Posts Tagged ‘Alaa Abdel Fattah’

Mona Seif’s letter: a cry for help for Alaa

July 7, 2022

On 7 July 2022, Egyptian Human Rights Defender Mona Seif [https://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/mona-seif/] wrote the following letter asking for your help:

Dear Friends, colleagues and human rights defenders 

As I write this, I am on day 25 of my hunger strike, and Alaa, my brother, is on day 96 of his.

Alaa is a British-Egyptian prisoner of conscience and pro-democracy activist imprisoned in Egypt for most of the past decade.I decided to go on this hunger strike right after I last saw my brother in prison, on June 12th. He has lost a lot of weight, there was a very frail air about him, his hands looked thin and so pale that I could see the blue veins, and he was livid with anger. He kept on telling me to get over the notion that he can be rescued, he will never make it out of prison. “Focus on making the political price of my death the highest possible”, he said. It was an incredibly intense visit. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/21/alaa-abdel-fattah-and-two-others-receive-heavy-prison-sentences-in-egypt/]

I stepped out of prison and decided I will join his hunger strike. I was frustrated with how all officials seemed to take his strike lightly. The Egyptian government was blatantly denying his hunger strike on national TV  and all official meetings, while making sure no one sees Alaa but his family, so they blocked his lawyer from visiting, the national council for human rights from seeing him, and they have been blocking his British consular visit for months. On the other hand the British officials while sharing their genuine concern with us as a family in meetings, in their public official communication seemed to tip toe around Alaa’s hunger strike and how critical his situation is. 

Things have changed over the course of the past weeks. 

On June 21st the British Foreign Secretary confirmed to parliament that she is “working very hard to secure his release.” On July 4th a letter written by MP David Lammy, my MP and shadow foreign minister to the foreign secretary Liz Truss stressing on the importance of her intervention for Alaa’s release and highlighting his hunger strike. Another letter signed by 35 MPs and Lords was sent to the Egyptian minister for foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, on the same day.

And finally Sameh Shoukry arrived in London this week and my brother’s case was brought up during the bilateral meetings he attended, we are still waiting for an update about these meetings and if any agreement has been reached between both governments with regards to Alaa.

Accordingly I have decided to put an end to my strike, mostly because I feel I am growing too weak and tired to carry out my most important role right now: advocating for my brother’s life and freedom. But Alaa, being a prisoner, has no way of voicing out his frustration and anger at the continued injustice he is trapped in, except through his body, and depriving himself of the comfort of food. So he continues with his hunger strike, and next Sunday will be his 100th day!

Things seem to be moving but it worries us that the pace is very slow given how critical and life-threatening Alaa’s situation is.

So I am writing asking for your help, and asking you to believe that no help is too little. Every small action at this point really helps in building more awareness, sympathy and pressure to help us save my brother and with him the possibility of any happy future for my family. I will share some suggestions but please feel free to reach out, or organize any kind of action you think might help.

– Write to the Egyptian ambassador in your respective countries, address the urgency of Alaa’s case and situation.

– Write to your parliament representatives asking them to write to their counterparts in the UK and Egypt discussing Alaa’s case. If they could also issue any solidarity public statements it’d help immensely. Only today the German MP Tobias B. Bacherle published this statement in solidarity

– With the coming UN Climate conference #COP27 taking place in Egypt this year, all participating governments can influence and help in improving the human rights situation in Egypt prior to their attendance. So accordingly you have a chance to write to your government’s representatives who might be taking part in it and urge them to raise Alaa’s case with their Egyptian counterparts, and stress on how devastating it’d be if they allowed a British/Egyptian activist to die in prison after years of unjust detention. – Statements of solidarity by Human Rights defenders and organizations, and any solidarity vigils are always welcome

Feel free to share this email with anyone you think could help. For more resources and info regarding Alaa : check https://freealaa.net/, and on twitter @FreedomForAlaa

I urge you to carry my brother’s case as yours and help me in every possible way. I am exhausted and scared we’d lose him, but I also think this is the first time in years his release seems like an actual possibility not just a dream.

Much love Mona Seif #FreeAlaa,

Alaa Abdel Fattah, and two others receive heavy prison sentences in Egypt

December 21, 2021

Egypt on Monday 20 December 2021 sentenced Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading figure in the 2011 revolution, to five years in jail, with two others receiving four years, his sister Mona Seif and a judicial source said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/06/re-issued-passionate-plea-for-help-in-open-letter-by-mona-seif-from-egypt-about-targeting-of-her-family/]

A computer programmer, blogger and high-profile activist who mobilized youths in the uprising that unseated autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Fattah had been in pre-trial detention since September 2019.

Abdel Fattah, his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer and blogger Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim were convicted of “broadcasting false news” in their trial in Cairo.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the verdict and sentencing to AFP.

Rulings in the court cannot be appealed. They require final approval by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Washington, which has already frozen 10 percent of its aid to Egypt over repeated rights violations, said it was “disappointed” by the sentence. “Journalists, human rights defenders, and others seeking to peacefully exercise their freedom of expression should be able to do so without facing criminal penalties, intimidation, harassment, or any other form of reprisal,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

The Committee to Protect Journalists decried Monday’s ruling as “unacceptable”.

The verdict “demonstrates the lengths to which authorities are willing to go to punish these journalists for their work”, said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “Both journalists have already spent several years in prison on bogus charges, and authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally,” Mansour added.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday slammed “the government’s rush to use emergency courts… after holding people illegally for years in pretrial detention”. The New York-based rights watchdog then said that if Abdel Fattah and the other activists were to be sentenced, this would confirm “that fierce repression of peaceful critics remains the order of the day in Egypt”.

Abdel Fattah has spent most of the past decade in jail at Tora, one of the country’s most notorious prisons, after previous convictions. His mother, mathematics professor Laila Soueif, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece published on Saturday that “the outside world, once so inspired by the Egyptian revolutionaries, is looking away. His crime is that, like millions of young people in Egypt and far beyond, he believed another world was possible. And he dared to try to make it happen.

Prolific writer Abdel Fattah’s critically acclaimed essay collection “You Have Not Yet Been Defeated” was published in October.“At its fundamental core, his writing is attached to justice,” Soueif told AFP in October when the book was released.

Ahead of the trial session, Egypt’s foreign ministry lambasted the German government on Saturday for a statement calling for a “fair trial” and the release of the three dissidents. Cairo described the German foreign ministry’s call as “a blatant and unjustified meddling in Egyptian internal affairs”.

Rights groups say Egypt is holding some 60,000 political prisoners, many facing brutal conditions and overcrowded cells. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/27/egypt-decade-after-arab-spring-amnesty-and-un-express-concern-over-detention/

In a 2019 interview with the show 60 Minutes on US broadcaster CBS, Sisi said there were no political prisoners in Egypt. And – of course – the official reaction to interventions was: Egypt’s foreign ministry stressed on Monday that it was absolutely not appropriate to comment on or in any way refer to an independent judicial process.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2021/12/20/Egypt-prison-sentences-three-activists-2011-uprising/9611640051667/

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

August 6, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and take action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

Re-issued: Passionate plea for help in Open Letter by Mona Seif from Egypt about targeting of her family

July 27, 2020

It seems that this post of 27 July 2020 was corrupted; for some reason or another many people could not see the text of the letter itself. So here it is again in full. Please read and tke action on it. Mona Seif – MEA finalist of 2013 – and her family have been targeted by the authorities many times [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/08/21/an-exceptional-egyptian-family-of-human-rights-defenders/]

This is an open letter from MONA SEIF asking for your solidarity and support. It is long, but contains crucial details:
My name is Mona Seif, I am an Egyptian HRD. Over the past few weeks the Egyptian regime has been escalating violent targeting of my family. If you are following the news from this art of the world then you know how most of the media platforms have been blocked and many journalists detained, harassed, or pushed into exile. So I am writing to you, hoping you will carry my voice and that of everyone facing injustice here.  

Mona Seif, Egypt – Final Nominee MEA 2013

My brother Alaa Abdel Fattah has been in jail since last September. He was rearrested only 6 months after he got out of prison after completing a full five-years sentence. He has been in maximum security prison for 10 months in horrific conditions and daily violations of his rights, Egyptian laws and prison regulations. For the past months we have filed numerous official complaints, appealed to all sorts of entities here that have jurisdiction over the prison authorities, but none of them made any move to stop the violations or start a serious investigation. None of them made any attempt to bring us just a small bit of our rights. 

On the night of Alaa’s arrival to Tora Maximum security prison 2 he was stripped of his clothes, blind folded, beaten and threatened that “He will never get out of here“, we have submitted an official report to the general prosecutor, we have repeatedly met with the head of his Human Rights adminstration, Alaa went on record in state security prosecution while reviewing his pretrial detention and testified in details on the torture he endured. Until now, not one serious move was taken regarding this horrific incident, and it was an intro to the kind of prison he will be locked in. 

Since the crisis of Covid19 started, the Egyptian MOI has used it as an excuse to tighten the isolation of all prisoners, increase intimidation of prisoners and their families, and escalate in their deprivation of their basic rights. Since March 9th all visits have been completely banned in all prisons all over Egypt, however the families were not offered any alternative form of communication. We were not allowed phone calls with the prisoners, and most prisons are not allowing letters, even though both are explicit rights by the law, not to mention worrying times like these. Some prisoners were trying to get the word out about the deterioration of their health, about fear of Corona in prisons, the lack of proper information to help them understand the toll of the crisis and lack of sanitary measures indifferent  Egypt, the only response the MOI had was clamping down even harder on those prisoners, punishing those who voiced out their concerns, all this while the arrests of more activists is ongoing and the arrest of doctors who talk publicly about their needs, problems and the reality of managing Covid19 within our health system. 

With Alaa in particular, state security seems intent on preventing any sort of communication between us and him, even at times when they are allowing letters from other prisoners. Alaa went on a hunger strike on April12th and they did not even inform us. For a whole month during the covid19 emergency, my brother was on full hunger strike, my mother spent every morning at the prison’s gate and they did not allow us one letter to assure us of his well being.
For every letter received we as a family paid a heavy price. We received a letter after Alaa ended his hunger strike on May 18th, and another on June 6th after my mother camped daily by Tora prison. Then the last one we got was on June 25th after we were violently assaulted and robbed right infront of Tora prison on the watch of their guards,  and only after my younger sister Sanaa was abducted by plainclothed officers while entering the general prosecutor’s office- with her lawyer- to report the violent assault and officially document her injuries. Sanaa is now detained, and we haven’t been allowed any letters from her as well. 

I think I’ve seen alot, I’ve witnessed so many violations committed by the current and previous regimes, but somehow I would have never imagined that a victim of a violent assault would be kidnapped by state security from the gates of the general prosecutor’s office as they are trying to seek his protection and file an official complaint regarding a very public incident like the one we were part of. And it definitely wouldn’t have occured to me that not only the general prosecutor would turn a blind eye on such a grave crime committed at his doorstep, but actually enable them to “legalize”  her detention afterwards. 

Both Sanaa and Alaa are in prison They, and thousands of prisoners, are at risk facing the combined danger of an epidemic and a brutal senseless regime. 
Please speak up on their behalf.. write about them, share their stories, add your name to the petition, or you can directly write a letter to Judge Hany Georgy the Head of Human rights administration at the general prosecutor’s office  hanyfathy70@yahoo.com

 
Every voice counts,
Many thanks
Mona Seif

Links:

Video right after sanaa’s abduction (En subtitles) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=40727036690138

Petition FreeAlaa

FreeSanaa

Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif shines spotlight on human rights at UAE’s inaugural Hay festival

February 29, 2020
Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif brought up the cases of Egyptian and Emirati political prisoners during her talk at the Hay festival in Abu Dhabi on 26 February (Facebook/@AhdafSoueif)

A letter signed by the festival’s president Stephen Fry, and more than 40 public figures and organisations castigated Emirati authorities for continuing to incarcerate citizens for expressing their views. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/26/hay-festival-in-emirates-promotes-freedom-of-expression-but-not-for-its-citizens/.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/ahdaf-soueif-declares-solidarity-political-prisoners-uae-cultural-festival

Egypt: all you can think of: widespread arrests, torture allegations, cyber attacks

October 19, 2019
On 18 October 2019 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Egypt to immediately release scores of citizens who have been arrested in connection with recent anti-government demonstrations in several cities. Civil society groups report more than 2,000 people were detained before, during and after the protests on 20 September, which prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to express concern about reports of lack of due process. On Friday her office reported that the arrests are continuing, with a number of well-known and respected civil society figures affected, some of whom have been accused of terrorism. “Once again, we remind the Egyptian Government that under international law people have a right to protest peacefully, and a right to express their opinions, including on social media. They should never be arrested, detained – let alone charged with serious offences such as terrorism – simply for exercising those rights”, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.

The abduction, arbitrary detention and torture of human rights defender and journalist Esraa Abdelfattah is another indication that Egyptian authorities are stepping up brutality against human rights defenders in a bid to ‘terrorize’ critics and opponents, said Amnesty International today. Esraa Abdelfattah was assaulted and abducted by security forces in plainclothes on 12 October. The next day she described to the Supreme State Security Prosecution how she was tortured by officers who beat her, attempted to strangle her and forced her to stand for nearly eight hours. “Esraa Abdelfattah’s account of torture, coming just days after the prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah described a similar ordeal in custody, is an alarming indication that Egypt’s authorities are stepping up their use of brutal tactics to crack down on human rights defenders,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah as well as his lawyer, Mohammed El-Baqer are currently being held at the Tora Maximum Security Prison, south of Cairo. Both have been accused of belonging to a terrorist group, funding terrorism, spreading false news that undermines national security and “using social media to commit publishing offices”, the UN human rights office said. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/08/bloggers-and-technologists-who-were-forced-offline-in-2018/]

On 28 September the High Commissioner had already urged the “authorities to radically change their approach to any future protests’.

More than 2,000 people were detained, including lawyers, human rights defenders, political activists, university professors and journalists on 20-21 September, she said. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed that there no citizen in Egypt is arrested or prosecuted for carrying out legitimate activities or criticizing the Egyptian government, but for violating the law. He added that the right to peaceful demonstration is guaranteed in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Hafez stressed that the OHCHR report was based on undocumented information, which only leads to falsehoods as the allegations contained in it are based on wrong ideas, and this hasty judgment reflects a lack of professionalism. He added that any actions taken against any person is done in accordance with the law and through sound legal procedures, all carried out with transparency and clarity.

In addition on 3 October 2019 it was reported in the New York Times that a series of sophisticated cyberattacks targeting Egyptian journalists, academics, lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights activists has been traced to Egyptian government offices, a cybersecurity firm has found. The attackers installed software on the targets’ phones that enabled them to read the victims’ files and emails, track their locations, identify who they contacted and when, according to a report to be published Thursday by Check Point Software Technologies, one of the biggest cybersecurity companies in the world, with headquarters just south of San Francisco and in Tel Aviv.

The cyberattack began in 2016, according to the Check Point report. The number of victims is unknown but Check Point identified 33 people, mostly well-known civil society and opposition figures, who had been targeted in one part of the operation. “We discovered a list of victims that included handpicked political and social activists, high-profile journalists and members of nonprofit organizations in Egypt,” said Aseel Kayal, a Check Point analyst.

CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

More on the Sakharov Prize and the Arab nominees

October 16, 2014

A few days ago I published a piece about the little ceremonial dropping of Arab nominees for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/europes-sakharov-prize-in-trouble-with-regard-to-arab-nominees/]. The main actor in this story – Alaa Abdel Fattah – has given his own views in a piece  in Jadaliyya on 7 October, entitled “On the Sakharov Prize”. To do justice I copy it in its entirety below:

[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Dr. Andrei Dmitievich Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]
[Sculpture of Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Sakharov. Photo by David via Flickr.]

It was with joy that I received the news of my nomination for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the same joy any act of solidarity inspires.

Since my release from prison in Egypt on bail, with my fate still bound to the Special Terrorism Courts and the draconian Protest Law, I have been facing constant harassment from official and unofficial representatives of the regime. New trumped-up criminal charges pop up every few days. A horde of political talk show hosts on supposedly independent TV stations discusses old and out-of-context tweets, twisting my words and assigning sinister implications to them. There is an insistent tarnish campaign meant to prepare the general public for my eventual return to prison. Needless to say, I am banned from appearing on local TV stations, and I am forbidden to travel outside Egypt.

So it is solidarity such as that of European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) that creates the pressure to keep me out of jail and out of harm. It was also a comfort to find comrades in unexpected places; GUE/NGL’s stance against neoliberal policies and against the distortion of European democracy seemed in line with the aspirations of persecuted revolutionaries in Egypt and the broader Arab context.

I was proud to be nominated along with Tunisian rapper, Ala Yaacoubi, and Moroccan rapper, Mouad Belghouate, both imprisoned for insulting the police in their popular songs. I was relieved that the European Parliament members (MEP) who nominated us understood the point of doing symbolic/verbal violence to the image of the powerful who consistently commit systemic actual violence to the bodies, souls and livelihood of the powerless; relieved that the MEPs understood the meaning of questioning the humanity of those who derive their power from dehumanizing their opponents.

I was not surprised when a new tarnish campaign was launched in reaction against my nomination. My family has faced such campaigns before by supporters of the Israeli occupation and Israeli apartheid. The latest when my sister, Mona Seif, was shortlisted for the Martin Ennals Award. But I was surprised when the president of the GUE/NGL decided to withdraw my nomination based on a two-year-old tweet taken out of context. And I was surprised that this was done without an attempt to contact me for clarification, and without any regard for how such public condemnation affects my safety and liberty. The president of the GUE/NGL has now sent a clear message to the Egyptian authorities that whatever international solidarity and support I have is fragile—easily destroyed with a tweet.

The GUE/NGL are of course free to form their opinion based on whatever sources of information they choose—including well-known neocons writing for the Wall Street Journal about an out-of-context tweet. However, since they made the nomination and made it publicly, it was their responsibility to ascertain how the manner of retreating from it would affect my safety. Other options were available to them; they could have asked me to withdraw, or they could have quietly dropped my name from the short-list.

The GUE/NGL’s president’s statement claims that I “called for the murder of a critical number of Israelis.” For what it is worth, here is what I would have said if anyone from GUE/NGL or any other MEPs had asked me to clarify.

The tweet in question is certainly shocking if taken out of context, but even then it cannot be framed as “a call” for anything. It was a “mention” to two friends, part of a private conversation—a thread spanning multiple tweets—that took place over a public medium (limited to 140 characters) on the first night of Israel’s 2012 attack on Gaza. A conversation between friends who already knew enough about each others’ views to make it unnecessary to clarify and elaborate, for instance, the distinction between civilians and combatants—as one would if one were making a public statement. As this was not a public statement, only those who follow all three of us on Twitter would have had this tweet appear on their timeline at two a.m. on 15 November 2012. And even after the tarnish campaign, it has only been retweeted four times.

To pretend that you can interpret this tweet two years later without consulting the people involved in the conversation, and to claim that it constitutes a call to action, is simply ridiculous. That I should now feel the need to explain and clarify what was not intended for a general public in the first place, and to be condemned for my thoughts, not my actions, in such a manner is clearly an attack on my personal liberty. The chilling effect of having to adapt to such harassment and condemnation should be perfectly clear for those honoring Andrei Sakharov’s legacy.

The conversation relating to the war on Gaza started with a friend expressing her doubt that the conflict would ever be resolved by local actors. The other friend in the conversation and I replied, insisting that like most such conflicts, it would be resolved locally. The tweet stated what seems to be the basic strategy of most national liberation movements, especially those that opt for armed resistance: To make the price of occupation/colonization/apartheid too expensive for the society that supports it. The strategy of the Palestinians is exactly that—via both violent and nonviolent means (boycott, divestments and sanctions, and armed resistance, for example). Since this was during a time of war, I had armed resistance in mind. Think of Vietnam or Algeria; many would say this is exactly what happened: After a critical number of casualties in asymmetric wars, the civilian population supporting the occupier refused to continue its support—despite the fact that the casualties suffered by the society resisting colonization were massively higher.

My tweet was not a call for anything; it was not even a statement of opinion. It was a statement of one of the facts of the conflict. If GUE/NGL had asked me about my views I would have directed them to my March 2012 debate on Deutsche Welle.

It should perhaps be remembered that the first laureate of the Sakharov Prize was Nelson Mandela back in 1988, when he and the African National Congress (ANC) were considered terrorists by many democratic governments. At the time, his views on the necessity of violence for resisting apartheid must have required and inspired complex debates on appropriate tactics and strategies, the rules of engagement, the moral, political and social limitations that should be put on revolutionary violence, etc. There would have been plenty of statements attributable to him or his comrades—including the famous Rivonia Trial speech in which he admits to planning sabotage—that would have looked pretty scary out of context.

Finally, I hardly ever call for any solution or action on my own. As an individual, I have always expressed my opinions and positions in the clearest and strongest language. But as an activist, I have always worked for any given cause with and through the largest united front possible. When it comes to calls for solutions or actions, and for the sake of consensus, I would make the very compromises I refuse to make when speaking only for myself.

More importantly, I do not call for anything when it is not a cause that I am directly engaged with. I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, but I never presume to tell them what to do.

If my views on violence—specifically against civilians—are what is in question, the answers can be found in my actions and my published views in my local context and my own struggle in Egypt.

 [This piece is co-published with Mada Masr]

On the Sakharov Prize.

Europe’s Sakharov Prize in trouble with regard to Arab nominees

October 11, 2014

Under provocative title “Can Arabs be Human Rights Defenders?”  the on-line newspapers Mada Masr and Jadaliyya published a piece setting out how 3 Arab nominees were suddenly dropped by their nominators in the European Parliament  over a few Israeli-bashing tweets that were indeed on the verge of acceptability (even in the context of rough twitter talk) especially when calling for or condoning killing of Zionist civilians.

I referred to the nominations in my post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/nominees-for-sakharov-prize-2014-announced/.

I consider the post’s title  provocative (or perhaps ironic) as even a cursory glance of human rights documentation – including this blog – shows that there are hundreds of human rights defenders in the Arab world whose credentials are not disputed or totally defensible.

Please read the whole piece for yourself as this is both a complicated and sensitive matter.

Read the rest of this entry »