Egypt: The Right to Speak Up
Date posted: January 28, 2009
Egyptian bloggers and activists held a conference on January 22 in defense of their right to speak up after more than 20 Egyptian bloggers were arrested when their train arrived in the village of Naga Hammady where the Coptic massacre took place. They were released shortly after wards and they shared their testimonials of how they were "kidnapped" by the authorities and prevented from paying their respects to the families of the victims.
- Detained Bloggers
Wa7da Masrya, a female activist who was detained with the bloggers in the photograph above,wrote on her blog:
ركبنا سيارة الترحيلات و كانت قذرة و مظلمة و ضيقة سيارة الترحيلات مكتوب عليها من برة تحت جنب النمرة "لنقل المساجين" في رأسي جاءت ميت فكرة و راحت "هو إحنا مساجين؟" "هو إحنا عملنا إيه؟" "هما حياخدونا فين" بالرغم من الاسئلة دي كلها لم ينتابني لحظة خوف واحدة لأني أعلم تماما أننا على حق
We got on board the deportation vehicle and experienced first hand how dark, filthy, and cage-like it was. Next to the plate numbers, there was a line that read "For Transporting Prisoners" and I began wondering if we were prisoners and I could not help but ask what our charges were and where we were being taken. Despite the hundreds of questions that raced through my head, I never had a moment of fear or doubt because I knew that we had every right [to go to Nagaa Hammady].
Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas was also among the detained bloggers on this trip. Abbas has been harassed by the authorities, detained at Cairo Airport, and assaulted at home by a police officer. Upon his release, Wael learnt of his six month jail sentence:
[He] has been sentenced 6 months in jail and LE 500 pounds (92 USD) as a judiciary bail, as a lawsuit was filed against him by a citizen and his police officer brother on charges of damaging an internet cable! Wael was ruled in absentia last November.
Abbas – a thorn in the side of the government – was interviewed on BBC Hard Talk [Video in English] where he talked about bloggers who were harassed, kidnapped, and forced into silence, he spoke about his own experience with detention, and responded to the following questions:
Do bloggers have any influence in changing authoritarian regimes?
Is he here just gaining celebrity status or making a real difference?
Dr Mostafa El Naggar posted the Egyptian Bloggers Declaration on the right to speak up:
ونؤكد كشباب مصري يعتز بوطنه وانتمائه ويعلي قيمة المواطنة أننا لم نكن يوماً من مثيري الشغب، وأننا لم نتجمهر في نجع حمادي ولم نكن ننوي التجمهر كما حاولوا التلفيق لنا، بل كانت زيارتنا لنجع حمادي مواساة لإخواننا الأقباط في مصابهم الذي هو مصاب مصر كلها، وأننا أحرص الناس على الوحدة الوطنية التي اتهمونا بمحاولة الإضرار بها. كما نعيد التأكيد على أن زيارتنا لم تكن منظمة من قبل أي حزب ولا حركة، وكل من يدعي خلاف ذلك فهو مجافٍ للصواب. جمع السجن بيننا كمسلمين وأقباط، لأننا مصريون في وطن واحد وسجن واحد، ولن يثنينا ما حدث لنا عن العمل كنشطاء مصريين مستقلين من أجل تعميق روح المواطنة وتحقيق معنى الوحدة الوطنية الحقيقي. دامت مصر بأمن وسلام
As proud patriotic Egyptian youth, we believe in the true meaning of citizenship and that we are not trouble makers or fame seekers. When we went to Nagaa Hammady we were not rioting or calling for rioting as they falsely accused us; the purpose of our visit was to pay our condolences to our fellow Copts and to strengthen the same national unity that they claimed that we were damaging. Once again we would like to highlight the fact the our visit is unrelated to any party or movement and anyone who claims otherwise is lying. We, Muslims and Christians, were united in the same cell, faced the same charges, and defended the same country. We are one and no one will silence our free independent voice for activism. What happened will not deter us from our mission to strengthen and deepen this countries sense of unity … long live Egypt in safety and peace.