Responses

Dr. Yoram Meital, Chairman, The Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy, Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel has just responded to our petition:

Dear Petitioners:
We
have received your petition of complaint regarding Dr. Mohamed Mosaad
Abdel Aziz's recent presentation on "Political Weblogging in Egypt" at
our recent conference on Reform, Resistance, and Conflicts in the
Middle East. We take all comments regarding our efforts to bring open
discussions within the topic of reform and resistance very
seriously. The blogosphere is an important and valuable element within
the
reform and resistance discourse.

I
am not an expert on the Egyptian blogosphere, but I am aware that it is
expansive and quite pluralistic, representing a wide spectrum of
Egyptian society. I was significantly impressed by the useful work of
Egyptian bloggers during the last elections for both the parliament and
the presidency. I gave expression to this in my recently published
article “The Struggle over Political Order in Egypt: The 2005
Elections,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2 (Spring 2006), 257-279." 

Now, allow me to correct your claim that Dr. Mosaad was intentionally invited to express criticism on the Egyptian blogosphere. This claim is a total misunderstanding of how this academic conference was organized. The
Herzog Center is a non-partisan institute, and the views openly
expressed by conference participants reflect their views only. 
The
idea to discuss the Egyptian blogosphere has evolved from a keen
appreciation of this growing media in Egypt. A colleague, Dr. Mike
Dahan who specializes in weblogging in the Middle East, recommended Dr.
Mosaad, and the later was invited to speak on the issue of "Political
Weblogging in Egypt". The title of his lecture and the abstract sounded
promising. Quoting Dr. Mosaad,

"In Egypt, weblogging is thriving and is mainly political.  It has been argued that blogging gave a floor and voice to a large and previously silent sector, that used cyberspace to share information, raise significant but ignored issues, pose questions,create discourses, extend new political relations and affiliations and organize political
campaigns and activities. I argue, nevertheless, that weblogs are dominated by urban petit bourgeois young activists, who reflect the dominant social hierarchical structures,
tend to recycle tired discourses and turn the potentially creative cyber-space into a reflection of the traditional political public sphere in Egypt. This is not to say weblogging has had no value. Weblogging has undeniable political contribution. The paper will portray how political weblogging has failed to challenge traditional political structures and processes in Egypt."

Some of Dr. Mosaad's arguments did, indeed, come to me as a surprise. I was
not alone in criticizing him during the conference. I was not convinced
by his analysis of the political situation in Egypt, and the role of
new media. Dr. Mosaad's central point
of criticism was that HE has lost hope that blogging could make a
difference in Egypt's political arena.
However, like all of our
participants, I respected Dr. Mosaad's right to present his claims
freely. I am surprised that many among the respondents to your petition
supported a call to defame Dr. Mosaad, instead of formally taking issue
with his claims. 


Finally,
I would like to express my keen appreciation of the Egyptian
blogosphere community; and to assure you that, like many others, I hold
the efforts and sacrifices of Egyptian bloggers in high esteem.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Yoram Meital
Chairman,
The Chaim Herzog Center for
Middle East Studies and Diplomacy
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
 
 

My response:
 
Dr. Meital,

Thank you for your prompt response reagrding this
issue. As you can imagine, this incident has inflamed many people, none
more than myself, due to the serious defaming to egyptian bloggers that
took place on the panel and in the Israeli media.You may not be aware
of this, but one of our own is currently at trial for charges such as
"defaming the President on his website" and is looking at a 9 years
prison sentence come January the 25th. Others are facing constant
harassment from the egyptian police and state security, not to mention
the insults and insinuations about us in the state-sponsored media. The
Egyptian bloggers are fighting on many fronts dear sir, so to have
someone who doesn't even know us or seems to have done any proper
research on the topic, come out with such statements, well, it becomes
hard not to consider it another attack and take issue with it.

You stated that you were surprised how so many people have
supported the call to defame dr. Mosaad instead of formally taking
issues with his claims, and I am asking you: what claims? If you read
the petition you would find numerous factual errors in his statements
that could be proven by anybody with access to google and 20 minutes to
spare, especially regarding the nature, size and socioeconomic
backgrounds of egyptian bloggers. If you are referring to his claims
that the egyptian blogsphere is now reflecting the traditional
political public sphere, well, even that statement is misguided at
best. None of the traditional political forces in operation in Egypt,
even the so called opposition parties, have raised the issues that we
have raised or even pursue them after we brought them into the
spotlight. Egyptian bloggers from every political background actually
do attempt to discourse and have more than once abandoned personal and
ideological differences to work together for the common good, something
that not even the political forces in your country does, let alone
ours. There is nothing to take issue with because the man simply
doesn't know what he is talking about. Saying that publically is not
defaming him, it's actually a step to stop him from defaming us.

Now, I never personally believed that he was invited to your
conference to defame us, but what I couldn't fathom is how was it
possible for him to get invited as an "expert", when a simple online
search would have shown how disconnected and insignificant he is to the
egyptian blogsphere. In your e-mail you just answerd my question: Dr.
Mike Dahan invited him, which explains so much to me, since Dr. Dahan's
knowledge of the Israeli blogsphere parallels that of Dr. Abdel Aaziz
knowledge of the egyptian one: ignorant and shallow. This is the same
man, if I am not mistaken, who publically stated that the Israeli
blogsphere is irrelevant and is primarily comprised by 14 year old
girls who write personal diaries. As someone who have seen the Israeli
blogsphere's attempts to reach out to their lebanese counterparts
during last summer's war and how it gave Irsael and Israelis a human
face to a world population that generally demonizes them, it would be
easy to see how I would disagree with his assessment of the israeli
blogsphere as well.

That being said, I have only one thing to ask of you in the
future Dr. Yoram as a perosnal favor: Please don't take anybody's
recommendation for an "expert speaker", especially when it comes to
something as rapidly evoloving as the blogsphere, before researching
that person online first. Otherwise you are jepordizing your
conference's credibility and intentions, something I am sure  a great
academic such as yourself would not be very keen on.

And again, thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response.
I really appreciate that you took the time to explain to us your point
of view, and we keep waiting on Dr. Abdel Aaziz to do the same.

Best Regards,

SM

The Abdel Aaziz petition

*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.

Yours,

The Sandmonkey

The Arabist

3arabawy

Nora Younis

Malek

Alia

Nerro 

Ikhnaton

Lasto Adri *Blue* 

Eman M 

Me

Taher 

Geraldine

Statler & Waldorf 

Mando 

Memo

Memz

Mehrez 

Ibrahim ElSayed

Jpierre

hebe

Benhoz 

Jarelkamar

Hany George

Wa7da Masrya

Adham 

Aoossa 

Dina Fahmy 

Nousha

Yehia  

Good News: Nazanin exonerated

I don't know if you have been following the story of Nazanin Fatehi, but it's the iranian girl who when she was 17 had 3 men try to rape her and her 16 year old cousin, so she ended up stabbing and killing one of them in self defense. The Iranian courts, however, didn;t see it this way, and sentenced her to death by hanging. An international campaign to save her life was launched, with more than 330,000 signatures on her online petition alone, and it seems to have finally bore fruit: The court of appeals has exonerated the now 18 year old girl, altough they are demanding that she pays the family of her killer blood money, because apparently killing has was an excessive form of self defense for trying to rape her*. Annoying till the end those iranian judges seem, but nevertheless, the girl is no longer getting hanged nor charged with anything, and if that's not good news, I don't know what is.

* If a girl is raped in Iran, she needs to come up with witnesses that testify that the sex wasn't consentual. Otherwise, she would be just testifying that she had extra-marital sex with a male, and she would be punished and flogged for it. Nice, huh? Yay for Islamic Sharia courts!

Abdel Karim Rally in DC tomorrow

The information is all here. If you are in the DC area and believe in freedom of speech, Be there!

Yesterday’s demonstration against sexual harrassment

The start of the demonstration. You can see Mohamed Abdel Kuddoos leading the demonstration, which is significant, since he is an MB member, and they always maintained that the veil will protect girls from harrassment. His presence here signifies a at least a tiny shift in that view. The demo had a number of noteable females present, like:

Hend Al Henawy

Mona Al Tahawy

and Nora Younes.

The AUC kids start arriving.

The Protest got bigger!

Picture of the people from the other buildings watching us.

The Police started besieging the protest, but they didn’t do anything to harm anyone. It was an intimidation tactic more than anything, prompted by the shift in chants from just anti-sexual harrassment to anti-government. But for all intents and purposes, it was a success. Thanks to nerro who started this entire thing and to everyone else who helped.

There will be a second one November 14th, in front of the movie theatre that the attacks started at. Details on that later!