ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – A group of Mideast scholars gathered, Monday, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to talk about the recent unrest in Egypt and in the Middle East.

Among them was Juan Cole, a professor of Mideast History and an acknowledged expert on the region. Speaking at Monday’s event, Cole said Egypt began to develop wealth in the 1960s and 1970s — but there were problems.

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“The country, as it’s moved into this mode of a kind of alliance of the military regime with the new business class, has created enormous inequalities. It’s created new opportunities. But, what I would argue is that the political system stagnated,” he said.

 Cole says the working class has been having a particularly hard time in that country.

“Workers can’t talk to the managers face to face, eye to eye. They have to demonstrate a kind of body language of subservience,” Cole said.

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“So, the idea of factory workers striking, demanding their rights, you know. The Egyptian elite would swat that down,” he said.

Entitled “Struggle Against Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East,” the round table featured leading U-M scholars in a candid, informal discussion about how protests in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries have led to a shakeup of the existing governments.

The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies and the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. 

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