Am I surprised that The New York Times has published a story on the possibility that freethinking Egyptians are beginning to flee their troubled nation or, at the very least, to debate whether it is time to do?
No. That’s a perfectly valid news story.
Am I surprised that the team at the world’s most influential newspaper elected to focus this story on political activists, intellectuals, urbanites and artists who fit into the progressive and rather secular mold so popular with journalists from the international press who are based in Cairo?
No. While this is a small percentage of the Egyptian population, this is an essential element in a story on this topic — in large part because of the leadership roles these people played in the secular wing of the Arab spring.
All that said, am I surprised that this timely Times story contains absolutely zero references to a large and imperiled minority in Egypt — 10 percent of the population — that, in the face of deadly violence, is facing a rising tide of questions about its survival after centuries of persecution?
Yes, I was surprised that they story does not contain a single reference to the plight of the Coptic Orthodox Christians, along with other members of abused religious minorities in Egypt. Perhaps I should not have been surprised, but I was. (A potential follow-up story: Are Coptic leaders in North America preparing to help their sisters and brothers flee the old country?)
Here is a key chunk of this Times report, which includes a reference to dissident publisher Mohamed Hashem. Try to imagine taking on this topic and, after months of mob violence, not thinking about including the Copts.
Egypt has surrendered citizens to more prosperous countries for generations, unable to provide much hope or opportunity at home. But like Mr. Hashem, many Egyptians who say they are joining a new exodus had been loath to give up on their country; some had postponed the urge to leave, hoping the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 would pave the way to a better life.
Their change of heart signals a dark moment. Many people said they saw no end to the conflict between the military and its Islamist opponents, and no place for those who did not profess loyalty to either one.
Others lamented Egypt’s narrowing political horizons and what seemed like the growing likelihood that a military officer will become Egypt’s next leader. Some people said they were shocked at how cavalier their friends and neighbors had become about the rising level of bloodshed. And for everyone, there was still no relief from the grinding frustrations of daily life, the traffic, the rising prices, the multiplying mounds of trash in the streets.
There is no statistical evidence that more people are emigrating, and the notion remains far from the reach of most Egyptians, reserved for those with the qualifications or connections to find opportunities abroad. In interviews over several days, though, people said their conversations had turned more frequently, and urgently, to leaving; those who considered travel possible were just deciding when.
Please understand. The potential exiles included in this report are interesting and their stories are poignant. They are valid sources.
But is there more to this story than a potential “brain drain” of poets, graphic artists and Internet-economy pioneers?