Jewish college student stabbed to death in Egypt protests

21-year-old Andrew Pochter, an intern at an educational NGO, killed in Alexandria as he watched clashes

Andrew Driscoll Pochter, 21, of Chevy Chase, Md. died Friday, June 28, while photographing clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo credit: AP/Pochter Family)
Andrew Driscoll Pochter, 21, of Chevy Chase, Md. died Friday, June 28, while photographing clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt. (photo credit: AP/Pochter Family)

An American Jewish college student, Andrew Driscoll Pochter, 21, a native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was killed in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday as he watched clashes between supporters and opponents of the country’s Islamist president, it was confirmed Saturday.

Pochter, one of three people killed in Friday’s clashes, was stabbed to death by a protester, his family said.

Originally reported to have been an employee of the American cultural center in Alexandria, Pochter was later identified by his parents and university, Ohio’s Kenyon College, as an intern at AMIDEAST, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting education in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Our beloved 21-year-old son and brother Andrew Driscoll Pochter went to Alexandria for the summer, to teach English to 7- and 8-year-old Egyptian children and to improve his Arabic. He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan,” Pochter’s parents told CNN.

“As we understand it, he was witnessing the protest as a bystander and was stabbed by a protester. He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding. Andrew was a wonderful young man looking for new experiences in the world and finding ways to share his talents while he learned. Andrew cared deeply about his family and his friends. We won’t have any further comment and ask for privacy now at this difficult time for the family.”

Marcela Colmenares, a Venezuelan scholar at Kenyon College who was a friend of Pochter’s, paid tribute to him in her blog Saturday, saying he exemplified the “difference between a talker and a doer.”

Colmenares related her first meeting with Pochter in the college library, where they became caught up in a political argument and discovered their mutual interest in the Middle East.

“The last time we spoke, he was already in Egypt and we agreed to eat a falafel in August, when he would come back to Maryland. After a long discussion, he planned to prove that — against my predictions — the falafels in Adams Morgan were better than those in Berlin,” wrote Colmenares.

“But he is never going to come back, because he was killed in a protest in Alexandria, where he was — according to the news — teaching English during the summer. In fact, Andrew was doing much more than teaching English, he was absorbing every bit of the Egyptian culture, he was learning about the Middle East, and he was doing what so many people avoid — following his passion,” she wrote.

Andrew Pochter.  (photo credit: Facebook)
Andrew Pochter. (photo credit: Facebook)

In 2011, Pochter wrote an article for Al Arabiya on the effects of the Arab Spring on Moroccan society. He was an active member of a group of Kenyon students interested in the Middle East, was involved in Middle East activism on campus and took part in a forum Colmenares had created for students willing to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and collaborate to organize events.

Pochter was also active with Hillel, the Jewish campus organization.

“I don’t know the details about his death, and I don’t want to know them,” Colmenares wrote.

“But I know that it was provoked by an unreasonable amount of hate, a hate that does not have owners and that will never have a proper explanation –because it is irrational. This hate managed to kill an American who genuinely cared about the Middle East, and who would have had an extremely positive impact on the region. Violence is increasing in Egypt, especially towards Americans,” she lamented.

Late Friday, Alexandria security chief Gen. Amin Ezz Eddin told Al-Jazeera TV that an American later identified as Pochtor was killed in Sidi Gabr Square while photographing the battle. The US State Department later confirmed the death, in a statement from Patrick Ventrell, a press office director.

“We are providing appropriate consular assistance from our Embassy in Cairo and our Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department,” he said.

An Egyptian medical official, in an earlier unconfirmed report, had said Pochtor died of gunshot wounds at a hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

In the aftermath of Friday’s deadly clashes, the US State Department issued a travel warning cautioning citizens to avoid Egypt.

“The US Department of State warns US citizens traveling to or living in Egypt to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest. On June 28, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members. US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security,” the warning read.

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