Saturday, June 03, 2006
AN EGYPTIAN BLOGGER SENDS A MAYDAY
he establishment media outlets have offered precious little coverage of the Egyptian government's crackdown on civil society and free speech in recent weeks. Strangely enough, the repression of the democratic movement in Egypt seems to have been launched following the horrific terrorist bombings at the resort of Dahab, and separate coordinated attacks against Christian churches. Peaceful demonstrations in support of reformist judges have been broken up violently, with hundreds of arrests. These arrests have particularly singled out those few Egyptians that have even a marginal ability for open expression, namely internet writers. There is no free press in Egypt, and the only avenue for writings not approved by the Mubarak regime, are the Egyptian blogs.
The anonymous blogger who calls himself "Sandmonkey" gives an excellent outline of the situation, as well as a passionate call for help from democracy lovers everywhere, in a piece published in the Christian Science Monitor. See if any of this sounds familiar (if one is an average consumer of news from the usual sources, it's unlikely that it will):
If arresting peaceful protesters on the street, week after week (653 last month alone), weren't enough, the Egyptian government is looking to end public dissent over the Internet. So far, six bloggers have been arrested. One of them is Alaa Abdel-Fatah, one of Egypt's most prominent bloggers. Mr. Abdel-Fatah runs an aggregator service for Egyptian blogs, using the space to help organize protests. He has been a thorn in the side of the Egyptian government for some time, which finally decided to handpick Abdel-Fatah and fellow bloggers out of a recent street protest and detain them. They have been in jail for three weeks now in a place that makes Abu Ghraib look like the Four Seasons.And before anyone chimes in with, "Sounds just like America!" -- no it doesn't, not even close. Anyone who stoops to making such an argument is merely offering evidence for nothing but their own ignorance.
Another blogger, Mohamed el-Sharqawi, was released, then rearrested two days later, just last Thursday. He was beaten up and says he was raped by the police before being thrown in jail again. There is still no word on what he is charged with, or how long he will be detained, since the emergency laws allow his indefinite incarceration without charges.
"Sandmonkey" is calling for a full, international financial boycott of his country.
I am not just asking the US State Department to suspend the $3 billion in annual aid sent to the Egyptian government. I am asking every person who reads this to not visit Egypt, not buy Egyptian products, and not invest in companies that invest in Egypt. I am asking you to completely boycott Egypt and everything Egyptian until this government stops silencing dissent.Egyptian President Mubarak has evidently been feeling some pressure over his latest clampdown on the rights of his people -- pressure that seems almost exclusively to have been exerted by the United States, which has been subsidising his regime in the past few years to the tune of several billions of dollars per year. He is feeling the heat, as "Sandmonkey" notes Mubarak's fiery anti-US speech the other day at the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh. Democratisation, he says, must come only at a very gradual pace. A little more gradual than a snail's clip apparently. Anyone wanting to progress more quickly than that, needs to be taught a brutal lesson, seems to be his message to his people. It brings to my mind the stance of President Suharto of Indonesia in the period before his own downfall. Indeed it's the tiresome refrain from any tyrant who gives only cynical lip service to the idea of a democratisation process while clinging tenaciously to his power.
Don't get me wrong. I love my country. But the current regime has to be stopped, and the only way that's going to happen is if it is no longer supported.
Currently, there are 20,000 political prisoners in Egypt, held for years without charges, or evidence, and subjected to daily torture. We have increasing unemployment, illiteracy, and poverty rates. Judges who report election fraud get suspended and beaten on the street. Corruption and looting run rampant on every level of the government. The only reason the regime has survived for 25 years and counting is because of foreign aid and tourist dollars. You help it survive.
The message to Mubarak needs to be equally clear, and the US government needs to adhere to its stated doctrine of not supporting anti-democratic regimes, regardless of how they may be useful (in Egypt's case, related to the Israel - Palestine conflict). Mubarak's outburst signals that the time is right to step up the pressure, from freedom-loving states as well as freedom-loving people everywhere.
Wai to Glenn Reynolds for the CSM link, and you can read more from "Sandmonkey" at Rantings of a Sandmonkey. Let us hope he can remain free enough to keep publishing.