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From Illinois to Egypt: Professor Linda Herrera and others meet with Diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei

by Allie Pitcher / Jan 22, 2013

From Illinois to Egypt: Professor Linda Herrera and others meet with Diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei

Linda Herrera, professor the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, recently led a small delegation from the University of Illinois to Egypt to meet with Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and Egyptian youth.

The delegation included Rajmohan Gandhi, University of Illinois research professor in the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; Usha Gandhi, peace advocate; and Magdy Alabady, an Egyptian research scientist at Illinois' Institute For Genomic Biology.

The main purpose of the trip was to facilitate a dialogue between Professor Gandhi and Dr. ElBaradei that focused on freedom struggles, grassroots movement building, parallels and differences between Egypt’s recent uprising and India’s independence movement, and ways to reclaim the goals of the revolution for "bread, freedom, and social justice."

ElBaradei, a Cairo native, served for 12 years as the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency) as well as the Order of the Nile, the highest Egyptian civilian decoration. He is currently the coordinator of Egypt’s National Salvation Front, a coalition of some 35 political parties, groups, and movements.

"Mohamed ElBaradei arrived on Egypt’s political scene fairly recently, in 2010," Herrera said in a recent interview with the UI News Bureau. "He enjoyed a long and distinguished diplomatic career… His international credentials have placed him above the everyday fray of Egyptian politics, something that has been a point of both strength and vulnerability.

"ElBaradei is not someone who appears to be driven by a thirst for power, and does not exhibit a typical revolutionary temperament," she continued in the interview. "Rather, his obsession has been with two things: national unity and the constitution… (He) sees his role as someone who can protect the country from a raw power grab and serve as a guardian of the constitutional process and ensure that it is the result of a fair, inclusive and sound legal process."

Herrera is working with a local Egyptian film studio to produce a documentary of the dialogue by the title, “Reclaiming the Revolution: A Dialogue between ElBaradei and Gandhi.” She also plans to edit the transcript of the dialogue and make it available in book form. The director of the documentary, Mark Lotfy, has made a trailer intended for a Middle East audience and is in the process of making a distinct trailer for a North American/ European audience.

Herrera thought that this conversation between Professor Gandhi and Dr. ElBaradei could “generate new ideas and new ways of thinking about problems facing Egyptians and other groups struggling with their own freedom movements.”

“This is a tremendous moment globally for liberation movements.” Herrera said. “These movements will face a lot of opposition, violence, and resistance, but they will also bring together people who are forming bonds of solidarity and support for one another. These are exciting times.”

Photo: Aida ElBaradei, Linda Herrera, Mohamed ElBaradei, Rajmohan Gandhi, and Magdy Alabady