Philip Rizk is free, by the way!

Got freed yesterday. Thought y'all should know. Thanks for those who supported.

The SS harrassing the entire Rizk family now!

State Secuirty must be totally out of its fuckin collective mind. Here is the update on the Philip Rizk abduction, recieved as  an e-mail from Philip's sister:

Monday Feb. 9th 5:40 am

At 1:30am when we had just gone to bed
the doorbell rang. 5 plain clothed men and two in full riot gear and
machine guns stood outside our door. They wanted to enter to search the
house. We found out that they were looking for evidence against Philip.
Two men entered and began searching through the papers of our home
office. In the meantime we contacted a German Embassy official and a
professor from AUC as well as some friends. They all came immediately
many others were awake and praying.

The police left but
returned soon after to ask my father to go with them and write up a
report about the fact that they had searched our home. Of course, we
did not trust them. Then they insisted to pass by his office where they
would continue the search. In the meantime Amnesty International had
contacted us and an wonderful lawyer arrived just in time to firmly
tell the secret police that they could not take any further actions
without a police warrant. We closed and locked the front door and
settled in to see what would happen next. The secret police was waiting
downstairs for orders that never came. At 5a.m. they finally left.

So, as a recap: They arrested the kid without a charge, kept him arrested for three nights, came to his family's house at 1:30 am to search it without a warrant. When they found nothing they tried to take the father as well. Finally stopped at 5 in the morning and left. Wow, nonviolence activism scares them that much, huh?

My thoughts and prayers are with them. Yours should be too! 

Free Philip Rizk Now!

 

Philip Rizk, a german-egyptian filmmaker , was kidnapped by state security two days ago, when he was returning with a bunch of his activist friends from Qaluybia. The car was stopped, and of all the people in the car, he was picked out:

Said said police had detained their vehicle for several hours and
then said they wanted to talk with Rizk. They put him in a vehicle with
no licence plates and sped off. Other policemen then blocked the
activists' vehicle to prevent them from following.

"We don't know where he is, and there is no formal charge," Rizk's
sister said. She added that the German embassy had been notified and
were attempting to locate him.

This was 2 days ago, and there was no word of him, his whereabouts, or whether or not he is safe. This is a guy who, mind you, didn't advocate armed resistance in Ghaza, didn't support Hamas, didn't even demand retaliation for what happened. All his work is about non-violent resistance and activism. And that was enough for the egyptian authorities to make an example out of him.

Yesterday, the following happened:

Phil's parents went to the High Court downtaown Cairo to file a
complaint with the General Prosecutor against State Security for
abducting Philip.

A lot of friends have gathered outside the
Court house to show support and solidarity.The American University is
involved as well as the German Embassy (who was told at first by the
Sate Security that nobody called Philip had been arrested, later they
did acknowledge he was there).

Meanwhile through other contacts
we were able to locate Philip, he is being held by State Security at
their headquarters in downtown Cairo.

Now, even though he is located, even though he is being detained without charges (and what would the charges be? Organizing a peaceful march? Advocating non-violence?), even though he is half german, they still won;t let him out. The German passport is no shield in his case, because he is half egyptian, and thus prosecutable under egyptian law. Ha, egyptian law. What a joke.

I've known Philip from back in school and throughout my childhood. He is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. He doesn;t deserve this. No one deserves this. No one deserves to be kidnapped by his own country's police, especially not for advocating peaceful and non-violent activism to a problem mirred with violence at all ends. So please, help us release him. If you have a media friend, let him know. If you have a blog, please post about it. Even if you disagree with his position, do it because someone's human rights have been violated, for advocating peaceful activism, no less.

Help us get him out. Please! 

Cafe Riche is saved!

So, after I wrote that post on Cafe Riche that some people- based on nothing- claimed I was making up, a number of developments took place and I just didn't have the time to update y'all about them. It seems that it was read by a daughter of an infleuntial Businessman (who wants to remain anonymous) who also owns a building in the Qasr el nil street, which prompted her to contact her father to start an investigation. He found out that while Ismaelia did the purchasing of downtown buildings, it was actually owned by another Britian-based company called "Samay Hills", whose shareholders include a list a number of regional heavyweight businessmen, including one of the Sawiris brothers, but not my Boy Naguib. The company's official line (from one of the partners) is that they just want to buy the "historic and architectually beautiful" buildings to renovate them, but it was disputed since they wanted that man's building since he is in a "bloc they wanted", and his building is neither historic nor pretty. The total of what they have bought so far is around 150,000 square meters, with approximately 400 million egyptian pounds spent so far.

The question came up naturally, if Cafe Riche is in a building that is over 100 years old and thus protected as a historical building, how would they hope to tear it down? The answer was that the owner had destoryed all the balconies in the buidling, which emans that the building was architecturally alterd or improved upon, and thus no longer falls under the historical building protection. And as to how they planned to evict the cafe owners from the building, Sandmonkey sources in the government informed him that there is a law getting introduced in february or march in the egyptian parliament that will allow Landlords to change the rent of their tenants as they please as long as the space is used for commercial or adminstrative purposes. This would allow the owners of the building to hike up the rent so much that the Cafe Owners would have to leave. Nice and clean, no?

The funny twist in this story is how it all got stopped. Supposedly a journalist called Saad Hagrass heard of the post I wrote and investigated it himself, and then wrote a column about it in the Egyptian Business Daily "Al2alam al youm". Mubarak read the column (Mubarak reading newspapers. Imagine that!) and instructed the Investment Minister Mahmoud Moheyeldeen to investigate it. Mhamoud contacted Saad, and Saad gave him the entire file he had, and as a result the Cafe Riche people got a confirmation from the President that their building will not be touched, which is awesome news. Their friend who told me about this called me from the Cafe itself a few days ago, and told me that the brothers were very happy about the blog post I wrote, and how it moved tons of people and lead to their building being saved, which was the best news I've heard in a very very long time.

So downtown for now seems to be protected, and Samay Hills is thwarted for now, but who knows for how long? If Jimmy takes over after Hosny, I really doubt he would keep that gurantee. Not to mention, another shady company called Tatweer is busy buying up areas in Shobra and Al Gamaliya as we speak. But I figure that's a fight for another day. For now I will enjoy that victory for historical beauty over modern ugliness, and will worry about those other bridges when it's time to cross them.

Hoder’s arrest confirmed by Iranian authorities

It's offical now. Hoder is under arrest by the Iranian authorities on charges of spying for Israel. Ok? He is not faking it, it's not a publicity stunt, this is the real deal.

My call for action still stands!

On Hoder

First of all, let me inform you that I have a deep personal dislike to Hossein Darakshan, also known as Hoder, because I think him a scheming, opprutunistic hypocritical two-faced douchebag of a human being. Naturally I am biased, because he did maliciously hurt a dear friend of mine, Lisa Goldman, and he is a huge turncoat and traitor to many in the Iranian activist scene and blogsphere, and has been spending the good part of his previous couple of years trying to appease and court the favor of the Islamic republic of Iran, even announcing that he would like to get his education funded by them. His ass-kissing is also fueled by his very-public and publicity generating visit to Israel, where he was celebrated by leftist jews eager to build bridges of understanding and dialogue between them and the Iranians, but failed to gain funding for his online project of building a masturbatory website linking Tehren to Tel-aviv, that would've also included a nice salary for him as the runner of such project, and "official breaker of taboos and walls of hate". Nope, me don't like him, so much so that when I heard the news of him getting arrested in his last visit in Iran, on charges of espionage for Israel, I let out a hearty laugh, thinking that the piece of shit  finnaly got what was coming to him. I also knew that I wasn;t the only one thinking that, given the Iranian blogsphere severe reluctance to rally around him or help create a decent "Free Hoder" campaign urging his release. Some even have stated that his arrest did not matter, and welcomed his departure. All was well in the world, Justice has beens erved, Karma balanced and all this crap. So why was there something bothering me about this?

And then I rememberd: The guy was arrested by the Iranian republic. For Espionage. FOR ISRAEL. Even if we ignore that last part, the man was arrested, no doubtly for his writing and activism. Since when did that not matter? Since when are our campaigns for releasing dissidents based on our personal like or dislike of said dissidint? I mean, sure he was a giant asshole, but really, is the damage that he enacted worth one week spent in an Iranian Jail? The man will probably be hanged for treason, for something that is the epitome of a trumpt-up charge, and we are debating whether or not we should stand by him? You think I liked Alaa when I started the campaign to free him? The guy was always obnoxious to me,  and always bad-mouthing me behind my back, and I knew that even if I did participate in his campaign and helped release him, he would still be a dick to me, because his dislike of me had ideological roots, and wasn;t absed upon personal interaction. And he was. So what? I don't regret it, and would do it again in a heartbeat, because principles matter. And even if all of my beliefs change, there is one I can not give up on, and that's every human's right to freedom of speech, even if they are brown-nosing assholes.

So yes, please, Free Hoder. Sign me up for that cause, even if it means he will become a bigger celebrity if he gets out. Sign me up, and sign up as well, even if the people advocating it are people- like me- you have serious fundemntal disagreements with. You should sign up too, because Freedom of speech is not about popularity. If you can deisgn a webiste, if you can help out with banner-designs, if you can do anything to help, please do, and let's get him out, and then bash him later as long as we wish. Ok?

And the beat goes on

Previously on Sandmonkey: Mahalla was awash in riots , people were tearing down Mubarak pictures, and arbitrary arrests were everywhere. We last stopped after the news of the arrest of George Ishac.

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, George Ishac. Hmm..

Well, to be honest, while I was shocked and totally against it, I wasn't too torn up over the arrest of good ole Mr Ishac, for a number of reasons that every downtown activist knows and every journalist refuses to report, chiefly amongst them is :Kefaya is dead!

Kefaya has been dead for quite some time now, with a number of other movements picking up the slack. Some have names, such as Youth for Change and the revolutionary socialists, and others don't, with many people showing up individually wanting to do something for the country. But you will tell me that you never heard of those other groups and are only aware of Kefaya's achievements in street mobilization and protesting. Well, my friend, that's because after every such protest in recent memory, Mr. Ishac -and whomever his cohorts are- issue a statement claiming organizational responsibility for the protests and calling the numbers of people arrested as members of the movement, but they would never be there. Hell, I can count 6 protests from recent memory, some very important ones,where none of the so-called-Kefaya leaders were available, but statements of responsibility were issued, and the leathery face of mr. Ishaq was all over Al Jazeera. And mind you, this goes back to the constitutional amendments protest. Remember that night? Yeah, not a single one of them was there, but you bet your ass mr. Ishaq issued a statement, calling it a Kefaya protest and the arrested Kefaya activists, even though he didn't know any of them.

There is a story that I believe and was told by one of my activist friends on dear George, which was during the Islam Nabih (a police officer) trial over his torture of Emad el Kebeir. George comes into the court and goes to my activist friend and the following exchange takes place:

G: So, this is Sharqawy's trial?

F: No, sharqawy didn;t have a trial. This isn't it at all. This is the trial of Islam Nabih.

G: Oh, Islam, great kid. Who is defending him?

F: Ehh..no one from our side.

G: Why? That's outrageous. He doesn't have a lawyer? 

F: well, he does, but not from our side. Islam Nabih is the police Officer that tortured Emad el Kebeir. They are trying him for that today.

G: Oh, ok! (storms off the court, and then storms back in, heads to Emad and pats him on the shoulder and says)

G: Don;t worry Emad, we are all  behind you.

(And then stormed out again)

So yeah, as you can see, he wasn't exactly on top of things, but that never prevented him from appearing on TV shows, talking about things he had nothing to do with. The last time was when he was representing "the egyptian opposition forces" on Al Jazeera program covering Al Mahalla riots, opposite Esam Al Aryan. The government was looking for someone to blame this on, Georgie boy couldn't resist the lime-light, and suddenly they had the perfect candidate. Oh, and by the way, they released him now, but only on bail, which is making many people speculate that this is far from over.

And it is far from over. It really is. I was shocked at the news of his arrest, not because of who he is, but because I was informed by some of my sources that they were planning on arresting him the same day they arrested Sharqawy, but they couldn't locate him. The words "military tribunal" and "3 years minimum sentencing" got thrown in there as well, but don't hold me to it. I wouldn't be surprised if they do go the route of military tribunals though, they do want the May 4th strike aborted in any way possible, because if it took place, then Mahalla is not a fluke and we could be heading towards a seriously sizzling summer of egyptian anger. And God knows that the government was too stupid in the way they have
handled Mahalla so far.

You see, besides arresting anyone that moved, the government also sent in a
delegation of Ministers of Mahalla, who promised them 30 days pay, benefits,
upgrading the factories, and everything but giving them head in an effort to
placate them, and them alone. They thought by doing this the crisis would be
over, but it's not just about Mahalla, it's about the entire country, and they
are all having
the same problems,
and they just saw that protesting gets them stuff. So
Almost immediately after Mahalla's textile workers strike was subdued
crushed over, the Nasr steel factory workers started their own strike in
Mahalla. And now the workers of two spinning
factory workers in Alexandria are striking as well.
The government opened
up Pandora's box, and now they can't close it. Even their half-assed attempt of using
religion to stop people from striking
was duly ignored, all the while the
fighting over the bread lines is taking place now with
gunfire.
Fun stuff.

In other news, the authorities had arrested the creator of the strike on
april 6th facebook group, a veiled girl named Isra2, who just got released
yesterday. They had also detained
American Journalist James Buck
and have refused to
let go of his translator
until today. James Buck's testimony is posted on his website here .As for Al
Mahalla itself, it's under lockdown, with no people allowed in or out of the
city, especially the journalists, as a group tried and found out for themselves
last week. The only exception to this rule was, as usual, Wael Abbas, who
managed to snag an interview with the father of the 15 year old boy that got
shot in his house twice accidentally by police gunfire. By the way, in case you
are wondering, the police ain't investigating the incident. We are, after all,
80 million, what's a dead boy in 80 million? Can't waste time investigating
that, we have national security concerns people, and we are busy busy busy.

So yeah, that is all. No one knows how many exactly got arrested, and what
their names are. I know that Sharqawy is still arrested, which is ironic,
because he had nothing to do with this strike and had put aside activism in
exchange of running his publishing business more than 6 months ago. Yet, here he
is, arrested for no reason, and the only one they won't let go. As for why
there isn't any campaigns to free him, well, all I know is that whenever
someone opens up the topic, they get yelled at that there are other detainees
than Sharqawy and that he got plenty famous the last time, and that we
shouldn't give him anymore fame this time. Reminding them that it isn't about his fame, but about the fact that the boy is in
jail doesn't seem to move them either, which is another reason why I thank the
lord that I am not close friends with those "downtown" types. Ehh..
Anyway…

We now play the oldest of games, the game of waiting. The 15 days end on the
21st, and that's when we will find out the charges against Sharqawy, Ishac and
and all the others. The buildup for May4th strike is currently underway, and
the fact that it coincides with the president's Birthday just makes the whole
thing more..ehh..delicious. But this could all get killed based on the indictments given out in 6 days: if the words "Military" and
"Tribunal" appear anywhere, then rest assured that nothing will
happen that day.

As for those of you who are worrying about how the MB could be behind this,
well, fear not. The MB, for the 1000000 time, proved that they are pussies, and
have even attacked the people who protested and striked, hoping that the
government would allow them some seats in the municipal elections, and the
government naturally complied, and all is well. The MB doesn't really care
about the issues not does it oppose Mubarak, and they would gladly support all
of his decisions and polish his penis daily if he agreed to give them some
power. So yeah, The MB doesn't really care about Al Mahalla right now, cause they are too busy
creating a campaign to support the Muslims in Chechnya.
Yes, that's where the MB's priority lies these day, Chechnya.I thought you might want to know.

And that is all for now folks, have a lovely day! 

The Game is on

********************Scroll down for updates********

People who read this blog know that I am not the most enthusiastic supporter of today's protest for both political reasons , and for the fact that I am not quite sure what it would achieve. It's hard to take a protest seriously that gives u the choice between being apathetic or participating by staying at home and doing nothing. However, the government seems to be taking it very seriously, so maybe I should to, especially that they arrested Malek and a number of activists yesterday, forcing a number of other bloggers and activists to spend last night in any other place but their homes. I just took a cab ride to Dowtown and the streets are crawling state security and they are stopping young men who are walking by themselves on the streets and checking their ID's and forcing them to get off the streets as soon as possible. 

On the other hand, the government is going for an entire media blitz to stop the strike: The cover of government mouthpieces AlAhram and Al Akhbar are filled with headlines that both deny the existance of any strike , following the line of "What strike? That's just a bunch of hype started by a number of illegal and shady movements and individuals who want to ruin the country!", and yet detail the amounts of legal punishment and trouble that anyone who participates in a strike would receive "Losing your job, Fines, 3 months to a year in prison, being on the government's shit list forever, etc..etc..". Uber government presswhore RoseAlYusef published a headline asking people to calm down, go to work and not worry because everything is working fine and there is no strike , and life is rosy. In Rosealyusef's world, reality is what you make it, which must work really well for them.

The interesting thing is, no one knows really which political powers are with or behind this protest. I mean sure, AlWasat, and alKarama parties are in, and so is whomever is representing Kefaya these days, and some factory workers. The Muslim Brotherhood have announced they won't participate, but they are supporting the protest "with their hearts", whatever the fuck that means. The Pro-government other parties like Egypt;s Youth and the conservative party and their many counterparts are all saying that they support freedom of expression, but are against such shady political stunts that achieve nothing and only hurt the country. The Democratic Front, the Nasserite party are in solidarity with the strike, while Al Tagamo3 and the Wafd party are not joining because "they weren't invited to join" (Awwww……). And Al Ghad , on the other hand, enjoys the most unique position of being For and Anti the strike at the same time, thanks to the fact that there are two factions claiming to represent it now: The Musa faction, which is anti joining, and the Ayman Nour faction, which is all about joining, and naturally AlAhram quotes Musa , while Al Masry Al Youm quotes Gamila Ismael, Nour's wife! It's beautiful!

As far as the people go, they have various reactions: Nawarah Negm's maid thinks that the people will destroy the Bread Bakeries, Haisam tells a story about the driver of his friends' father who is striking today, because he believes that the strike is against the Dutch Fitna movie, the Taxi drivers I took eysterday and today assure me that they have heard of the strike and that people are all worried about it, because whomever doesn't show up to work today will go to jail, even if they were sick. He also told me that the local souq (markets) were open till midnight last night, with people buying lots of goods in anticipation for today. Many of the private schools, afraid of…ehh..I don't know..something..have canceled schools today, and thus the streets of Cairo are empty this morning. Al Dustour newspaper is also reporting that Egyptian movie Star Ahmed ElSaqqah is joining the protest by halting production of his new movie for the day. Saqqa the revolutionary. Who knew?

Anyway, the people behind the strike have created a special blog to document it (can be found here ), and are urging the people on the streets to send their pictures, posts and stories to them , using this e-mail 6april08@gmail.com. They even have a hotline: 0118361000 or 0119423496, so don't hesitate to call it. if you witness something, even if you don;t agree with the protest or the ideology behind it. Look at it the way I look at it: It's a way to flip off the government who won't just allow protesting in the streets, but won't allow people to stay home either. It's the least we can do, no?

Update: They have also arrested Mohamed Sharkawy and Kefaya's leader Mohamed Al Ashqar from their homes, and they have arrested Mustapha Khalil at a Fabric shop in Al Mansoura, out of fear that he might purchase fabrics that could be sued to make protest banners. Oh yeah!

Update: ALMahalla strike is canceled. I repeat, Al Mhalla strike is canceled. All Eyes are now on Al Tahrir square! 

Update: Just spoke to Jano at Mahalla. It seems that Mohamed Al Attar and the other strike leaders had reached some kind of compromise over "food allowance" that prompted them to cancel the strike. The other leaders who didn't want to cancel the strike, like Karim Al Bheery, are reportedly sieged into their offices and not allowed to leave or talk to the workers or do anything. 

Update: Mohamed Abdel Kuddous got literally kidnapped in Downtwon while buying a newspaper. And yes, it is Mohamed Al Sharkawy- from Mlameh publishing- who got arrested from his finace's house in Sheikh Zayed. The Fun just keeps on rolling! 

Update: Kafr Al Dawar workers also abandoned the strike plans, proving once again that egyptian political activists excel at nothing but creating hype. Sweet!

Update: We can probably spin this as a success if we want to. It will go something like this:  This call for people to stay at home was so successful no one went to the streets and protested! 

Update: People, don't despair! We are victims of our own success. Our campaign to keep people at home was so successful, that no one showed to the protests. Really, we should be applauding ourselves. Job well done people, Job well done!

Update: A demonstration erupted next to the Lawyers sydnicate. The Police is trying to squash it and isn't allowing anyone access inside the syndicate's building! 

Getting ready for the Olympics

H/T: Embee 

The Egyptian Opposition’s sense of Irony

Any serious follower of egyptian politics must've laughed his/her ass off when they heard the news of the 6th of April strike, and not just because of the laundry list of ridiculous shit that this strike is supposed to be about. No, they would laugh for a far simpler reason than that: You see, tired of just staying home and doing nothing, the egyptian opposition has decided to take actions and demand that the people rise up by staying at home and doing nothing for a day.

A Genius way of eradicating political apathy and getting the people involved, no?

sigh… 

The 6th of April Strike

There is supposed to be some sort of strike on the 6th of April organized by Kifaya, the Karama and Wasat Parties and the workers of various government factories and ministeries. They are calling it the "Egyptian Intifiadah", cause, you know the Palestinian one worked out so well. Here is the text in English:

“All national forces in Egypt have agreed upon the 6th of April to be a public strike.
On the 6th of April, stay home, do not go out;
Don’t go to work, don’t go to the university, don’t go to school, don’t
open your shop, don’t open your pharmacy, don’t go to the police
station, don’t go to the camp;
We need salaries allowing us to live, we need to work, we want our
children to get education, we need human transportation means, we want
hospitals to get treatment, we want medicines for our children, we need
just judiciary, we want security, we want freedom and dignity, we want
apartments for youth;
We don’t want prices increase, we don’t want favoritism, we don’t want
police in plain clothes, we don’t want torture in police stations, we
don’t want corruption, we don’t want bribes, we don’t want detentions.
Tell your friends not to go to work and ask them to join the strike.”

You know, so far they had me on board, and then I read about the people that want to organize it, and what else is pissing them off:

After a meeting held and represented by Egyptian
people forces: Ghazl Al-Mahala workers (who are striking since last
year expressing their demands to increase their wages to be in line
with price hikes, their strikes were followed by a series of strikes by
many working sectors in Egypt); Al-Karama Party; Al-Wasat Party; Labor
Party; Kefaya Movement; the Bar Association; Educational Workers
Movement; Grain Mills Workers; they expect a positive
response regarding Moslem Brothers’ participation and support in the
strike.

The slogan of this campaign became wider than just
asking for better wages, whereas it included the “Political Change”:
they cited in their paper, it is against the tyranny of the regime. The
campaign is also against the regime’s foreign policy represented in
Egypt’s position towards Gaza and the Palestinian cause; exporting
natural gas to Israel with the lowest prices; strictly abiding by Camp
David Accords; and opposing Iraqi, Lebanese and Afghani resistance.

So the campaign is for our borders to be breached and our soldiers attacked, the end of peace with Israel, and in support of the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah. Al Qaida and Muqtada's Al Sadr's militia? A7a!! Really? Seriously?

Fuck that. I ain't playing with those assholes. I am going to my job, and so should any of you with two cells of logic or reason in your heads!

Have a lovely day! 

A free tibet protest in tebet

Autocratic regimes are all the same:

The day seems to be silent and peacefull, even boring. Until 6 o´clock.
then 100s of Tibetans gather together on the Bakhor Square. They form a
strong, silent, peacefull circle around the police who keep the middle
of the square open. Soon they call for backup. Undercoveragents, not so
difficult to recognize film the whole happening. Especially the faces.
This is one method to create fear.  Suddenly there is panic. 6 or 7
monks are arrested and driven away. Tibetans are very scared because of
the stories about the prisons and tortures. In the mean while big
numbers of policemen arrive. They drive everybody apart. But until
sunset small groups of people stay around. There are tourists, Tibetans
and Tibetan resembling spies. Apparently we stick around to long
because some Tibetans start to warn us to be careful about the
undercoverpolice who are watching us closely. We even get a note that
says we are being followed and have to be carefull about what we say.
The whole evening misty figures keep following us, even to the
restaurant and the bar.

[..]

This bunch of harmless looking policemen where just a distraction. The
undercovers were the hard men, who were also watching us closely, so
taking pictures of them was no option.

De Ja Vu, anyone? Read it all. The video is here!  

Google takes down Kefaya

The Fantastic people at google seem to have it for the egyptian opposition to the Mubarak regime. It's not bad enough that they had disabled Wael Abbas' youtube account with all the egyptian police human rights abuses and torture videos (only to have it restored again when the outrage became too big), now they have made the website for Kefaya (the egyptian movement for change), which has been around for 3 years and very active, disappear completely off of their search engine. You can't find it anywhere. Gemy alerted me to the story when he tried all possible combinations : Kefaya, Harakmasria, everything, in english and in arabic. Nothing on google. Websites that talk about Kefaya show up but not the actual website or any of its Cache. This is not the case with yahoo for example as you can see for yourself. So the question now is, what kind of a deal did Google make with the egyptian regime to remove this site from its results page? I mean, we were understandable when it came to China, but is Google officially the friend of every tyrannical regime in the world now? Is that what google now is about? 

I don't want to think so, but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. 

Well, they are truely our cousins now

Freedom of speech- after getting defended in Egypt- is getting attacked in Israel. There is a bill in the Israeli Knesset that wants to hold websites accountable for their talkback content (i.e. comments people leave on them). Oh..and :

According to the bill, which was drafted by MK
Israel Hasson (Israel Beiteinu) web sites could be absolved of
liability if they agree to reveal the details of posters.

So we either get persecuted for what other people have to say or we turn into snitch bitches? Fuck that. Ok, if any of the israeli readers I have here see this Israel Hasson, please give him a swift kick in the Butt from me. Me thinks he needs it. All facist idiots do. Or a smack on the head. That could work too.

Idiot! 

Cause some of you were wondering

My piece on Fouad Al Farhan is here!

Victory for Free Speech

Three Cheers for the Egyptian justice system. Judge Mourad lost his case today, and the court ruled in favor of freedom of speech on the internet, with emphasis that websites should never get blocked by the government. This is a very important legal precedent, and a boon to free speech advocates everywhere. Kudos to Gamal Eid and the Hesham Mubarak legal team, and special thanks to Judge Mourad: if it wasn't for your stupidity, this wouldn't have taken place at all.

Today is a good day! 

Update: The Press release in english is here! 

Youtube suspends Wael Abbas’ account

Youtube has suspended the account of Wael Abbas – which contained the the egyptian police brutality and torture videos- because there were apparently too many complaints and flags from users- who are not members of the egyptian government or state security, of course- who have deemed the videos inappropriate and offensive. Youtube immediately took action, and suspended the account, claiming that it violated its terms of use. Now, while this may be true in the technical sense, it may benefit them to make exceptions for such videos that do expose certain tyrannical regimes and won;t be shown by mainstream international media, you know, as part of that whole "alternative independent media" thing they have been talking about for some time now. Or they could take on Issander's compromise. Also read Brian Whitaker's take on it!

Sandmonkey Tales: Abdel Monem and me

I never really met Abdel Monem. Never was interested to meet the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood..ehh..Brother?? or is it member? anyway…. But that doesn't mean we are not connected, nor that this story shouldn't be told. Let's just say that this is a testimonial, a cautionary tale without any heroes, a reminder so to speak to those who believe in freedom and support it that not all is always what it seems to be.

Let's rewind time a little, a few months back, to the day when I decided that I would stop blogging. Shall we?


It was 2 hours before the BBC interview began, when my farewell post was published. They were supposed to be here to talk to me about blogging, and whether or not it was making a difference in Egypt, and blah blah blabbity blah. I already knew all of their questions (those rarely change), the same way I already knew all of my answers to them. I have said them so many times they were etched on my frontal lobe, and I always gave them exactly the story they wanted without lying. They were perfect soundbites. And they should've been. I've had so much practice over the months. I even knew who else they probably interviewed alongside me. The List was always the same: Hossam , Elijah , Issandr, Wael , Nora , alaa or manal . Those were the ones comfortable with english you see. With the other ones you needed translators, and really, who wanted to go to the trouble? 

This, like all of my other interviews on camera, was going to have my face hidden. I pondered the futility of doing that for a minute, since I was quitting blogging anyway. Maybe Giving the Sandmonkey a face would be a smart move, especially with that nice police car parked under my house for the third consecutive week. But I brushed off the idea completely, because 1) I knew they were following me since the day of that protest, so it might not have anything to do with being the sandmonkey , and 2) Maybe all they needed to indict me is a direct link to the blog, which until now I haven't given them, so why bother now?, and most importantly 3) I never did this for fame. I never knew this blog would be so successful, and I honestly didn't intend to have this as a full time project. Being the Sandmonkey didn't define me, and I had no intention to let it. I didn't want to be famous. I just wanted to be heard.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case with everybody. Others were in it precisely for themselves, to perpetuate an image, to create an Icon of themselves, to become "legends" of the egyptian blogsphere, which is probably the most pathetic of goals there is. But you learn to ignore. To let go. You, after all, had to work with these people. You maybe the illegitimate child of the egyptian blogsphere, but this was your family, whether you or they liked it or not. Their fights were your fights. That was the case, at least until they started to fight fake battles.

That's when Abdel Monem enters the story.


Abdel Monem was a journalist, and a politically active member of the muslim brotherhood. He was also a blogger. His blog wasn't really of any consequence to speak of, but he was friends with Alaa & Manal, Nora, Hossam, and the majority of the February 30th movement (February 30th, get it?). I never fully understood what was so special about him, except that he was a "moderate" voice amongst the Muslim Brotherhood, and by moderate they meant that he didn't want to see all the leftists dead. He was the MB member they could be friends with, and the kind of person they could show to someone like me and go " See, not all the MB members are bad. Here is one who shakes hands with unveiled women, and he talks about freedom for everybody and stuff. You are the one who is too narrow minded. You are the one who dehumanizes them. We are all in this together", while wagging their fingers in my face.

Except that we were not all in this together. And they were being useful idiots. But we will get to that part later.

Anyway, that sense of comradery that they felt for him, accompanied with some of them's desire to forge links and good relations with the "Inevitably-sooner -or-later-coming-to-power Muslim Brotherhood", made them feel as if they needed to do something for their friend. But they knew that no one cared internationally about a muslim brotherhood member getting arrested, even a so called moderate one. So they were like :"Wait a minute? Doesn't he have a blog? That makes him a jailed blogger! People internationally will care about that! We can help our friend that way!" Nevermind that he wasn't arrested for his blogging, nevermind that his blog was of literally no consequence or impact, there was a blog, and that makes him a blogger and therefore a jailed blogger. End of discussion, Honesty be damned.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Free Monem campaign got started!


Now before I go any further, here is a caveat: I do not think it is right for people to get arrested for exercising their political rights, nor am I against the MB getting their own party. And I am definitely not pro people getting arrested for merely being Muslim Brotherhood members (maybe pro getting their heads checked, just kidding), so I am not for Abdel Monem getting arrested and despite it all, I would like him to stay free. However, there is a fundamental difference between someone getting arrested for being politically active in an illegal group, and someone getting arrested for writing on their blog. That difference isn't exactly hard to distinguish I believe.

Two days after I stopped blogging, I was in DC, and all hell had broken loose.

Apparently my little goodbye post caused a lot of furor. I thought it would be just like a couple of blogs writing goodbye posts and linking to me and that's it, like dozens of others who quit before me. I was gravely mistaken. I underestimated the media, and their hunger for a sexy story. Blogs and bloggers, at the time, were sexy topics that made sexy stories. And apparently bloggers getting silenced was the story equivalent of Angelina Jolie sexy. Who knew?

So, the next thing I know, AFP wrote a story about it, and was then followed by AP. Then the AFP story got translated into arabic, and then it was syndicated into numerous arabic language publications that never had the name Sandmonkey in it before. My mailbox was flooded by requests for interviews, with reporters whom I am friends with demanding exclusives, reporters I used to know referring me to their friends and asking if I wouldn't mind talking to them, two e-mails from Charles Levinson, whom I refused to talk to after writing a story about me that was just short of disclosing my real name 2 years ago, begging for another chance, and not to mention the thousands of other e-mails from fans. It was insane. And then it got a little crazier, when I received a link to an article written by MB apologist and propagandist Ibrahim Al Hudaiby , declaring solidarity with "The Sandmonkey" that was published on Ikhwan Web. I was supported by the MB. Who could've imagined?

(Of course I understood that this was a way for the MB to harness the media attention to their own causes, which could've only been done by Ibrahim. He is, after all, their english language propaganda guy. AUC educated and one-time-Student government president, he knows how to talk and handle western media. He is also the translator for the MB supreme Leader Mahdy Akef with foreign Media, and you know what's funny? What Mahdy says in arabic, and what Ibrahim translates into english, are completely different things. But that's another story.)  

But through out it all, I maintained radio silence. I just wanted the entire thing to go away. The only interview I ever gave at the time was to Pamela from Atlas Shrugged, and that only happened because we were meeting for drinks in New York and she surprised me with her interview request, so I agreed. Plus, I figured it's not gonna be heard that many people anyway (was wrong on that one. never underestimate the blogsphere). But besides that, I kept my mouth shut. I gave no interviews to neither strangers nor acquaintances. Charles ended up interviewing Issandr for his story about me, which I thought was hilarious.

It wasn't until I felt that the people definitely got the wrong impression from me quitting that I wrote the follow-up explanatory post (which of course was completely ignored by the media- who wants a story about a bloggers who were getting a big head because of media attention anyway?), and which also included the idea of that organization for protection of bloggers (which started nicely but ended up crashing, but that's also another story) and stopping the exploitation of their causes by other organizations (as was happening with the Free Kareem campaign at the time). For me this was the next step, a cause worth fighting for. Something pure, honest and that could bring people- from all political spectrums- together. And to think I actually thought it could work.

I am pretty naive sometimes.


* a few months ago* 

G: So, what do you think of that Free Momen campaign?

Me: I think it's the dumbest and most dangerous thing that any of us have ever made.

G: How so?

Me: Because they are campaiging for him as if he is jailed for blogging, and he isn't. And just the other day I was reading about another MB member that got arrested, and who also had a blog, and suddenly he is too "the jailed blogger blah blah blah". Now, all the Muslim Brotherhood needs to have people campiagn for their members is to ask them to have blogs, and suddenly everybody is a hero of free speech and has to be defended by us.

G: I swear to god that's what I told them. That this way we are breached by the Brotherhood and playing to their hand. But nobody will listen.

Me: But they are idiots. If they keep this up, Egypt will become known as that country that jails bloggers, and nobody will care. We will be like Tunisia in the eyes of the world. It won't be a worthy cause to release a blogger jailed in Egypt for his/her opinion, because it will be normal. It will be "what they do there in Egypt".

G: I know.


At the same time, the Free Monem movement was on full swing. Posts about "War on bloggers" were being written. Monem's name was mentioned in the UN's Citizen Journalists conference on the international day for free press in the same breath as Abdel Karim. And the Free Monem campaign got launched on that same day. It was PR blitz and it had Monem's name and face all over it. It was fantastic.

About a month later, Abdel Monem was released. He was now an internationally known face. a Hero of free speech. A blogger who was also a moderate member of the MB. A legend was created, and it had mass appeal to all kinds of intellectuals and so called Middle-east experts. No wonder when Marc Lynch came to Egypt last October, meeting Abdel Monem was on top of his agenda. After all, this guy was imprisoned for his views and opinions and is a moderate voice amongst the Brotherhood. That's street cred and legitimacy you just can't buy.


Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. The Muslim Brotherhood release the final draft of their Political Party's platform: The Platform is, as expected, anti-Christian and anti-women (Prohibiting both from ever becoming either President or Prime Minister). Oh, and also the chief moderate Ikhwan voice, Essam el Aryan, got sacked from the leadership. And guess what? Nobody said anything. Not a single person who participated in the Free Monem campaign even mentioned it on their blogs. Neither did Abdel Monem, but he didn't stop there.

See, there was a group of MB bloggers who were a voice of dissent amongst the Brotherhood, who didn't like the Platform nor the way some things were run and presented by the leadership. Some, taking special issue with the MB's official website, Ikhwanonline, for their blatant stealing of content from their blogs without giving them credit, created a counter website called Ikhwan Offline as a counter protest. Those bloggers all looked to Abdel Monem as a reformer and a leader, someone they can trust. They discoverd shortly how wrong they were.

Abdel Monem went to the High leadership of the MB and snitched on everybody . He gave them every single name of every single dissenter and what they are saying. The leadership immedietly cracked down on the dissenter, using with some the whip (threats of expulsion from the Brotherhood prompted the runners of the site to shut it down) and with others the carrot ( the ones with any talent were hired by Ikhwan Online as writers with significant salaries). When news of his betrayal of his so-called brothers reached MB member from Saudi and the Gulf and prompted them to give Monem furious phone calls for what he did, Monem's response was  : "Listen people. I am an internationally known blogger, and have a big name, and will not deal with your nonsense", and hung up on them. It was also found out that our "Hero" has been- and still is- on the Payroll of jailed MB financier and second man in command Khairat el Shater, and Khairat is definitely from the conservative part of the MB, so I guess it makes sense that those who are paid by him to follow his line, no?

Now, is anyone talking about that?

No.

Did any of those who were behind the campaign issue anything even close to a repudiation to Abdel Monem or the MB's platform?

No.

Did any of those who defended him apologize for making a star out of him, thus making him a trustworthy figure to those kids he betrayed?

No.

Did any of them even acknowledge, that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong about this guy and defending him in the first place? 

Hehehe. Right.

The Silence is- at the risk of sounding cliche- deafening. 

You see, I think they owe the world an apology. I think they should apologize for deceiving people about him. I think they should apologize for making an international symbol of him, and one that is dishonest at best. I think they should say that they were wrong about that. I think they should say that they were wrong about him. That they misjudged. That they miscalculated. THAT THEY WERE WRONG. That they acted like the Useful idiots I warned them of being, and that they were used by someone who claimed to be a moderate, but when push came to shove, he not only followed the MB line, he sold out his brothers who weren't, and who trusted him.That maybe, just maybe, they were responsible for this, and that they need to atone for it.  They gave this guy fame, They made him a hero when they knew he wasn't and now he will use that and milk it to his ends and those of the MB, and that will be all on their hands.

But of course they won't admit their fault or apologize. At best they will just ignore this post, keep their silence and hope it goes away, and at worst they will view it as a personal attack on them by me, and will wish to retaliate. Doesn't matter either way, cause whatever they do, they know that what I said here was the truth. And nothing they say or do will change that.

Whatever…  

Me and Abdel Monem don't know each other, and I am glad of that. I am glad to not know him, to not be acquainted with him, let alone be friends with him, because as I suspected, he couldn't be trusted. Just like Ibrahim el Hudaiby, just like every other single moderate face of the Brotherhood. At best they have no power nor influence, and at worst they are fakers and propagandist, preying on whatever media outlets and useful idiots from the left and the right who want to believe the Fantasy that the MB could become moderate and be the voice of the egyptian opposition. For the final time I will say it: It's not going to happen. They will use you as their defenders and their mouthpieces to their own ends, and then they will betray you, the same way they always did (Hey, remember the 2005 parliamentary elections? How many Kefayah members did the MB vote into power? yeah,thought so!). I don't fault Abdel Monem for what he did. It is to be expected from him. The fault lies on those who supported him, who should know better but chose to ignore reality, and then falsified it to help him. Even if they don't come clean for what they did, maybe, just maybe, they have learned their lesson out of this.

But I doubt it! 

Related Posts: 

Gemyhood 

Karim Amer is getting tortured in Prison

Abdel Karim Soliman, famously now known as Karim Amer, who got jailed for "disdain for religion" and "insulting the president" on his blog, is reportedly getting tortured by the Prison authorities.

Karim who is an Egyptian
blogger sentenced to prison for 4 years for 'vilifying religions' and
defaming the president was tortured & that was ordered and
supervised by an investigation officer in Borg Alarab prison. Karim was
also ordered into a solitary cell where he was assaulted again and had
one of his teeth broken; this assault's date came to mark one year
since Karim was sent to jail.

Karim reported his being tortured in prison to his lawyers in
the Arabic Network and Hisham Mubarak Center, the torture came at the
hand of another prisoner and a prison guard, ordered by Midhat Samir
one of the prison's investigations officers. This came to pass after
Karim has uncovered some corruption act in the prison. Karim was
punished and tortured severely which resulted in several injuries in
addition to a broken tooth. He was deprived from officially reporting
the incident against the accused officer as well as denying him the
right to document these injuries in a medical report.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights information and Hisham Mubarak
Centre for Law mentioned in their communiqué to the Prosecutor-General
that the assault on Karim is manifested in the following:

  • Being beaten inside
    ward Number 22 where he is imprisoned at the time of the assault, the
    battery was launched by another prisoner and a prison guard, in the
    presence of Officer Midhat Samir and under his supervision. Samir also
    gave the green light for the assault which resulted in a broken tooth
    "upper right canine tooth" along with a number of bruises and abrasions
    on various parts of the body.
  • Transferring Karim to a disciplinary cell where he was
    handcuffed and had his feet strapped into shackles; he was beaten up
    again which caused him more injuries.
  • Another inmate prisoner was brought over where they stripped
    him out of clothes and beat him severely in front of prisoner Kareem
    Soliman as they also threatened to inflict upon him the same
    punishment, if he didn't mind his own business.

I wish I could say I am surprised by this, but I have heard and seen so much of this, that, as horribly as that sounds, it kind of becomes expected. We are ruled and governed by Monsters who have no respect for our human rights or dignity. They just waited until his story wasn't that "Hot" anymore and went ahead with it. In this country, with the exception of those of us who believe in human rights, who is gonna defend him? A guy who insulted the prophet getting tortured? The public response is gonna be : "Good. That's exactly the kind of person who should be tortured! Make an example out of him." God knows that the day of his sentencing, and I was there for the majority of the trial, the public outside were debating how he should be killed. Some were like, "he should be hanged", others were like, "No, we need to go islamic on this. Behead him.", while others demanded that people have some common sense and instead of being all barbaric with the beheading, they should "just stab him". And that's the average egyptian on the street. Imagine the people in prison's reaction. And then ask yourself: would the sadistic bastards who run our prison system think twice about torturing this guy? They might've during the trial, when the spotlight was on him. But now? Forget about it. He is fairgame, and his jailers know it.

And the most telling part of all..

It is to mention that Karim since he was imprisoned is subjected to a
systemic discriminatory practice and maltreatment in Borg Alarb prison
on the hands of the prison's officers. He mentioned to his lawyer that
the maltreatment was always coupled with this phrase "This is until you
do change your mind"!! 

That's the message they are sending to all of us by this. Received and decoded guys. Thanks, you sick sadistic animals.

Azhar Sheikh: 80 lashes for freedom of press

So has decreed the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Mohamed Sayyed "Ok" Tantawi, as islamic punishment for those bad journalists who spread rumors about the president and the country.

"God will not respond to the invocation of the arrogant and
pretenders who accuse others with the ugliest vice and unsubstantiated
charges," said Tantawi during a religious celebration Monday attended
by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and broadcast live on television.

"The Islamic Sharia (law) subjected all the people to be equally
punished for the crime of libel which is a flagrant aggression on the
virtuous men and women," he added. Tantawi's comments were published in
Al-Akhbar newspaper Wednesday and in Sawt Al-Azhar, the mouthpiece of
Al-Azhar, the following day.

[...]

During his speech, Tantawi seemed to argue for serious punishment as
well, quoting a verse from the Quran saying that those who accused
women of adultery without necessary proof were to receive "80
floggings."

He said his example involved women but added that "libel is also
applicable to men … this punishment is set by God to protect the
honor of men and women from bad talk that hurts dignity and honor."

Nice ehh?

You know why we call him "Sayyed OK" in Egypt? Because before he became Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar (appointed by President Mubarak) he used to be Egypt's mufti, and he was famous for his ability to issue any Fatwa you would like as long as you pay him. The man is such a joke, that during the presidential elections he issued a Fatwa- when the opposition was trying to get the people to boycott the elections in order to say it was illegitimate- that egyptians have to go and particpate in the elections as their islamic duty and that it's haram not to do so, because that's suppressing testimony and god forbids that and hates those who suppress their testimony. No one, of course, listened. This is the man, who under his reign, Al Azhar became a place for breast-feeding fatwas and debates over if an actor gets married on TV, is he counted as married in real life, amongst other fun fantastic very relevant debates. And now he wants to lash journalists who libel the good honorable men of this government 80 lashes. 80.

and you thought journalists had it rough in your country.

Tantawi, do us all a favor: RESIGN!