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Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Leadership in the Leaderless Uprisings

In Egypt, Philosophy on March 4, 2011 at 9:49 pm

tahrir,al jazeera,flag,egypt

I was reading Evgeny Morozov’s essay in Bookforum, “How Much Did Social Media contribute to Revolution in the Middle East.” In it, he says the following as regards an argument Malcolm Gladwell had made.

“To refute ([his argument] that the Internet can be an effective tool for political change when used by grassroots organizations as opposed to atomized individuals), cyber-utopians would need to establish that there was no coordination of these protests by networks of grassroots activists—with leaders and hierarchies—who have forged strong ties (online or offline or both) prior to the protests.” Read the rest of this entry »

Flood the Jail with Mail

In Committee to Protect Bloggers, Egypt, Free Kareem, Free speech, Kareem on April 4, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Committee to Protect Bloggers and FreeKareem are doing an analogue letter-writing campaign for Kareem, the imprisoned Egyptian blogger. Read about Flood the Jail with Mail.

Listen to Esra’a and I on PRI’s The World radio show. (Clicking will launch the player.)

The Elegance of Technology

In Archaeology, Egypt, History on July 16, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
From the Theban Mapping Project website.

Update: There’s been a significant update to the Theban Mapping Project.


Modern technology? Eh. It’s poetry I’m after. But there are times, rare certainly, when the meshing of computer technology and the humanities is nothing less than elegant. The most recent example of this is in Egyptology. It’s worth a look even if you’re not the archaeology fetishist I am.

The Theban Mapping Project is an astonishing, and super mega ultra awesome, project using 3-D representation to map the entirety of one of Egypt’s richest, and largest, archaeological areas, Thebes. Surprising yet inevitable use of technology. From their website, you can look around, above and below ground, at the myriad tombs, chapels and other structures at both the Valley of the Kings and the Theban Necropolis. Short films give an introduction to each structure. There is also an archive of relevant articles and you can read the “comprehensive site management Masterplan” for the VoK.

Although the project started in 1978, I believe its greatest value to the layman has come about with the confluence of a number of computer technologies: the interknob, 3-D graphics, animation and online video. The only thing the site seems to be missing is a feed. In my opinion, they should have at least a news page, if not an out-and-out blog (and why not that?), equipped with a feed so interested people could keep up-to-date with their activities.

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Free Kareem Site Hacked

In Egypt, Free Kareem, Free speech, Jailed bloggers on June 7, 2007 at 2:34 am

Esra’a told me (posted here) that all the sites associated with Free, to get Kareem Amer out of Egyptian jail where he’s been put due to critical comments on his blog, have been hacked. The main site’s back up but they’re still recovering data and the feeds don’t work.

I wonder who did the hack? It seemed like a lot of work. I wonder how much the hackers were supported by the Egyptian government, if they weren’t actual employees.

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Open Letter to Loic

In America, Egypt, Entrepreneurship, France, Free speech, Human rights, Jailed bloggers, Social media on June 2, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Parisian wigglers at a bar in the Bastille, by S.

Dear Loic:

We don’t know each other well, having done nothing more than exchange a few emails over the years. But one of the benefits of being a participant in the wide world of social media is a shamelessness and a willingness to dialogue publicly, qualities the world’s leaders would do well to emulate.

So when, this morning, I read an op-ed about newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy, I decided to use this forum to ask you a couple of favors and give you, and through you Sarko, a couple of pieces of unsolicited advice.

First, let me congratulate you on your candidate winning. Although I don’t wish to give you too much credit for that win, it would be equally specious to pretend your activities played no part at all. From your introduction of the then-candidates at LeWeb3, however poorly received, to your mediating public conversations, to your advising him on communications issues, he listened to you to good effect. I have no doubt he will continue to do so. I’d like to ask you, then, to pass on to him ideas that have come up in the course of thinking about three issues: U.S.-French relations, immigration and online freedom.

Regarding the relations between our two countries, let me start by saying Bush is on his way out. Considering the mood in my country regarding his actions and those of his allies, I believe it unlikely that his ideological legacy will continue, at least not be actively continued by a new administration of either party. Although part of the rift between France and America is clearly a function of the arrogance, entitlement and ignorance of the current U.S. administration, not all of it is. What I found most irritating on the part of Europeans over the past few years is the hypocrisy. During and around World War I, Americans were constantly belittled by the “Great Powers” for their “parochial” concerns, including a belief in self-determination. Wilson was considered a foolish little school teacher and Europeans ridiculed him for his ignorance of international politics as a “blood sport.”

Well, we learned. We looked up “realpolitik” in a dictionary and, not being a people who do things in half-measures, we committed to the notion. Once we had done so, of course, we were berated, by the French loudest of all, for our Machiavellian cynicism. This is just another example of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” that Americans feel they’ve had to endure, especially from Europe, since that day in July back in 1776.

Is it any wonder that some Americans found comfort in the Bush administration’s promise to no longer consult with the very Europeans who refused to do anything about anything on every little step we took? I don’t think it was a wise move. I don’t think it’s ever wise to stop talking. But I do understand the impulse that drove the support for the war at the beginning. And Sarko would do well to understand it as well. In other words, though no country, least of all my own, is above or should be above criticism, don’t be a dick about it. And in return, we’ll ask you for your thoughts, your input, your participation and your advice and we’ll actually listen to what you say; and we’ll ask you to do the same. (At least this is what I’ll be pressuring my new president to do.)

Our two countries have a long, complex history of mutual interdependence. Americans love France almost as much as we love to make fun of it. And the French seem almost as fascinated by America as they are intent on criticizing it. So let’s stop looking away every time the other looks up from his or her newspaper.

Immigration. When my wife and I visited Paris in 2004, at the end of a very long, emotionally challenging trip through Britain, Holland, Latvia and Germany (Paris was our reward), I was shocked at the change in the make up of the French people, in fact, of all Europe. I was slightly distressed at the change, but I was hopeful that it signaled the beginning of a Europe made of countries whose citizens were bound together less by ethnicity and history and more by a devotion to creating the future. On Bastille Day, however, those thoughts were laid to rest by the most astonishing series of altercations. We saw almost a dozen violent battles between young Muslims and others. I wrote about it. A year later, I saw these clashes as the quiet preface to the horrible Parisian riots.

Even at the time I remember thinking how the unrealistic approach to your immigrants (and ethnic minorities) was. Give immigrants everything they want and nothing they need and whitewash it all with slogans and expect not to see your capital explode? Who’s the Pollyanna now? Subsidizing housing, giving out free food, allowing people to rule themselves based on the extreme version of their religious ideology and refusing to allow them to take the responsibility for their own actions, these and other such “humanitarian” efforts will never overcome the abiding belief that the millions of people around you aren’t really as good as you, aren’t really capable of being Frenchmen, a belief that disallows these same men and women from work, from becoming self-sufficient and learning how to dialogue with those around them.

The only way to turn your vast immigrant population into real citizens is to require and allow. Require your immigrants to work–and then allow them the opportunities to do so. (As an entrepreneur yourself, I have no doubt you understand the appeal of such a course of action.) Require your immigrants take responsibility for their own actions–and then allow them a place at the national table. Stop excusing the encouragement by a fierce minority of anti-French values with one hand while slapping them with the other. (And you may want to ask your friend if he thinks calling them “scum” is the most helpful idea.) Require them to take part in French life–and allow them to debate what it is.

It would try the belief of any knowledgeable person to assert that my country has immigration figured out (!). But it would be equally preposterous to maintain there is another country on Earth who handles immigrants better. We are among the richest and most powerful countries on the planet as a direct result of our policy toward immigration, immigrants and citizenship.

Entrepreneurialism is the key to a thriving France. Encourage and allow innovation on the part not just of the ethnically, historically French but of those immigrants who can help create the new France, and you have a chance at creating something admirable. I understand Sarkozy is pro-entrepreneurial. You certainly are. Lean on him. There will be, as you know better than I, no end of people pushing back. It’s not that I am a proponent of capitalism without restrictions, it’s just that I am not a proponent of restrictions without capitalism.

Finally, online freedom. I doubt very much you need me to induce you to encourage Sarko to keep this issue in front of him. For one thing, in an increasingly borderless world, you can’t have a self-perpetuating economy without free inquiry and you can’t have free inquiry without an unfettered internet. First on our agenda must be keeping the Internet free at home–you take France, I’ll take the U.S. But it’s very important to pursue this internationally as well. What good is it if France is an island of online freedom in a sea of closed mouths? Strongly encourage Sarkozy to put pressure on, publicly criticize, indict China and Iran and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and all the other countries of the world who use the Internet as a tool of control.

This is not a matter, as the governments of these countries often claim, of extending our “Western European values” to a place we have no business doing anything but business. These are human values and human rights and we are charged — by human reason and divine will — with the promotion and defense of this spiritual necessity. It doesn’t matter if we agree or disagree with what is being said. What matters is that we act, in whatever small way is open to us, in assisting our brothers and sisters in removing the deforming bars of every prison that agents of control succeed in erecting.

Just to make sure that I don’t wind up wallowing in adorable generalities, I would like to ask you to convince Sarko to do one thing that is nothing if not tangible. Namely, to agitate publicly, and in his position of the leader of his country, for the release of Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman from prison in Egypt. Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison for criticizing Islam and the leadership of Egypt on his blog.

Abdul Monem Mahmood, a blogger and member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, defended Kareem on his blog and spent time in prison because of it. If a man who thinks the things Kareem said are rubbish is willing to defend him with his body, can the President of the Republic do less?

I hope this letter offers a little value for the money. I hope you read it in the same spirit I wrote it, respect, affection and excitement for the possibilities of the future. Of course, this being the “blogosphere” as you kids call it, if you don’t like it, you could always just, er, bring it ON motherfucker!

I remain, stridently, your American friend,


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Zahi Hawass

In Egypt, History on June 1, 2007 at 12:13 am

Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, always made me a bit uneasy. That he was a camera-whore was obvious. I’m no Egyptologist, but I wasn’t sure how reliable his scholarship was considering most of his time seemed to be spent as a talking head for National Geographic Channel, Discovery Times Channel, TLC, PBS, the Game Show Network and others. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Then, in February, he filed an official complaint with Egypt’s Office of the Attorney General, encouraging them to prosecute a Cairo high school for a curriculum that teaches it was the Israelites who built the pyramids.

What, now?

As Dr. James Davila of PaleoJudaica says, “Let us be quite clear: there is no ‘debate’ or ‘dispute’ about this among the people who know anything about Egyptian history.”

But apparently, between Josephus, 19th century European missionaries, Menachem Begin and the possible presence of the Jews in Egypt at one point, allegedly as enslaved or partially-enslaved builders, Dr. Hawass has been provided with enough of a foundation, however shaky and however long ago dismissed by reasonable people, from which to defend the honorable and ancient Egyptians against the insidious Jew threat.

What’s distressing to me is not that Hawass may have been over-reacting in a weirdly strident fashion to an issue that, however backward and irrelevant to most of us and certainly to the academic world he supposedly operates in, may have had some relevance to his home town politics. What bothers me is that this does not seem to be an isolated incident. Dr. Hawass has repeatedly decried plots through the years, including one to date the Sphinx much earlier than it is commonly held to be, plots that he either implied, or said outright, were perpetrated by Jews.

This fixation is rarely visible to Westerners. Most such comments seem to be directed to the Arabic-language press, where they are shielded from critical view and where they do the most “good” in establishing the doctor’s reputation as a fearless decrier of Zionist aggression.

As long as people who give countenance to conspiracy theories and imagined cabals are in a position of scholarly prominence in Egypt it will always be considered backward.

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Ton of Bricks vs. Bloggers

In China, Committee to Protect Bloggers, Egypt, Free speech, Human rights, Jailed bloggers, Journalism, Threatened bloggers, Yahoo on March 8, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Two awful stories prove that things are still bad for bloggers in oppressive countries. First, Yahoo. (And really, how could it not start with Yahoo?)

Speaking with VOA’s Mandarin Service Wednesday after arriving in Washington, Yu Ling said Chinese police arrested her husband, Wang Xiaoning, partly because Yahoo’s Hong Kong office gave Chinese authorities information about his e-mail accounts. (Voice of America, via Valleywag)

To my knowledge, Wang is not a blogger. But Yahoo is the same company that rushed to the “aid” of the Chinese government to secure a long prison term for another journalist, Shi Tao, who was a blogger.

Second, here’s an email I got from Amr Gharbeia in Egypt, in its entirety.


I am getting confirmations that there is a lawsuit against the government to block twenty-one websites and blogs, including my own.

The lawsuit is started by Abdelfattah Mourad, one of Egypt’s most senior judges–and head of the Alexandria Appeal Court, where imprisoned blogger AbdolKareem Nabil Soliman’s case is heard next week. The judge is a self-claimed authority in internet issues. I was excited by the fact that he started a blog a while ago, and wrote him asking if he would mind me writing a review for a book he published recently on “the scientific and legal foundations of blogs”. He did not mind, until I published the thing. He obviously has copied tens of pages from the recent report by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information on Internet freedoms in the Arab world. I noticed this only because some of the figures and estimations were taken from an interview with me. He did this without citation, except for one link to Initiative for an Open Arab Internet in the endnotes, while putting footnotes to other books he wrote on text that he has not written.

Three things prove it is not a mistake: 1) he copied at least two other bloggers with no referencing at all; 2) he changed parts in the text copied from the report to mean the opposite, for example to indicate that Tunisia is a nice, liberal and progressive country; and 3) he published at the front and back pages of his book several warnings against plagiarism, and referred to laws, religions and scientific research methods. He does not allow anyone to cite anything more than two lines from his writings, and in the book he warns against bloggers who violate copyrights, associates them with international terrorism and other things, and claims he has written a reference on
scientific methodology. To top it all, he annexes ready-to-fill complaint forms against bloggers who publish pornography (fitting someone’s head over a naked body, an imaginary case with no history in Egypt’s blogs) and publicizing news that could tarnish the country’s reputation.

I do not really care much for copy rights, and think they are over-rated and keep knowledge, medicine, and soon genetically-engineered food from the world’s poorest, and I would not have written anything if this was another blogger, or a journalist, or even a university professor. What worries me, however, is that this is a judge whose ruling cannot be appealed. He can silence, imprison or execute people, and he oversees our elections.

Once the blogs are found offensive by the court, then in light of the Egyptian’s regime reputation, it is automatic to prosecute the bloggers. This is an early warning. We are still gathering information, and HRInfo should be making a release and starting procedure Saturday next. Hossam elHamalawy is posting in English. Follow him for updates.


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Kareem Sentenced to Four Years in Egyptian Prison

In Egypt, Free speech, Jailed bloggers, Threatened bloggers on February 22, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman has been sentenced to four years in an Egyptian prison, three for “insulting Islam” and one for insulting Mubarak. Hey, remember when “Egypt” used to be synonymous with “civilization”? Yeah, me neither.

Committee to Protect Bloggers supported Kareem when he was first imprisoned, then freed by the Egyptian authorities, even creating a petition for his release. This is disappointing but not unexpected.

The folks at Free Kareem! are doing all that and more. Support them, free speech and Kareem. Do I really need to say “regardless of whether you agree with him”?

And for those in a similar situation, check out BlogSafer, our anonymous blogging wiki.

Update: If you’re a human trashcan who wants to register your pornographic desire for religious violence on my blog, I’m all for it. Nothing like the marketplace of ideas to show a fool for what he is. But you’ll need to find the guts to do it under your own name. Anybody so chickenshit as to comment anonymously will not be allowed to do so. Naturally, that will pretty much eliminate that species of comment. A “person” of that type is only “brave,” after all, when in the midst of a mob of rats from which he can borrow what passes for courage.

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Alaa is Freed

In Egypt, Jailed bloggers, Threatened bloggers on June 23, 2006 at 1:55 am

Detained Egyptian blogger Alaa has been released from Egyptian police and state security. They made sure he got beaten first, of course.

Go here for more about Alaa and his release.

I’m taking down the banner in the sidebar. But that doesn’t mean the danger’s over for him, or for the other bloggers in Iran, China and elsewhere and for the protestors in Egypt.

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Digg Alaa

In Egypt, Jailed bloggers on May 26, 2006 at 11:03 pm

Please Digg any of these Alaa-related posts.

Alaa is one of the three Egyptian bloggers jailed by the Egyptian government.

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