Mr. Friedman, I’ve been frustrated lately that some columnists have resorted to treating Arabs as anything other than bit-players in the great saga of triumphalist Western culture and the necessity and nobility of Zionism. To tell you the truth, I’m anxious because I feel like I’m seeing my “neighborhood imploding.” I have just one simple question for you: “What Does Morsi Mean for Israel?”
– Shulamit, East Talpiot
In October 2008 I wrote about Gihan Ibrahim Abdelhamid, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience in Egypt. Below is an e-mail I received giving an update.
From: Augusta, GA, USA Amnesty International Member
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 11:33 PM
Subject: Our Egyptian Prisoner of Conscience
Please read the response below regarding an inquiry I made to the US Co-Group leader on Egypt. Generally these AI volunteers are experts in a particular area of the world and help the International Secretariat (and local groups) with information related to their area of expertise.
I don’t remember the year that we first started writing on behalf of our Egyptian prisoner of conscience for whom we have never had any word from anyone in authority or from her.
In our next mailing, I think we should write one more letter to her (and perhaps have the reverse side of the letter in Arabic – can you translate for us Ayman?) and then not send any more.
For YEARS neither the International Secretariat nor the Co-Group leader for Egypt has been able to give us any information including whether or not Gihan is still in prison, and even now, there is no way to find out…unless you Ayman might have some ideas.
If so, I have a file with the little information we had on her.
————— Forwarded message —————
From: Geoffrey Mock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Subject: Egypt administrative detainees
Hi. It’s Geoffrey Mock from Amnesty. AI has released today a large new report on Egypt, focusing on administrative detainees. While your prisoner is not specifically mentioned, it does give you some valuable information
Here is a key graf:
Government officials repeatedly told Amnesty International during meetings that the total number of administrative detainees was less than 800, although no details were ever provided, such as a list of the names of those detained. National and international human rights organizations, however, estimated the number to have been between 6,000 and 10,000 at most points in recent years. In June last year, shortly after the adoption of the amendments to the Emergency Law, the authorities announced that some 400 detainees had been released. However, many others continued to be held without there being any clear indication of the grounds on which the Interior Ministry had concluded that they were a “danger to public security and order”. Following the fall of President Mubarak and calls from civil society and relatives of detainees, a newly-installed Interior Minister announced on 12 March 2011 that 1,659 administrative detainees had been released since early February.4 However, he did not disclose how many people remained held in administrative detention and for what reasons, maintaining the long-standing official policy of withholding such information about the numbers, identities, places of detention and length of time that such detainees have been locked up without charge or trial and without any effective means of obtaining remedy.
This led the families of those who continued to be detained to stage further protests outside the offices of the Public Prosecutor, the Interior Ministry, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, demanding the release of their relatives, especially as many of them had obtained court decisions ordering their release but continued to be held. More administrative detainees were subsequently released, thus reportedly closing the file of long-term recurrent administrative detention.5
Even though administrative detainees were not charged, let alone tried and convicted, they were treated like sentenced prisoners once in jail. Some were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Some were transferred to remote prisons far from their families, including as punishment. Some were denied adequate medical care.
Following their release, many were repeatedly summoned to appear before officers of the now-dissolved SSI responsible for the district where they live, making it impossible for them to rebuild their lives. After years in detention, many have struggled to find paid work or reintegrate into their communities.
I’m sorry we’re not able to give more information, and again, I leave it up to you as to what your group wants to do. I will say it is unlikely that the AI International Secretariat will ever get official information about Gihan’s situation.
Please let me know if you have any questions
A friend wrote to me asking for my thoughts on the north African revolutions, particularly Libya.
The world media I have noticed is incredibly biased against all the Middle Eastern and African leaders and there presentation of the events unfolding now is not even close to being neutral. Ghaddafi is the prime example, we have yet to hear from any of his supporters and when we do hear from Ghaddafi himself the media portrays him as some sort of madman. Granted he has been the leader of Libya for 42 years and he was at odds with the United States for much of those 42 years. However, one has to look beneath the surface and question the perspective the media is taking. They tend to focus on his attire and his cadre of female bodyguards, however it is a rare occurrence indeed when the media, including the Arab media, refers to the financial support he has provided to many sub-Saharan African countries. They prefer to paint him in these broad brush strokes as an unhinged meglomaniac oblivious to the needs of the people. It seems on the service that the people are protesting in Libya for the same reasons they protested in Egypt, but beneath the surface there most be more because the two countries are very dissimilar. Libya has oil wealth, Egypt does not, Libya is very sparsely populated, whereas Egypt has a very dense population all concentrated along the banks of the Nile. Perhaps those who are calling for Ghaddafi’s ouster and merely taking advantage of a situation in order to seize power and when they do, nothing truly will change. Things may even become worse. What do you think?
My uninformed opinion is that Libya has been ineffective in creating positive change, whether it be domestic or in the rest of the African continent. Having said that, see the article below entitled Libya, Getting it Right. I also remember when I was in Nigeria meeting a South African who told me he was traveling to Libya to present to the Moammar al-Qaddafi a book which praised his government’s achievements.
- U.S. Prepares to Make Its Lunge at Libya’s Oil Fields
- African migrants targeted in Libya
- Libya, Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective
- In Search of an African Revolution
I believe it is essential to reject all outside military intervention, although there’s really no way to prevent arms from reaching either the government or a rebel faction. In addition, freezing assets is a major intervention which the US had not done in the case of the Tunisian or Egyptian (or Saudi) despots, but it has frozen Libyan assets. So in no case should anybody believe that the U.S. can play a positive role in Libya or elsewhere, other than simply avoiding further intervention.
Tumblrs, do you have anything you’d like to add to this?
British writer Ian McEwan took a lot of heat for accepting the Jerusalem Book Prize. The literary award is given out every two years at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, an event that appears to be put on by the Jerusalem municipal government.
In response to British writers who…
A friend whom I respect and who has traveled in African countries, including Egypt, wrote to me:
I writing this email to you to express my sentiments concerning the recent events in Egypt and to hear your perspective. For some odd reason, I can not shake this overwhelming sense of pessimism concerning the “revolution” in Egypt. The leaders of the protests were calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak and an end to the state of emergency and democratic elections. Last Friday, Mubarak resigned and there was general euphoria, not only in Egypt but throughout the world, but of course especially in the Arabic-speaking regions. However, I was thinking to myself, “self, how much power did Mubarak truly wield and was he truly in control of Egypt?” I thought this because Mubarak after all is 82-years old and how many 82 year old men have the energy and wherewithal to run a state as complex as Egypt. Robert Mugabe essentially ran Zimbabwe’s economy and international reputation into the ground and Zimbabwe’s state apparatus is not as Byzantine as that of Egypt. From what little I know of Egyptian politics, it seems that Mubarak at this stage was little more than a figure-head and the true power behind the throne probably was in the hands of four or five generals. Hence, when Mubarak resigned and the military assumed power, nothing really changed and it was just an action designed to appease the protesters. I don’t want to come across too cynical so I will say that the army has promised to relinquish power in six months, so I am anxiously awaiting these six months to see if they do indeed release their grip upon power and implement true change. Earlier today I was talking to the dean of the graduate school here at Loyola University. He is from Ghana and he told me that in his country when the army seized power and then relinquished power, nothing had really changed. I fear that this is what is in store for Egypt because those people in power are not going to be keen on giving up power. It is just human nature. Furthermore, many Egyptians have grown accustomed to having their freedoms restricted. They are used to seeing soldiers with automatic weapons on every street corner in Cairo and they are used to road blocks and they are accustomed to being questioned by the police without cause. Consequently, if real change is going to occur there needs to be change in the attitude of the majority of the people, not just three or four million of the 80 million people that live in Egypt. So, in my opinion I don’t think anything is going to change except for the names of the rulers. But, I hope I am wrong. What is your opinion?
I’m by nature somewhat pessimistic, so I had very similar thoughts. In fact, I’d given up on Egypt after the senseless stupidity surrounding the World Cup qualifying matches with Algeria. And of course, I grew up with Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I think the world economic system makes it very difficult for well-managed countries in the underdeveloped world to progress, much less countries which have a serious corruption problem. And let’s not forget the serious environmental and public health challenges facing Egypt.
Bottom line is that I can’t dismiss what has happened, but I know much work lies ahead.
مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّبْرَأَهَا إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ لِكَيْلَا تَأْسَوْا عَلَى مَا فَاتَكُمْ وَلَا تَفْرَحُوا بِمَا آتَاكُمْ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ سورة الحديد 57-58
وَلاَ تَيْأَسُواْ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يَيْأَسُ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ سورة يوسف 87
On this great day of national rebirth, we should show our gratitude as well as our joy to perfect the blessings of this day. As Muslims, one of the best ways to do this is to make a gift (sadaqa) for those who are suffering. I can suggest a couple of organizations who do good work in providing relief to the suffering: Mercy-USA For Aid and Development (United States) and Islamic Relief Canada.
Moubarak chasse du pouvoir. #Égypte 1 – #Algérie 0. #Boutef Dégage, il faut qu’on egalise!
يا أحرار الجزائر و أبطالها يدعو لكم العالم اللهم افتح لهم فتحا و الطف بهم و انصرهم