Monday, May 29, 2006
For more than three weeks, bloggers have been reminding the world that Egypt has imprisoned bloggers that took up their keyboards in defense of Egypt's putatively independent judiciary. My original post, which sort of got the ball rolling on this side of the Atlantic (if for no other reason than a link from Instapundit), is here.
There has been scant support from either the MSM or Western governments, but the Associated Press is running an inspiring story this morning, "Egypt democracy activist blogs from cell".
Even from his cell in an Egyptian prison, Alaa Abdel-Fattah is blogging — scribbling messages on slips of paper that make their way to the Internet and spread around the world.
The 24-year-old Abdel-Fattah's blog, which he does with his wife Manal Hassan, has become one of the most popular pro-democracy voices in Egypt. He has continued writing despite being arrested in early May during a street demonstration in Cairo — part of a crackdown on reform activists by Egyptian security forces.
"We covered the walls of our cell with graffiti of our names and slogans and Web site addresses," Abdel-Fattah wrote one time, referring to himself and fellow imprisoned activists. "We chanted and sang and the mood was great."
Glenn Reynolds has been a trooper in the campaign to free Alaa, and the Associated Press quotes him in his capacity as an expert on blogging as a political solvent:
Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor and author of the popular American blog Instapundit, has written frequently about Abdel-Fattah.
"He's certainly the most famous blogger in Egypt and arguably the best known reformer there now," Reynolds told The Associated Press. "When you suppress dissent, even minor voices become incredibly powerful."
I think this is right -- millions of people the world over, the most political interested people, I might add, now know who Abdel-Fattah is. That was not true before Egypt chucked him in jail.
After Abdel-Fattah's arrest, Egyptian, American and European bloggers launched a worldwide "Free Alaa" movement — circulating a petition and encouraging readers to write to their local Egyptian embassy. Hassan said the Manalaa blog got 3,000 daily hits before Abdel-Fattah's arrest and the number has skyrocketed since, though she hasn't tabulated them.
Web banners of the couple emblazoned with the words "Let Alaa return to Manal" get 150,000 daily hits on U.S. sites alone, said Sam Adam, another Egyptian blogger who writes at http://www.sandmonkey.org.
Don't forget to keep the heat on. I can think of worse ways to spend your Memorial Day than writing an email to the Egyptian Embassy protesting the detention of Alaa and other democracy activists.
The contact information for the Egyptian embassy is below:
The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Phone (202) 895 5400
Fax (202) 244 5131
(202) 244 4319
Liberty and Justice TrackBack
This episode shows once again that freedom of speech is alien to the far majority of Middle-Eastern countries. It also shows the importance of the war in Iraq.
In the end this article reminds us of the great power of the internet: in countries where the traditional media is too strictly controlled, the internet has the capability to independently inform the public about what's really going on.
An independent, thinking, questioning mind is the greatest threat to all forms of totalitarianism, including Islam, which is probably the most intensely controlling, micromanagerial society ever!
The heroic aspect of the whole story is that this independent, thinking, questioning mind, even though imprisoned,is still able to "speak its mind."
A free mind is the natural state of humankind, and no matter how hard they try, the totalitarians who try to stifle it will always ultimately fail. As the adage goes, "reality always wins in the end."