whilst in Egypt bloggers are currently at risk of arrest, detention and prosecution.
Cairo, 23 October, 2008
Renowned Egyptian blogger Nora Younis has received the annual human rights award from prominent U.S. based organization,
(Human Rights First, - https://secure.ga1.org/05/support_heroes_hp)
for her extraordinary efforts defending human rights issues and advocating for the democracy movement in Egypt.
The Egyptian security apparatus is prosecuting an aggressive campaign against bloggers and internet activists in many cities around Cairo,
targeting Christian blogger Hani Nazeer Aziz, who is based in Gena and owns the blog,
Kariz Al Hub (http://haninazeeraziz.blogspot.com).
They are also persecuting several Islamic bloggers,
Mohamed Khairi, based in Fayoum, (http://garshkal.blogspot.com),
Mohamed Adil, whose blog is “dead” (http://43rab.info/meit),
and Bilal Alaa, whose blog is called “The Country is Ours” (http://khabta.blogspot.com),
both from Al Gharbia City, and Husam Yahia from Al-Daghlia, whose blog is called “The Voice of Liberty”, (http://sotelhoria.blogspot.com).
The security apparatus arrested two of Hani Nazeer’s brothers on the first of this month, and used them as hostages to force his surrender. On 3rd October Hani was informed that security was going to arrest his sisters too to put more pressure on him to give himself up. He turned himself in on the same day. Since then, Hani has not been seen, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) learned only yesterday that he had been detained under emergency law, which is the usual way in which the ministry of the interior deals with innocent people whom they want to detain without bringing charges.
Khairi, the man who set up the Garshkal blog, and a student in the faculty of engineering at the Cairo University, was arrested in a surprise dawn raid on his home on 22nd October, when his computer and paperwork were seized.
The other three bloggers mentioned above, Mohamed Adil, Bilal Alaa and Husam Yahia, all had their homes raided by the security forces. All three managed to avoid arrest, either by escaping or by being forewarned of the arrival of the “dawn visitors” (policemen from the state security department).
Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information issued the following statement:
“It is no coincidence that the launch of a state security campaign against Egyptian bloggers happened at the same time as one of their colleagues was honoured by receiving an international award for human rights activism. The Egyptian government will never forgive bloggers for their key and consistent role in exposing numerous legal and human rights violations. As well as a reaction to their role in advocating for democracy in Egypt, the crackdown is also a response to the message of the Human Rights First award, which supports and encourages the efforts of Egyptian bloggers. The arrest of Hani Nazeer comes in the wake of his criticism of a recently published novel “Azazil” which was perceived by Egyptian Christians to be an attack on Christianity, to the point where some Christians published a counter attack on Islam, called “Azazil in Mecca”.
Instead of finding solutions to reduce the sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians which exist in some areas of Egyptian cities, the authorities found it easier to apply the security solution and to utilize emergency law to arrest the Christian blogger, an action which ANHRI believes has aggravated rather than soothed sectarian tensions.
The other bloggers, who were Islamic, were arrested and their houses were raided as a punishment for their contribution to the people’s relief caravan that headed towards Gaza on 6th October, to break the blockade imposed by occupying Israeli forces. This was a purely humanitarian gesture to show solidarity with the Palestinian state which lies under the burden of occupation, a situation in which the Egyptian government at best turns a blind eye, and at worst is complicit.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information asserts that these bloggers have not committed any crime or broken any law. Any slight respect for the values of law and democracy should lead to legal and appropriate solutions for these problematic scenarios. Emergency law will never manage to deter Egyptian activists from making up their own minds, and broadcasting their opinions.