A. Second Round of Worldwide Rallies: We Need YOUR Help! (Quick link)
B. PRESS RELEASE: International Coalition Calls on Dr. Rice to Discuss Release of Jailed Blogger with President Hosni Mubarak (Quick link)
C. Write to Kareem! (Quick link)
D. Press & Media Coverage (Quick link)
E. Translations: What Kareem Said (Quick link)
E. Blogosphere (Quick link)
A. Second Round of Worldwide Rallies: We Need YOUR Help!
The Free Kareem Coalition has been contacting individuals around the world who have expressed interest in holding rallies in April at Egyptian Embassies and Consulates in their country of residence.
We believe that all freedom-loving individuals need to make their voices heard with the rest of the world. The date of the worldwide demonstrations has been tentatively set to Friday, April 27, 2007.
Any form of support from you, be it your presence in the rally, promoting it, or organizing one in your area, would be a great boost to our cause to free Kareem Amer. If you can help in any way, please let us know!
Read our open letter here.
B. PRESS RELEASE: International Coalition Calls on Dr. Rice to Discuss Release of Jailed Blogger with President Hosni Mubarak
Adobe PDF version here.
NEW YORK—US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will arrive today in Egypt in the midst of international furor over continuing human rights abuses occurring in the close US ally. During her visit, she will be meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Aswan for face-to-face talks on regional issues.
The Free Kareem Coalition calls on Secretary Rice to use this opportunity to officially insist on the release of blogger Abdul Kareem Nabil Soliman. Soliman, better known by his Internet handle ‘Kareem Amer’, was sentenced just one month ago to four years in prison for writings on his blog, in which he promoted women’s rights and criticized extremism in Islam.
Kareem, a 22-year-old law student, was expelled by the religious Al-Azhar University over his writings, and was then arrested last November on charges of “insulting the president of Egypt” and “disdain of Islam”. While Kareem is the first Egyptian to be prosecuted for Internet-based journalism, his imprisonment sets a dangerous precedent. Amnesty International has called his case “a further erosion of free expression in Egypt,” and Human Rights Watch has also called for his immediate release.
Soliman’s sentence has generated international condemnation. To honor his integrity in protecting free speech, Index on Censorship recently awarded Kareem their 2007 Hugo Young Award for Journalism, and English PEN has granted him honorary membership. The US State Department has previously issued statements expressing concern about Kareem’s conviction and sentence. Additionally, US Congressmen Barney Frank and Trent Franks have issued a bipartisan letter strongly encouraging the Egyptian government to set Kareem Amer free. European parliamentarians have also called for Abdul Kareem’s unconditional release. However, no action is being taken by the Egyptian government to correct the Alexandria court’s mistake.
With his appeal denied, Amer’s only hope is a pardon from President Hosni Mubarak. “We have worked on raising awareness around the world about Kareem’s imprisonment. Secretary Rice is in a unique position to help secure his release, if only she will act,” said Andrew Perraut, London Coordinator of the Free Kareem Coalition.
The US State Department has not announced plans for Rice to discuss human rights during her trip. “We implore the Secretary to ask President Mubarak to correct the mistake made by the prosecutor and court, and to pardon Kareem Amer. Egypt must live up to its own promise to respect the basic rights of its own citizens,” Perraut added.
# # #
Media may contact Constantino Diaz-Duran, New York Coordinator of the Free Kareem Coalition, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on +1 (202) 288-3328. More information can also be obtained at www.FreeKareem.org.
C. Write to Kareem!
Sending Kareem messages and postcards by snail-mail is very important, not only because it will assuage his pains, but to also tell the government and prison that we are still watching.
The Free Kareem Coalition is working hard to provide an address through which people can send him mail and postcards, and we expect to be able to get in contact with him soon.
Meanwhile, if you wish to send a message via e-mail, please send it to the Editor with “Dear Kareem” in the subject line, and it will be relayed to him as soon as possible. In your e-mail message, please indicate:
1. Your name;
2. Your country of residence;
3. Your personal message to Kareem; and
4. Whether you would like your letter to be published here. Personal information will be withheld upon request, and the Editor reserves the right to correct spelling errors in your letter, as well as significant grammatical and structural mistakes.
Kareem only understands English and Arabic, but if you cannot write in either language, please do write in your mother tongue, and we shall do our utmost to have someone translate it for Kareem to read.
We thank you for your continued solidarity with Kareem. Please rest assured that all your letters, whether you want them to be posted on the site or not, will reach Kareem Amer. All letters will remain confidential.
D. Press & Media Coverage
- Al-Jazeera reported on Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) surprise demonstrations at the world tourism trade fair in Paris, in which they targeted Cuba, Tunisia, and Egypt. Egypt was targeted for being an ‘enemy of the Internet’, and they specifically chanted for Kareem’s freedom.
More videos and pictures on the demonstration at the Egyptian stand here: Reporters Without Borders, French Bloggers: Opération Kareem Amer!
And for those interested, below is an additional video taken on RSF, just before the demonstrations. The lady in the video is concerned about the lack of free speech in certain countries, namely Tunisia and Egypt, where the press is being heavily moderated. She talks about blogs being censored, focusing on Kareem Amer’s prison sentence. The other person later in the video is saying how this is so wrong, and how if they keep this up they will stop a society from thinking.
- The Wall Street Journal: On The Wall Street Journal, two fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations discuss the attacks on Internet freedom by United States allies worldwide, including Egypt’s jailing of Kareem Amer: Tangled Web.
The past few weeks have seen a chilling crackdown on Internet freedom by American allies. An Egyptian appeals court upheld a four-year prison term for Abdel Kareem Soliman, a blogger who outraged religious authorities, while a Turkish judge ordered that Internet companies block YouTube, citing videos that disparage the memory of Turkey’s founder, Ataturk.
- The Jerusalem Report: Deleting Dissent
A thorough, magnificent three-page report dedicated to Kareem Amer’s case. Read it all.
The newsmagazine is print-only, but the reporter has kindly granted the Free Kareem Coalition permission to have the article available as a PDF file for Kareem’s supporters: Deleting Dissent. (Or click on the image below.)
In a blog about the sacred fasting month of Ramadan posted in October, Soliman argued that many Egyptians fast because of social pressure, not because they want to, and called it the “month of hypocrisy.” He described how when he and a friend ordered meals and began eating them in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Cairo shortly before the end of one fasting day, families waiting for the end of the fast looked at them “as if we came from another planet.” This caused the meal to become “an unbearable torture because of the staring of those around us,” Soliman writes.
The Egyptian army is another object of Soliman’s broadsides. He calls for abolition of the draft, which he says is a form of “slavery” papered over with slogans such as “national duty,” “national service” and “defending the land of the ancestors.” To prove his point that the draft threatens the lives of those drafted, he posted a picture of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier being held in Gaza, on his blog and writes that armies have no right to expose their soldiers to harm “like the Egyptian soldiers who lost their lives on the border with Israel and Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas and Hezbollah.” He accused Egypt’s military of “inhuman treatment” of conscripts.
But Soliman’s fateful, and thus far losing, battle is with al-Azhar, the state religious institution whose role in Islamic jurisprudence extends beyond Egypt’s borders into the wider Sunni Muslim world. Al-Azhar says on its website that the standing of its sheikh, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, is equivalent to that of the prime minister of Egypt. Faced with Soliman’s youthful irreverence, Al-Azhar crushes with the weight of history. It has been around for 1,035 years.
Al-Azhar termed Naguib Mahfouz’s allegorical novel “Children Of Our Neighborhood” blasphemous when it was serialized in al-Ahram newspaper in 1959. Unlike Soliman, who heaps scorn on al-Azhar and vowed on his last blog, before going to jail, that he would not change a word of his writings, the cautious Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Literature Prize in 1988 and died last year, was deferential to al-Azhar and agreed that “Children Of Our Neighborhood” would not be published in book form in Egypt during his lifetime. A 2004 study by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights documented the activity of al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Council in thwarting the distribution of literary and artistic works deemed objectionable, including confiscating books from Cairo’s main book fair.
With the Soliman case, al-Azhar’s censorship has penetrated cyberspace.
Asked to comment on Soliman’s imprisonment, Stewart Tuttle spokesman of the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, said the United States is “concerned about the conviction and sentence meted out to someone for his opinion. The State Department does not follow this blog. It is important to respect all religions, including Islam, but freedom of expression is criticial to a democratic and prosperous society.” Officials at Egypt’s embassies in Tel Aviv and Washington, D.C. did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article.
Al Shafei, the Bahraini blogger, says she is “deeply disappointed” by what she views as a lack of American response to Soliman’s plight. “We at the Free Kareem Coalition believe that if we had the American government’s support in this case, that would be much more meaningful than trying to spread democracy through military intervention like we have seen in Iraq. This is the kind of support we need and we would find it very worrying if this case was easily dismissed or ignored.”
Al Shafei is also greatly disappointed by Arabs and Muslims who refused to sign the coalition’s on-line petition because they do not agree with Soliman’s opinions. “If we aren’t able to express ourselves, that’s a huge issue for Arab youth,” she wrote. “How are we expected to grow as a civilization if we aren’t allowed to question and criticize without risking our lives for it?”
- New York Post: Free Egypt’s Blogger, by our New York Coordinator, Constantino Diaz-Duran
Depriving a student of his freedom and robbing him of his youth merely for posting his opinions on a Web site is a horrible step back for Egypt. It certainly makes a mockery of the claims by Karim Haggag, press attache at the Egyptian embassy in Washington, that “freedom of speech is safeguarded in Egypt’s Constitution and its legal framework.”
The United States claims to be Egypt’s friend and ally. But friends call each other on their mistakes, and urge correction. Franks has pointed out that “Congress is concerned with Egypt’s stifling of basic human rights” and called on Mubarak to “immediately pardon” Soliman.
When Rice meets with Mubarak this weekend, she should transmit the same message.
- National Public Radio Airs Segment on Kareem On the six-minute segment, reporter Xeni Jarden interviewed:
i. Our New York Coordinator, Constantino Diaz-Duran;
ii. Egypt’s Ambassador to the US, Nabil Fahmy;
iii. Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah; and
iv. Lawrence Wright, a writer for The New Yorker magazine and author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.
NPR warns: “This report contains some graphic audio, which some listeners may find disturbing.”
Click here to download the NPR podcast.
You can also read Xeni’s report at the NPR Web site: Supporters Work to Free Egyptian Blogger. (Visit that page to also access the segment using streaming audio on RealPlayer or Windows Media Player).
- The Middle East Media Research Institute: Arrest of Reformist Blogger Sparks Criticism in Egyptian Press.
- Daily Star Egypt: In the wake of Kareem’s prison sentence, a discussion on freedom of expression in Egypt, entitled Bloggers Are Also In Jails, was held last Sunday at Cairo’s Center of Socialist Studies. The main speakers consisted of two Egyptian bloggers and one of Kareem’s defence lawyers: Censorship Is a Lost Cause, Says Egyptian Blogger.
- Ponto Electrônico: Libertem Kareem!
E. Translations: What Kareem Said
We have updated the What Kareem Said section with a translation of an article he published one day after the 2005 Alexandria riots that occurred in Moharram Bek: Kareem Amer: The Naked Truth about Islam As I Saw It In Maharram Beh.
This translation was produced by J. Ahmed Salib.
DISCLAIMER: The creators of the Free Kareem campaign would like to stress the fact that they do not agree with the contents of this article.
- Julio Rey: Kareem’s Last Blog
A word about personal liberty to my fellow Christians who may have issues with Kareem’s anti-religious views: it’s our job [and our choice] to convince the unbeliever that what we believe is the right thing. And it’s the government’s job to make sure that a) we can do it without getting incarcerated b) the unbeliever can make his own choice and not get incarcerated either. That’s what Kareem is standing for.
- Harry’s Place: Egyptian Blogger Kareem Loses His Appeal
Before anyone declare him [Kareem Amer] a chimp, it might be worth remembering Kareem decided to stop posting at Copts United as he felt they limited his criticism of religion solely to muslims and not copts as well.
That anyone should face a stretch in jail for criticising religion or their head of state in the 21st Century is an absolute disgrace, let alone someone in a country to which the US gives a good billion dollars a year in aid and has offered to host the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum in 2009.
I’d be interested to hear just how Kareem’s writings have “harmed” anyone.
- Shiraz Socialist: Demonstration for Kareem Amer
Amongst these “incitements”, incidentally, were a pledge to defend Muslim women against discrimination, criticisms of Al-Azhar University, and the description of Mubarak as a “symbol of Tyranny”. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter specifically what he said. No matter what he wrote on those subjects, he should have the right to say it without fear of imprisonment.
- Not Bad For An Ex-Slave: Free Abdel Kareem Nabil!
I personally think this is hideous and a disgrace to the nation of Egypt itself. Maybe even Africa…
Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t this violate Abdel’s right to freedom of expression? Or are blogs not covered by such ‘rights’? Regardless, in today’s day and age this should not be happening. Clear cut harassment.
- fabriziocuttin.it: Blogger imbavagliati
- Carpe Diem: ¿Y qué pasó con Kareem?
Excerpt (English translation):
A coworker asked me yesterday what has happened with Kareem. So, well… here go the bad news:
On March 12, an Egyptian court confirmed the four-year sentence against the young blogger. Now it’s in the hands of President Hosni Mubarak to undo the horrible injustice done to Kareem.
In spite of everything, Kareem’s friends around the world haven’t abandoned him. This picture, published by Tom Palmer, is the clever projection done over the Egyptian Embassy in London, showing Kareem as he was taken into prison.
Also yesterday, Constantino Diaz-Duran participated on a show about the case on National Public Radio. You can read about the case, and listen to the segment here. Constantino, who was an editorialist and columnist at the Guatemalan newspaper Siglo Veintiuno, also wrote about Kareem in the New York Post.