Greensboro man describes similarities he witnessed during recent protests, Arab Spring

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The passion and anger we are seeing in rallies across that country stems from events that have happened for years, decades, and a century ago.

Events that have happened in the United States, in North Carolina, and around the world.

While important to see, and important to have, for one Greensboro man it brings back tough memories from his home in the Middle East.

Ahmed Elshahed has lived in Greensboro since 2014. 

Before becoming a United States citizen, he lived in Egypt during the Arab Spring revolution. 

“I don’t see any difference right now.,” Elshahed said of the peaceful and non-peaceful protests seen around the U.S. “I’s exactly copy and pasts from our revolution.” 

The Arab Spring revolution began in late 2009 and early 2010. 

A produce vendor in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, lit himself on fire in protest of police harassment, and for government leaders ignoring him. 

Police embarrassed him, stole his produce and harassed him for not having a permit. 

When he tried to take his complaints to government officials, he was ignored. 

This sparked a movement against police brutality and corrupt governments throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. 

“If we didn’t protest, I know we wouldn’t have changed the regime. But, I think there were other ways to do it right,” Elshahed said.

Elshahed was in the heart of the protests in Cairo. 

He sees eerie similarities in the current movement, especially those taking advantage of peaceful demonstrations. 

On what happened with the Arab Spring from his point of view, Elshahed said, “there was a group of people who were criminals. They start breaking and entering into stores, businesses.” 

On what he has seen across the country and even in Greensboro, there has been a small group inciting violence and damage. 

“I’m so sorry for George Floyd, but i don’t think this is how he’d want to be remembered,” Elshahed said.

Peaceful protesters in Greensboro have echoed that message. 

Elshahed’s advice to those gathering together, learn from the good and bad of his movement. 

“Unfortunately, it was too late when we realized that we were losing our country,” Elshahed said.

He said organize, strategize, and more importantly vote every chance you get. 

“Yes, the change will happen. But, you don’t want to do it the wrong way. You don’t want to do the change after months of destruction,” Elshahed said.

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