Archive for May, 2006

Dear Alaa.. (And the Other Freedom Fighters in Egypt and Elsewhere)

May 18, 2006

Hello, my dear Egyptian blogging brother.

I just read your blog from prison, and how it hadn’t really sunk in that you were there.

I read some comments from people cheering you on, and others who thought that thirty days were nothing, and still others who asked you to say “hi” to Ayman Nour.

I’ve browsed through blog postings of people who have known about your news from the moment it happened, and others who didn’t know until they talked to me.

“Sara, can it be true? Alaa is the most famous Egyptian blogger in the world! They COULDN’T have snatched him and his crew off the street, could they??”

But they could. And they did.

While I wasn’t surprised to hear of your arrest/kidnapping, Alaa, I was sad to hear it, very sad.

Not because you’re a talented computer guy who is generous with your talents, not because you are what everyone thinks of when they think of great Egyptian blogs (which they could not have read without the Bit Bucket).

Of course those things are true, but there’s a different reason for my sadness.

See, when Christian Egyptians are/were discriminated against in, say, the issues of occupation or church-building, I could understand it. That’s just the way things are… “the tyranny of the majority” and all that.

Not to say that the majority—Muslims—were the bad guys, only that since there were more Muslims in Egypt, there was a (much) bigger chance that the officials of Egypt would also be Muslim, and that the law and culture of the land would lean towards the Islamic rather than the Christian. (Or Jewish, for that matter.)

But now it seems that the government’s ravening and bloodthirsty appetite is no longer content to feed on Christians. It seems that “modern
Egypt” has moved on to her own Muslim children, as well.

The ones that aren’t content with a status quo that winks at the almost-legalized persecution of Christians, the ones who speak out against a government so rife with corruption that it would be very kind (and conservative) of me to wager that more than 80% of its officials are bribed in some fashion.

Why? Because these children, in their quest for freedom, are going against the very things that the government now is and that it’s come to stand for. That is, tyranny, lack of transparency, and “every man for himself, unless you’re one of the privileged few.”

I know what you’re thinking, Alaa. You’re thinking “Well, Sara, since you’re so gung-ho about making a more livable Egypt, why don’t you come to Cairo and hang out with me and the other detainees in prison?”

And I want to tell you something, Alaa. If it would bring about liberty and freedom of speech for all Egyptians, I’d be there in a second, protesting something and sitting in jail with you, or even coming down for a visit.

Economic factors prevent me from doing so, however.

So for now, I must content myself with trying to get you out of there… from outside of Cairo.

But letter-writing won’t help a thing if I’m the only one doing it!

And so, my friends (since you’re reading over Alaa’s shoulder, of course), I want to URGE you in the strongest language possible to GET OFF YOUR DUFFS and WRITE.

CAMPAIGN.

PICKET.

Your brother and dozens of other friends are in trouble and, we’re in a position to help.

If 10,000 Egyptians march on Cairo, can they really arrest all of us?

And if they really did arrest all of us, do you think we’d be in there for a long time? (I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m actually slavering at the chance to kick some “shorty” butt. Then again, that would sort of nullify the whole “turning the other cheek” thing, wouldn’t it..? Sigh.)

The eyes of the world are watching Egypt now, and I have a feeling that, as more and more young free-thinkers are growing up and taking control of governmental and economic positions in Egypt, the time of Tyranny is coming to an end.

Will the end be swift? It might be.

Will people suffer? Probably.

But, at the end of the day, FREEDOM will prevail, inshallah. Inshallah!

Letter to State Department

May 16, 2006

 My Dear Mr. Welch:

I write to you not merely as an Egyptian, whose fellow brothers and sisters are being tormented by the government, but as an American, whose tax dollars have been going to support the very torment that tears at my heart.

You see, I was born in the States to Egyptian parents, which was a great honor, to be sure. I grew up with many privileges that my family back home never got to have. I am now pursuing a path that will allow me to give back to this community and culture that has fostered my love of freedom, democracy, and helping those in need.

You can imagine, of course, that the first people to catch my eye (in regards to "helping those in need") would be my brothers and sisters in Egypt.

For example, I'm sure you've heard about Alaa, the Egyptian blogger who was arrested for peacefully protesting in support of judges and freedom of speech, and who supported the put-upon Christians not two weeks before. (He is a Muslim, by the way.)

You may have heard of another young man, Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, who was not only arrested and detained for 18 days after his anti-Islamic essay came out in late 2005, but who was recently expelled from Al Azhar Law School for supporting freedom of speech.

I don't know what to do from here, and I don't know how I can help, except for writing to you. I beg you to put pressure on the government to not only release Alaa and the other activists, but to put a mechanism in place that would prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

We are generous enough to have sent over a BILLION dollars a year, and all it's going to is tormenting the very people it should be helping!

And when people in Cairo and Alexandria have to go to sleep hungry sometimes–as many of my friends do–it further convinces me how much they need help. Help they're not getting.

Accountability, Mr. Welch, it's all I'm asking for.

A New Egypt!!

May 16, 2006

A friend recently asked me to comment on the fiasco of Holy Week, and I want to say something..  

I am not shocked at all.  

Ever since the riots came to Alex, I lost the ability to be shocked by the new, and rapidly worsening events. Did this obliterate my dream of happiness in
Egypt?
 

Not at all!  

Because the truth is that, by blogger Alaa's kidnapping/arrest, by Abdelkareem's expulsion from al Azhar Law School, by the very fact that these small things are adding up—coming to a head, as it were—I see one big thing starting to happen: Freedom.  

These are its birth pains. 

Perhaps things may seem to get worse for a time  before we are able to reach an equal, happy and relatively free(er)
Egypt.
 I am sad for the casualties, of course.  

If I could, I would plunk down the long-stemmed strawberries I’m languidly dragging through a veritable tureen of whipped cream (the container said “LO-CAL,” but it seems more like “SO-CAL”) and go sit with Alaa in jail.  

If I could, I would do more than sit in my ivory tower and write articles.  

I might write to law-makers and urge them to do something. I might start a demonstration of my own. I might even join a human-rights organization and tell them all about the blatant human rights violations that our fair government is tossing towards her beloved citizens. 

Actually, I’ve done all of these things.  

But I’m just one voice. 

I need your help, and so do our brothers and sisters who are really and truly bearing the brunt of our fight to make
Egypt great again.
 

Friends, DO NOT GIVE UP!  

They are trying to wear us down so that we will accept the status quo and say “Well, we tried. We did all we could,” and settle down quietly in our paper-lined cages. 

Do people not realize that things have only become this way because people backed down or fled the country at the first opportunity?  

Not that I can blame them, and not that their strategic position outside of Egypt (and away from our dear government) makes them and their fighting less effective… quite the opposite, in fact. 

It’s only when we stand together—fighting for our rights, filing complaints when we are mistreated, and attracting international attention—that we can really effect change. Will we make a dent, though, or are we just striking out at a wall that will never get dented, much less collapse? 

Friends, we WILL make a dent, but it will take time to see it.  

One day we'll wake up and see a huge dent where we've each struck the wall (or car door, or whatever the metaphor implies), and on that sweet day our efforts will be rewarded. Will we suffer in the meantime?  

You'd better believe it.  

But we're suffering NOW, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so we may as well get a good return for all this suffering… right?