“I know a lot of his friends must be so angry that this happened to such a kind person, but knowing how peaceful he was brings me some amount of comfort. His peaceful presence still lives on with us.” – Kenyon College Friend, Wyn Evans
A rising college junior is the first American victim in Egyptian clashes.
On May 28, Andrew Pochter — a 21 year old American college student — packed his bags and headed off to Egypt. The prospect of being in a country riddled with massive religious and political conflict did not faze him, in fact, Pochter was drawn to the intricacy of Egypt’s problems.
Fears of a potential civil war in the transcontinental country surge as pro and anti- President Morsi groups continue to engage in violent confrontations. Both tragically and unexpectedly, Andrew Pochter has become one of the victims of Egypt’s violence, dying in an Egyptian hospital Friday June 28.
Here is what you need to know about the first American casualty in Egypt’s brewing conflict and how his unfortunate death reflects the severity of Egypt’s political crisis.
1. He Was Stabbed in the Chest
According to Egyptian security officials, Pochter was stabbed in the chest, near his heart. He was taken to a nearby military hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after. He was one of two people killed in Alexandria on Friday where 70 others were injured. The total number of causalities which has come as a result of Egypt’s protests are unclear. Latest reports indicate that six men have been killed in recent clashes and dozens injured. Many fear these numbers will escalate after Sunday’s massive protests.
2. He Was Attacked By a Protester
The New York Times reports that Pochter was stabbed during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi. ABC reports that Pochter was watching the protests as a bystander when he was killed by a protestor.
Egypt has been enthralled in mass demonstrations which have spun the country out of control. Several people have been killed and wounded as street-fighting has cast anti-government protestors against pro-Morsi supporters. In recent months, Egypt has recently seen a surge of polarization, bloody clashes, a weakened economy, power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and crime .
According to Pochter friend Zoe Lyon, “he knew there was a possibility of trouble but never thought he could get caught up in in…I am not shocked he was at a protest,” she said during an interview with NYtimes.
3. May Have Been Killed for Taking Pictures
According to a New York Times interview with another American student in Egypt, Ian Bury, people “…don’t really want their pictures taken [in Alexandria]. You really didn’t want to be seen taking someone’s pictures” While security officials say the young American was killed while taking photographs, it is still unclear whether this could have lead to his death.
4. The City of Alexandria is Tense With Conflict
Violence in the country has been particularly virulent in Alexandria, the city where Pochter was killed. The port cit which has previously seen protests turn violent and have been more tense than Cairo. Seven people have already been killed as violent videos surging from the city’s have surged online. Sectarian violence has become increasibly more frequent in Egypt, particularly after the passage of the country’s new constitution in September. Clashes between the opposition and supporters of the country’s Islamist-led government these past few days have spun the intercontinental country out of control. The United States has since updated its advice to its citizens asking them to “defer non-essential travel to Egypt due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.”
5. He Was an Active Jewish Student at Kenyon College
The 21-year-old spent his spring semester studying in Amman, Jordan and was teaching in Egypt before returning in the fall to the Kenyon College campus. He majored in religious studies, was active in Hillel House — the campus center for Jewish life — and was a member of the rugby club and an organizer for the Middle Eastern Students Association, the college said.
6. A Violent Protest Video Near Where Pochter Was Killed was Posted on YouTube
Videos surging out of Egypt depict the gravity of the political dissidence in Egypt. The video above was posted to YouTube and Facebook by AlexTV, a media organization based in Alexandria. It was taken in the same neighborhood as the burnt Muslim Brotherhood headquarters outside of which Andrew Pochter was killed. The clip shows fighting between rival groups of young men in the Sidi Gaber train station, one of the city’s two main railroad stations and an important transportation link between Alexandria and Cairo.
7. Pochter was a Maryland Native Passionate about the Middle East
The New York Times as described 21-year-old Pochter as an idealist, an Arabist and a linguist drawn to the Middle East. Pochter — whose parent’s live in Chevy Chase, Maryland — took an avid interst in the social and political turmoil of the region when he spent some time during his semester abroad in Morocco at the beginning of the Arab spiring in 2013 and 2011. His family’s statement also reiterates the young mans passion:
He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East and he planned to live and work there in pursuit of peace and understanding.
8. Pochter Was Teaching English to Children in Egypt
Andrew Pochter was spending his summer teaching english to 7 and 8 year old children while working to improve his arabic. He worked as an intern for AMIDEAST. According to his friend whom he communicated with via Facebook, his students were “having a heard time learning English, but they were really trying and he was proud of them.”
9.Other American Students Have Been Arrested in Egypt in the Past
In recent years, the Middle East has become an increasingly popular spot for American college students on study-abroad programs and this isn’t the first time American students have been involved into political conflict in Egypt. In the midst of the Arab spring two years ago, three american students were arrested in Cairo after throwing Egyptian officials say they were throwing firebombs at security forces.
10. He is Described as ‘Peaceful’ and ‘Compassionate’ by His Loved Ones
Andrew Pochter left his mark. Descried by his teachers in Morroco as a young man “who loved common folks, socializing and simple life” despite coming from an upper middle class family in the United States, Pochter leaves behind a saddened community. A new “RIP Andrew Driscoll Pochter” Facebook page has been created by the deceased student’s family. In an interview with Heavy.com, Wyn Evans, a friend and fellow Kenyon classmate of Pochter, lovingly described the deceased student:
Andrew had an extremely kind heart, and I don’t think I ever saw being anything other than loving and respectful of his peers and friends. Passionate about everything he did, but also extremely humble…I know a lot of his friends must be so angry that this happened to such a kind person, but knowing how peaceful he was brings me some amount of comfort. His peaceful presence still lives on with us.