Below you will find a translation of the 6th letter Kareem sent from prison. The Arabic version is available here.
I write, while the completion of a “whole” year in prison approaches, with my cuffed freedom and restricted movements. The tough experience pushed me to realize the bitterness of injustice that indescribable feeling which has no resemblance, particularly if applied on a victim that committed no guilt. I did nothing but merely practicing my legitimate right to speech, guaranteed by all civil and humanitarian rules despite the tyrants who do not approve it.
Apparently, a quite long time has passed since the day of unjustly sentencing me to four years in prison. Until recently, I was not able to comment on the event because I had no access to media and I was deprived from exchanging mails or talking. I spent more than two months in the cells dedicated to those sentenced to death and serving punitive penalties. The prison officials claimed that there was no other proper place for me. They prevented me from having pens. Whenever I wanted to write a letter, I had no choice but to dictate it!
Now, things have changed greatly. At least, I can write and exchange mails, not with complete freedom though. My letters unlike the letters of other prisoners are subject to censorship. However, the prison officials deny that any of the letters coming to me is confiscated. They confirm that they send them to me after reading the content regardless of content. Therefore, I found it a good opportunity to talk after a long period of forced silence and staying away from those who “invested” my crisis – according to my Tunisian friend, Emad Habib – because they do not deserve my slightest attention.
I still clearly remember that day. I prepared myself, psychologically, to the final session of announcing the judgement. I did not care for the expected sentence, then. I was preoccupied with history and the anniversary that coincided that day. History repeats itself all the time; yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all alike. My final judgement session was held on February 22nd the day that I can never forget.
On the same day forty six years ago – particularly in February 22nd, 1943 – a military court in Germany headed by a “racist” judge sentenced three University of Munich students to death. They are the brothers Sofia and Hans Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst. They were punished because they dared to confront the fascist regime in a non-violent way. They established a resistance movement against the ruling regime. They called it “White Rose Movement.” Their peaceful activism, for which they were executed, was limited to confronting the ruling fascist regime by simple tools like drawing on street walls at night, writing and distributing street bulletins, with the purpose to expose the inhuman crimes against ethnic and religious minorities in Germany. They used to distribute their bulletins inside the campus; computers and blogging was not known for them.
Sixty-four years later, a “tyrant” judge in an Egyptian court, motivated by Al-Azhar University, sentenced me to four years in prison because I practiced my right to free speech online. Al-Azhar University released me recently by expelling me out and I am still paying for this freedom.
I am not trying to compare myself to those brave heroes; I just wanted to focus on the historical coincidence. The blogger friend, Shahinaz mentioned in one of her letters that “tyrants and dictators looks alike in every place and time” However, I was preoccupied by the situation of university in both cases. At that time, University of Munich took the initiative to expel the three students out and handled them to the Gestapo. At this time, Al-Azhar University took the initiative of expelling me out, then informed the prosecutor with my activities… No comment!
Every day in the morning, I find an urge need inside my mind to think of my current situation, as if I am discovering it for the first time. I ask myself many questions with hope to find appropriate answers to justify my current situation. I am detained with dangerous criminals who resemble danger against individuals and properties. I tried to find convincing answers for my questions. At a certain moment, I decided to abandon logical thinking. I decided to look for a good interpretation based on the prevailing inherited concepts of inhuman characteristics and which are mostly related to our miserable facts.
I found out that the accusations levelled against me, regardless of its legal paraphrasing, can be divided into two sections:
A total section related to using my right to free expression in an unfree climate and daring to exceed social, political, and religious limits and redlines.
A detailed section, which can be summarized in the following points:
First: my absolute rejection of violence, particularly that hidden under religious covers and justified by Quran texts, which lost their value by time.
Second: using my mind to analyze the unseen and unbelievable facts derived from religious superstitious heritage.
Third: my rejection to be classified according to any affiliations imposed forcefully on me because I decided not adopt something which does not express what I feel.
Fourth: I believe naively that I live in a democratic free atmosphere and that I enjoy my basic civil rights, including my absolute right to free expression in addition to the aforementioned points. I did not realize the bitter fact that I live under the rule of repressive regime chasing those who have different opinions.
Fifth: Bending myself to frankness and transparency in expressing my views. For example, I am not disguised behind a false name and had been able to do so. It was evident during the investigations conducted by Disciplinary Council of Al-Azhar University and the Public Prosecutor. I think this is the real reason behind everything that happened to me so far.
I think these are the true accusations leveled against me. Things will not change as long as our country does not change. These days, we cannot neglect the tyrant judgment against columnist and poet, Ahmed Abdel Muti Hijazi who was charged with defamation against a mohatasib. He simply talked about religious fundamentalism in one of his articles published in Rosalyousif newspaper, few years ago. He compared between political Islamists and inquisition courts in the Middle Age and Israeli religious extremists who insist that their country is a religious one.
Al-Azhar University is currently planning for a new conspiracy against freedom of thought and expression against Ph.D. Dr. Mahmoud Al-Khayal. He mentioned a TV show that he wants to translate an American book titled “End of Faith” into Arabic. Now, the supporters of retardation are preparing to chase him with the charge of disdaining Islam like what happened with me.
I announce from her that my accusation is not a shame for me. I have it like a crown on my head and necklace on my chest. Every one must know that I did not force myself to respect any tyrant law that hinders freedoms. I am against any act to limit the right of freedom of expression of any person. Laws were created to regulate the relationships between individuals inside the same society. They are not meant to limit their freedoms and violate their basic rights. It is not logic to say that: “… there are limitations on the right to freedom of expression …” according to those who work against freedom. These limitations, according to them, include justifying suppression and intellectual circumcision supported by shallow-minded fundamentalists who cannot go abreast with the modern age.
Let everyone, including the tyrant judges who sentenced me and those who misused my crisis to get me, know that prison will not work out with me. I do believe in myself, respect my right to free thought and expression, and use their minds all the time. My thoughts which deprived them of night sleep, will not change until I get convinced of other thoughts. Terrifying and intimidating me, expelling me out of university and putting me in prison will not change my mind. Also, inciting people to kill me and claiming hisba cases against me and any other barbarian methods will not panic me. Only stupid, weak, and inflexible people use these methods to justify their violent actions by breaking the pencils of writers and silencing their voices. They cannot achieve what they want.
I do not know how to address Al-Azhar University that led me to jail, the tyrant judges who sentenced me to prison, and the leaders of the repressive regime who are preventing us from breathing. The best message I want to deliver to them is quoted from the young Sofia Scholl who were in my age at the time of her execution. She said to the judge who sentenced her to death: “One day, you will be at my place!” This happened.
To the enemies of freedom, tyrants, and authoritarians, heads of religious institutions, officials of the governing regime and their supporters, I say:
“The garbage of history will be stuffed with you soon. The coming generations will not have mercy with you. They will do as I am doing now. They will curse you. Please, make sure that no one will shed a tear for your sake, because you do not deserve it. Tomorrow is ours. It does not matter how tyrant you are in your attempts to silence us and confiscate our views. You should be aware for our revival because your days are counting down. Your dark night approached its end. Our dawn will come up very soon. Tomorrow is ours.”
Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman
To read all previous letters, click here.
“You can cage the singer but not the song.” – Harry Belafonte, in International Herald Tribune, 3 October 1988blog comments powered by Disqus