Unrest in Egypt diverts NUCHR trip

Sean Lavery

Northwestern University’s Conference on Human Rights has determined that a change in destination is required for their “Spring Exposure Trip” after last week’s protests in Egypt became a bloody battle between government supporters and critics.

NUCHR Executive Chair and Weinberg senior Katharine Nasielski said the group has decided to move the location rather than cancel the trip.

“We were originally going to go to Cairo,” Nasielski said. “But due to the State Department’s recommendation and the general safety of our group members, we decided to move the trip.”

The U.S. Department of State issued an updated travel warning Sunday urging U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Egypt. The New York Times reported Thursday that human rights workers were specific targets of violent pro-government demonstrators.

NUCHR visited Buenos Aires last year, and chose this year’s destination based on the group’s academic study over the course of the year.

“Our goal this year is to study forced migration,” Nasielski said. “We’re looking at other countries that would be appropriate.”

SESP junior Amanda Laabs, a former Daily staffer, indicated that Istanbul is an option, but noted that the next location is not set in stone. Laabs said she was closely involved in the trip’s planning, which began in September.

“We had a lot of free will in where we could go,” she said. “One of the co-directors suggested Cairo since it has a large refugee population.”

Laabs said the violence caught the group by surprise. By January, they had already reserved flights and hotel rooms and were halfway through planning their itinerary, she said.

“We held out hope for a while,” Laabs said. “When the State Department released their travel warning, it was game over.”

NUCHR members who wish to go on the trip are required to take classes on pertinent issues related to their destination.

SESP sophomore Arielle Sullivan said she will go on this year’s trip regardless of the change.

“I was definitely disappointed when I heard about the dangerous situation in Egypt, but I was relieved to know that we are able to reschedule the trip to a safer place,” Sullivan said.

Nasielski said an announcement should be made this week about the new destination.

“I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting trip either way,” Sullivan said. “We’re involved in human rights situations all over the world.”

Laabs voiced support for the Egyptian anti-government protesters.

“I’ve never been to Cairo, but I feel such a personal feeling of connection and concern,” she said. “I’m so impressed by the Egyptian people for fighting for their rights.”

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