A. Reminder: Worldwide Rallies on April 27
Rallies have been confirmed in major countries worldwide, including the Czech Republic, Canada, US, UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Romania. 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!
B. What’s New with Kareem
- Prosecutors Hindering Kareem’s Appeal Procedure
HRinfo’s lawyer, Rawda Ahmed, who is part of the defense team, has travelled to Alexandria many times to file the appeal. However, upon discovery that the appeal related to Amer’s case, the prosecution refused to process it.
- Reporters Without Borders: Call to French president to lobby President Mubarak about press freedom
- Video Interviews with Kareem After Al-Azhar Investigation:
March 2006 Interview, Part I:
March 2006 Interview, Part II:
- Kareem’s First Letter from Prison (Written Last Year)
I am not sad! I will never let them have the chance to psychologically ruin me by such arbitrary acts, which are mastered only by idiots. Such idiots have rigid thoughts with no power to stand firm against any free thinking that challenges well-established truths. They resort to full violence and cruelty to suppress it – an expression of their inability to confront it with counter thinking. The aim is to silence the voice of birds singing outside their own herd. They will never achieve such a goal!
Day after day, this impotent trick, adopted by Al-Azhar University by employing its barbaric and foolish acts, proves that Al-Azhar is nothing but an environment that spreads backwardness and ignorance. In addition, it keeps urging people to be satisfied with their disgraceful conditions. This is done through discouraging them from thinking, through disrupting their minds, and through chasing those who use their minds in questioning what is illogically imposed on them.
I announce, from my detention cell, that nothing and no one will ever make me submit. Even when my hands are in chains and my freedom of movement is denied, this will only make me stronger and more stubborn in my confrontation with the enemies of mankind disguised under the cover of religion.
This apartheid segregation policy has significantly affected the students. Al-Azhar University’s male students now look for anything to quench their strong sexual thirst. They do not leave any searchable thing without searching for its sexual indications; this search did not even exclude their academic books and lectures.
For example, we find them searching specifically in Islamic jurisprudence books for any phrase that refers to sex, sexual conditions, or the stipulations of extramarital sex and Islamic jurisprudence related to women. We find them heavily focused on these topics, and at the same time neglecting the rest of the important academic subjects whose topics do not necessarily bring up this matter.
During academic lectures, you can talk about this with no embarrassment. You find them, particularly in the Islamic jurisprudence lectures, trying to understand what the lecturer says in different ways, and they attempt to have him bring up thorny sexual topics while they are in a state of extreme sexual frenzy. They wait for these Islamic jurisprudence lectures with no patience so they can satiate their pervert sexual instincts by enjoying crude sexual phrases that the lecturer uses.
D. Press Coverage
- Egypt Today: Down with the Pajamahideen
We have a popular saying here in Egypt: idrab el-marboot, yikhaf el-sayeb, which basically means if you strike the one that is tied down, you scare off the free ones. In sentencing Amer to four years of prison, you scare all the other bloggers out there. Unimportant as his blog may have been in comparison with the blogs mentioned earlier, Amer gave the authorities the excuse they needed to scare off the more active bloggers, those whose work is more widely noted and who cannot be imprisoned because they largely focus on recording the truth. Although many of them have been arrested in the past, it was very difficult to build a case against them and they were consequently released.
- The Varsity: Jailed Egyptian Blogger An Example To Us All
In pursuit of this objective, Kareem has used his website to speak out against gender inequality at his university (Al-Azhar University in Cairo) and criticize what he sees as the negative influence of Islam on Egyptian society. For this, the brave writer found himself expelled, chased by knife-wielding thugs while security officials stood aside, referred to the public prosecutor, charged, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison for “inciting hatred of Islam” and “insulting” President Hosni Mubarak. Needless to say, freedom of expression is under attack in Egypt.
Since then, the case has spurred a global movement calling for his safe release and for free speech in general. Western media outlets, including the Washington Post, Le Monde, the Globe and Mail, Der Speigel, and many others have embraced Kareem’s cause by publicizing his tragic story. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders have condemned his imprisonment and are currently lobbying the Egyptian government for his release. Politicians from Italy and the U.S. have also joined the effort by sending official letters to Cairo calling for Kareem to be pardoned.
- The Nation: Mixed opinions after a decade of blogging
- Global Voices Online: Lessons from the Free Kareem Campaign
Lessons from Kareem
With such a complex mix of agendas and interpretations, however, it is perhaps more constructive to inquire about the “how” of this success. The lessons we can learn from this experience and from previous initiatives adopted by the highly organized and thriving Egyptian blogsphere [sic] are many. Here are a few of them:
• Setting up a standalone site or blog for each case is essential for a successful campaign. It serves as the public online face of the campaign; a space for providing information, updates, breaking news and links to other initiatives supporting the persecuted blogger or online writer.
• Showing photos of the individual and posting examples of his or her work (writings etc) helps personalize the case and puts a human face on the story. The person being persecuted or harassed is no longer just a name, but a human being and a focus for the public’s support and sympathy.
• In the era of Web 2.0, targeting blogging communities like Global Voices also helps guarantee success, since they help amplify the news and make it available to mainstream media and NGO’s who otherwise wouldn’t find them.
• Writing in English is crucial to reaching a wider community. Despite the existence of massive communities of bloggers writing in languages like Chinese, Persian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc., English remains a dominant an influential language in the blogosphere. To quote the Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan: “If a news item isn’t written or printed in English…it has never happened.” *.
*We are Iran, The Persian Blogs, by Nasrin Alavi, Portobello Books, London, 2005, p. 344.
- CyberEgo: So, you think you can blog?
It’s common knowledge that the internet is under surveillance especially after the 11/9. What if a blogger satirizes or deliberately leaves threatening innuendos(even as a joke) for the U.S. external policy? Would that make him/her a suspect of a possible terroristic act? Is it possible that someone be forbidden to get a Visa for a country about which s/he expresses a negative opinion? I want to express such opinion about U.S., but I also want to get a Visa for it. I’m sure that someday we’ll be hired or fired because of our “blog views”. It has already happened, in a way, in the case of the Egyptian blogger, Kareem Amer, who has been imprisoned.
- Epichorus: كريم عامر
It takes a level of determination, conviction, and bravery that I can only hope to imagine, for an individual to speak this sort of truth in the face of such coercive power.
- The Blog of M’Gath: Turkey may censor Net access
Meanwhile, blogger Kareem Amer remains in an Egyptian jail for criticizing the gang in charge of his country.
In the Islamic world, we’re seeing two types of repressive governments: barbaric theocratic governments such as Iran’s, and authoritarian secular governments such as Egypt’s and Turkey’s — and, a few years ago, Iraq’s under Saddam Hussein. They aren’t very different in the end, but they’re violently opposed to each other. One group models itself on Muhammad’s fanatics, the other on all-powerful caliphs. It’s what Ayn Rand called the conflict between the Witch Doctor and Attila — one believing only in brute force, the other in the unquestionable commands of supernatural powers.
Although blogging can be described as one of the most transformative media technology since the invention of the printing press, there are still a lot of dangers that exist within its usage. For example, a court in Alexandria, Egypt came to the decision of a four-year prison term to blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil. Native to Egypt, Nabil who is twenty-two years of age was indicted on grounds that his Web postings insulted Islam and President Hosni Mubarak. As an outspoken secularist, Nabil criticized Islam-inspired violence called Mubarak a “symbol of tyranny,” and branded Egypt’s Al-Azhar University as “the university of terrorism.”