country is very solid. It will survive,” Gaballa said.