Wael Abbas in WaPo

Don’t miss Wael Abbas’ op-ed in the Washington Post, which might help revive the flagging concern about Egypt in Washington (or just land Wael in further trouble):

CAIRO Last Thursday, I returned to my country, Egypt, after several weeks in the United States on a Freedom House fellowship. I came home full of anxiety. I feared that the authorities would arrest me as soon as I set foot on Egyptian soil.

That didn’t happen. But as I went through the airport arrival procedures, I felt that I was being closely watched and followed. Men using walkie-talkies observed me from a distance. When I joined my family members outside the terminal, they, too, told me that they had been watched while waiting for me.

I could still be arrested. And if I am, it will be because I dared to speak the truth about President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which continues to receive billions in foreign aid from the U.S. government — including funds ostensibly intended to support democracy. It will be because I dared to expose the actions that have made Mubarak’s administration one of the world’s foremost violators of human rights, according to human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.

I am an Egyptian blogger. And the Mubarak regime is out to get me and others like me.

It is engaged in an all-out campaign against those of us who use the Internet to report the truth about what is happening in Egypt. It is spreading rumors about us and targeting us for character assassination. Judges allied with the government have filed lawsuits against more than 50 bloggers, accusing them of blackmail and of defaming Egypt and demanding that their blogs be shut down. Meanwhile, security officials appear on television to claim that the bloggers are violating media and communications laws.

Is this the kind of regime you want your tax money to support?

I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago and, after talking to Egypt-watchers in the think tanks, government, Congress, and a few Egyptian dissidents living there I get the feeling that we’re not about to see any serious movement on tying aid to political reform and human rights. But more about that later.

Update: The US embassy in Cairo is having a “webchat” on May 29. The topic is public diplomacy, but perhaps this might be a good occasion for Egyptian bloggers to raise the kind of issues Wael is talking about.

0 thoughts on “Wael Abbas in WaPo”

  1. I think Wael and the other bloggers have done some great things for freedom of expression in Egypt, but I would somewhat caution about some of the things Wael says in that editorial:

    “New political movements, such as Kifaya (which means ‘enough’ and is the moniker for the Egyptian Movement for Change), began to call for reform. They held street demonstrations, chanting anti-Mubarak slogans. But no journalists dared cover the protests because of the thousands of security officials who surrounded the activists. So the Egyptian people knew nothing about what was going on. That’s when we bloggers decided to take matters into our own hands. We believed in the people’s right to know. I took photos and video footage of the demonstrations and posted them on the Internet.”

    Come _on_, I mean really, how many journalists attended Kifaya rallies? Too scared to cover them?! Half the people at the average Kifaya rally were journalists. And not just western journalists, I can’t think of a major protest or event that Egyptian independent daily al-Masri al-Youm didn’t cover or splash across their front page. The people knew.

    He then goes on to say that his blog’s publicizing of the May 25 2005 attacks on referendum protestors caused the huge scandal — once again I would suggest that maybe the scores of international and Egyptian journalists there at the syndicate when it happened might have had something to do with it.

    Rather than Kifaya protests, what Wael and his friends really did publicise was the police brutality and sodomy videos, though it is worth mentioning that these were spread without the permission of the people being abused and violated.

    The bloggers have done great work but so has a new generation of Egyptian journalists and its worth spreading the credit around a bit.

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