American Jewish student fatally stabbed as protests rock Egypt
Part of this story originally appeared in the Cleveland Jewish News
Andrew Driscoll Pochter, a Jewish student at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, was fatally stabbed June 28 in Alexandria during clashes between government supporters and protesters trying to oust Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Pochter, a 21-year-old from Chevy Chase, Md., was observing the Egyptian demonstrations, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department. He had a special talent for making others feel welcome—especially when inviting them into the Hillel House on the campus of Kenyon, a private liberal arts college two hours south of Cleveland, said Marc Bragin, Kenyon’s Hillel director and Jewish chaplain.
“Andrew was one of those rare college students that had a purpose and a vision that everyone should have a voice and everyone should be included and have a chance to share their point of view, whether he agreed with them or not,” Bragin told the Cleveland Jewish News.
Pochter traveled to Egypt at the end of the academic year as an intern for AMIDEAST, an American nonprofit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa. He taught English to Egyptian children and lived in an Egyptian home. He planned to return to Kenyon in the fall to begin his junior year and wanted to spend next spring’s semester in Amman, Jordan to attain fluency in Arabic and develop a better understanding of the political and religious dimensions of the Middle East.
Bragin said Pochter took an interest in other people and different cultures, especially the Middle East.
“His passion was peace in the Middle East,” Bragin said. “I believe he truly was working toward that. He wanted to share his voice and understanding that that could happen and wanted to do his part to make sure the process could continue.”
Pochter spent the last academic year as co-manager of the Hillel House at Kenyon. He became a resident of the house and was responsible for all Jewish life programming that took place on campus. He was often the first person students came in contact with upon entering the Hillel House.
“He really made Hillel House an all-inclusive place that people felt comfortable entering no matter their background,” Bragin said.
Pochter was also a member of the college’s rugby club and the Middle Eastern Students Association, and served as philanthropy chair for his fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. He was a religious studies major.
Dean of Students Henry P. Toutain said in a statement on the college’s website that a memorial service for Pochter will be held in the fall.
“Andrew’s voice and spirit will be missed on campus,” Bragin said. “When one shining light gets extinguished it’s up to us to continue his vision of peace, inclusiveness and fairness for everybody.”
Protesters accuse U.S. government of supporting Islamists
While protests against Morsi rocked Egypt, members of the country’s secular and Christian opposition factions accused the U.S. government of supporting Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist government at their expense, Al-Ahram reported.
Comments made earlier in June by U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson sparked an atypical anti-American reaction from the Egyptian opposition.
“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” Patterson said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical. More violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs. Instead, I recommend Egyptians get organized.”
“She is an evil lady who is creating divisions. How is this any of her business?” George Ishaq, a prominent Egyptian Christian activist, said of Patterson on a popular talk show following her comments.
Coptic Christian leaders in the U.S. also criticized the Obama administration’s handling of Egypt.
“America could be on the wrong side of history by its continued support for a fascistic regime that is rejected by the Egyptian people,” Adel Guindy, president of Coptic Solidarity, said at the group’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., according to a press statement.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered around Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday, June 30 to urge Morsi to step down on the one-year anniversary of the start of his rule.
“It’s the same politics as Mubarak but we are in a worse situation,” said Sameh al-Masri, one of the organizers on the main stage of Sunday’s protest, Al-Jazeera reported. “Poverty is increasing, inflation is increasing. It’s much worse than Mubarak.”
The protests—part of an anti-Morsi campaign started last month known as Tamarod, which has gathered more than 22 million signatures on a petition calling for Morsi’s resignation—began in Alexandria on Friday afternoon and then spread to other cities around Egypt. Several of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Freedom and Justice Party’s headquarters were torched by protestors, the Egypt Independent reported.
Pro-Morsi Islamists also held counter-protests. Security officials fear that clashes between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi groups could grow to the point that they force the military to step in to restore law and order, as it did during the February 2011 revolt against former President Hosni Mubarak.