Thursday, November 16, 2006

Help Arrested Bloggers in Bahrain and Egypt

I received the e-mail from Rosemary of “My News’n Ideas” on November 8th. Her blog is linked to this blog. According to her message, HAMSA (Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance) requests support for their activities to free arrested bloggers in Bahrain and Egypt. Please read the following message.

The freedom to say what you believe is a universal human right. But, as two prominent Middle Eastern bloggers discovered in the last week, freedom of expression is not always guaranteed. One blogger had his site blocked for text he posted. The other is currently in jail – and needs you help.
Mahmood Al-Yousif is known as the godfather of the blogging scene in Bahrain. A Bahraini entrepreneur, he runs a popular blog called Mahmood’s Den and serves as a judge for HAMSA’s Dream Deferred Essay Contest.
Last week, Bahrain’s Ministry of Information issued an order blocking Mahmood’s Den. They objected to his blogging about a recent scandal in Bahraini politics, and so suddenly readers in Bahrain could no longer access Mahmood’s blog. Along with a group of local activists, HAMSA launched a campaign to unblock Mahmood’s blog. Over 200 people sent emails to Bahraini officials.

A few days later – after negotiations with Mahmood – the site was unblocked.
One of the Middle Eastern bloggers who supported the campaign was Abdelkareem Soliman. Kareem, as he is also known, received international attention last year when he was kicked out of Al Azhar University in Egypt for criticizing the school on his blog.

Yesterday, Kareem was called into the prosecutor’s office in Alexandria, Egypt, where he lives. A lawyer from the Arabic Human Rights Network went with him. The Egyptian officials began interrogating Kareem about his blog, as well as his religious beliefs (“Do you fast on Ramadan? Do you pray? What do you think of things in Darfur?”).

Kareem stood firm. He would not retract anything he wrote on his blog. So the prosecutors threw Kareem in jail, where he remains as you read this. He faces several charges including "defaming the President of Egypt" and "highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt." His case is currently on the front page of The Daily Star, one of Egypt’s largest independent English papers.

Kareem is a soft-spoken young man. He entered the HAMSA essay contest and joined a recent human rights seminar we recently organized in Cairo. We will not abandon him. And we hope you will take a moment to speak out on his behalf.

To stay updated on the campaign, read the Free Kareem blog started by his friends. And please take one minute to sign an email/petition to Egyptian and America authorities urging Kareem’s immediate release. In less than 24 hours, over 130 people have signed. Please add your voice. Thank you for your attention and support.


In Freedom,

Jesse SageHAMSA Project Director


You can participate in the campaign. Send them the link to this site:http://ent.groundspring.org/EmailNow/pub.php?module=URLTracker&cmd=track&j=105690869&u=1007093

I shall appreciate your support to this campaign.


Shah Alex