*To the Egyptian bloggers who want to add their names to the petition, please leave a comment in the comments section and link to this*
To whom it may concern.
It has come to our attention that someone named Mohamed Mossad Abdel Aziz participated in a conference hosted by Ben Gurion University on January 9, and that he represented himself as a former Egyptian blogger who was thoroughly knowledgeable about the Egyptian blogosphere. The purpose of this letter is to address the many erroneous claims Dr. Abdel Aziz made in his presentation.
Dr. Abdel Aziz claimed that there are about 100 Egyptian bloggers, that he knows all of them and that they all come from wealthy or very wealthy families that are based exclusively in Cairo. He portrayed them as a bunch of out of touch upper class Egyptian elitists, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The Egyptian blogosphere is both huge and pluralistic. In fact there are more than 6,000 Egyptian bloggers and they come from a variety of social, ethnic, political and economic backgrounds, and from all over Egypt (from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Al Mansourah, Al Sahraqiyah, etc.)
We do not gather each month in Cairo WiFi cafes and spend the equivalent of one year’s salary for a poor Egyptian, as he claimed. We never actually gather anywhere once a month, and no gathering of Egyptian bloggers has so far claimed to include the entire Egyptian blogosphere, since that would be almost impossible due to its size and diverse geographical locations. We also find it incredibly funny that some people would believe that there would be a café in Cairo big enough to host a meeting of 100 bloggers once a month. Oh sorry – 101, since Dr. Abdel Aziz would be joining us there, given that he knows every single one of us and all.
The portrayal that he gave of the Egyptian blogosphere, on the podium given to him at that conference, is nothing short of insulting. It showcases the massive ignorance of this so-called expert. The Egyptian blogsphere includes activists, writers and commentators who have done more work on the ground to try to solve the problems facing us in Egypt and the region than this guy has ever done.
Amongst us are bloggers who have been jailed and tortured for their political beliefs and positions, others who are still harassed by the authorities to this day, bloggers who have won prestigious international bloggers’ awards (Egyptian blogs have won both the BOB and the Weblog awards this year), poor bloggers, rich bloggers, secular bloggers, religions fundamentalist bloggers, pro-peace bloggers, anti-Israel bloggers, Christians, Muslims and Baha’i bloggers, bloggers who write in English, French and Arabic, bloggers who support the government and others who totally oppose it, bloggers from Egypt and from ex-pats countries who reside in Egypt. It’s a melting pot of individuals from all walks of life, not the elitist coffee club that this man claimed it is.
Needless to say, although Dr. Abdel Aziz claimed in his presentation to be personally acquainted with all of us, the fact is that not one of us has ever heard of him and it took us days to find this man's blog, since he is that obscure. Messages about what he said at this conference have been sent and forwarded to every Egyptian blogger mail group there is, and there has been a very angry reaction from all over the blogosphere to this man’s remarks.
The fact that he was invited to say these things at an Israeli conference in a respected university does not lend the conference organizers any credibility. If anything it appears that you have invited this man with the objective of tarnishing the Egyptian blogosphere on purpose, since the organizers could very easily have conducted some basic research on the Internet in order to discover that this man is a fraud and has no connection with the Egyptian blogosphere whatsoever.
Now, more on his allegations….
None of us are hired journalists who write for opposition newspapers and then use blogs to write the insults that our editors won’t allow us to write. However, the opposition press in Egypt has written about the political efforts and achievements of Egyptian bloggers more than once. For example, they wrote about us when we exposed the mass sexual assault on women that took place last Eid, It wrote about us when we organized the first Egyptian campaign sexual harassment in Egypt; it wrote about us when we exposed police torture and brutality in Egyptian police stations, which led to the indictment of at least three police officers; and the international media covered our campaign to free the bloggers Alaa, Sharqawi and Malek from jail after they were arrested and detained for being involved in political demonstrations, not to mention the current campaign to free the Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Soliman from jail as well. The list goes on and on.
We are on the ground, we do necessary work, and we will not allow our reputation to be tarnished by some anonymous academic who does not know us and has never met us. We very much regret that a charlatan who falsely claims to represent us seduced some unfortunately gullible Israelis, but that is not our mistake or responsibility. The people who gave him the podium to speak may have had some good intentions, but they now seem like active participants in a campaign to tarnish us and sully our reputation.
We do intend to make this matter public, and we won’t rest until a formal apology is issued to us from the organizers of that conference.