Four months ago Yasmine Saleh went home to Cairo. Now she finds herself in a society tottering on the brink of civil war.
Formerly a postdoctoral intern in counseling and health services at Salem State University, Saleh, 43, is on a yearlong sabbatical in Egypt, anxious to share her professional expertise with fellow Egyptians after living for 10 years in Massachusetts.
Unhappily, it has become a trial and a danger just getting to her graduate students at the American University.
“I have been living my life with a lot of precaution,” she wrote this week in response to an email from The Salem News. Everything is planned — where to go, when to go, whom to go with and what route to take.
“On the very long drive to get to my teaching job ... I would plan my day around (the traffic.) So I would leave my house four hours before class to ensure that I would not be late. (I would) be in a locked car with some money and a cell phone. ... In case we are stopped somewhere and the car hijacked (which often happens these days), my plan was to give them the car and all my belongings and find a way back with what I had in my pocket.”
With the country’s standard of living spiraling downward, Saleh, who has a doctorate in psychology, has conducted therapy by candlelight as power outages came daily. Prices have soared from week to week. Lines grew around gas stations. And she has endured verbal harassment in the streets.
“Nothing you can do about it,” Saleh explains. Weapons are everywhere, from switchblades to guns, owners “brandishing them in someone’s face over the least offense. ... And no police presence to ensure safety. ... Most people are hypervigilant and anxious and worried about the future. ... They are also angry and frustrated as they watch their lives going from bad to worse. They feel the revolution is being hijacked by some more power-hungry individuals who also undermine and insult their intelligence.”