Thanks to Lamis Khalilova’s initiative, Amnesty Czech held a demonstration at the Egyptian Embassy on April 27. Here’s their account on the events that occurred during the day, along with some pictures:
Thanks to Vaclav Mlynarik for announcing the event at the city hall and getting a permit to gather in print, we were there both de facto and de jure. Many passersby, including high school students, families taking a walk, and even people heading home for a weekend in a rush, stopped to sign the letter of appeal and lots of members and friends of AI showed up too.
Those who needed more time promised to check out the freekareem.org site and sign the online petition. Even a taxi driver stopped his car , asked us what all the fuss was about and when we explained and he saw the banners, he too signed the petition through his rolled down window!
Vaclav Mlynarik wrote a letter to his Excellency the Ambassador of Egypt to the Czech Republic, which we all signed (30 signatures) and handed over, along with a short printed account of Kareem’s case to the second secretary at the embassy, Mr. Ahmad Sharif.
Petr Vitek, Vaclav Mlynarik and I introduced ourselves and exchanged greetings before Petr began to highlight why we were here. What was supposed to be short and polite quickly developed into a conversation.
We spoke to him about our concerns regarding the human rights situation in Egypt in general and about Kareem’s case in particular, he shared our concern and agreed that the right to free speech is an important right that needed to be upheld. He also said that he shared our views on human rights, however he went on to say that in the region, human rights are “very specific” and there are “special cases” we must pay attention to. We disagreed with all due respect and clearly stated that human rights are universal rights, which do not depend on gender, race and /or religion. Where a person is born should never determine the amount of freedom he/she enjoys.
We acknowledged that Egypt has made a tremendous amount of work, which has led to the improving of the standard of living in the country, but we still deemed it was time for an even bigger shift on the humans rights stage, we told him it was important for Egypt to differentiate between militant terrorists and its citizens and especially the youth who practice their basic human rights; we here in Prague would not go to jail for thoughts that don’t incite on violence published on a blog and we want Egyptian bloggers to enjoy the same rights.
Mr. Shareef promised he would hand over the letter to the Egyptian authorities and assured us that the officials in Egypt would receive it.
At the rally we projected a video compilation onto a white screen. The material projected were mainly clips kindly compiled by Michal Stasa from the material available on your site, the rally outside the Egyptian booth in Paris, Posts from Kareem’s blog, Kareem’s interviews and people’s opinions on Kareem’s case.
The employees of the embassy took pictures and videos of us and that is visible in one of the pictures, it was expected and we don’t mind it at all, in fact we exchanged waves and smiles. It is also important to say that the Czech Police were very polite, supportive and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. I hope that one day demonstrators in an Arab country experience the same kind of interaction with the police.
The media here in the Czech Republic and in Europe in general gave us a lot of coverage and that is mainly thanks to the excellent efforts of our press secretary Eva Dobrovolna. The day started with an invitation and a 7-minute interview for a morning news and events show on the Czech National TV, on which I appeared. The Czech News agency covered the event too and published news item in English and Czech that has appeared in a few dailies. Last but not least was the radio coverage of RBB Radio Multikulti, the largest German national radio station; their Arabic section covered the event with Amnesty International outside the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin and called us here to Prague while we were at the demonstration. I gave them a phone interview which is now available on their site online. I think it especially crucial that Kareem’s ordeal be told in full with no cosmetic adjustments and allowances in Arabic.
We hope that Kareem will soon hear of these worldwide events and efforts and that he will feel encouraged, high spirited and optimistic because he is not alone. We also hope and believe that he will now sense an improvement in the treatment he is receiving in jail, which is very often the case and Amnesty International has had that experience with prisoners of conscience right after such medial attention. We hope to see him released from jail before his sentence is completed. We also hope that this event encourages bloggers everywhere to be courageous and outspoken, and that they aren’t forced to self sensor. May their pens never dry and their keyboards never fail them.
Member of board of directors AI CR
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