Saturday, February 03, 2007

Negar Azimi piece:Bloggers against torture

Negar Azimi has a really good piece in the Nation, called Bloggers against torture. Azimi has written extensivly on current developments in Egypt, among the articles, two stands out in my mind. The first is in my view the best article ever written in english on the young generation Kefayaists. The second article was on the ordeal and stigma that the gay community in Egypt faces.

Thanks Negar!

The sample that follows shows the potential in blogger activism, having a role as whistleblower in conjunction with private satelite channels and the indendent press (Masry al youm,al fajr and ad Doustur). However it also shows the current limitiations beyond that at the moment. Putting the spotlights on the Sudanese refugee masacre, the downtown Cairo aid al Fitr mass sexual hearasment case and the torture cases in police stations is not a small achievement, and at least two of the cases has led to a response, and a de facto recognition of what actually happend from the authorities, gives a glimpse of hope for the long term future.

But let´s remember that the same kind of intimidation that happend to Imad al Kabir after he came forward, happend just yesterday with Ihab Magdi Farouk and his family, The victim of police abuse almost always being treated as the perpotraitor until proven otherwise. Changing this pattern takes more than bloggers, independent media and satelite tv-stations.

Here is a sample of Bloggers against torture:

¨Indeed, this may be just the beginning. Wael Abbas, a Cairo-based blogger who was among the first to post the torture videos, has received nearly a dozen additional videos since the beginning of December. Most have been forwarded anonymously, and most, like al-Kabir's, were captured with simple cellphone cameras.

I met Abbas in late December in Cairo, just as the stir created by the al-Kabir video was reaching its peak. "We know people get raped, beaten all the time. And who's going to stick up for a bus driver? But now it's public, and everyone is talking. The government has to do something. They've lost face," he explained.

Bloggers in the developing world have long been the subject of romantic odes in the Western press (give a young man a blog and he will start a revolution). While the capacity of digital technologies to jump-start democracy has often been exaggerated, recent events in Egypt demonstrate blogs' enormous potential as an advocacy tool and, more broadly, as an alternative source of news. Here, a number of bloggers seem to have cracked into a hitherto tightly sealed state monopoly on information dissemination, breaking stories in many cases before the mainstream press.

In this neighborhood, the official press dominates circulation numbers--with a single state-controlled paper producing up to 1 million copies a day, while the whole of the independent press puts out 10,000-40,000, according to Arab Press Freedom Watch. Though a handful of independent papers, such as Al-Dustour (whose editor, Ibrahim Issa, faces charges of "insulting the president") and Al Masry Al Youm (whose writers have faced similar charges), have managed to push the bounds of what is allowable in the public sphere, until recently it would have been unheard of to take on such subjects as torture carried out by officials without being summarily shut down.

But things are changing. In many cases blogs, working hand in hand with the modest independent press as well as satellite television channels ("We are the children of Al Jazeera," one blogger recently told me), have broken a number of big stories--from sectarian strife in Alexandria to state-sponsored violence during the last parliamentary elections, and even the type of routine crackdowns that occur during demonstrations. Together these forces have not only created an alternative source of information but have increasingly managed to shame the government into punishing those responsible for abuses. Since the leak of the notorious "slaps" video, the officer charged with the abuse of Gad, for example, has been suspended while his case is under investigation. The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, has publicly called for the identification of the pleading woman hanging from the stick, as well as the officers who carried out that abuse.

Still, whatever happens to the perpetrators of the recent spate of leaked abuses, torture will likely remain routine in Egypt for the time being. The sort of roughing up that takes place in dark alleys, security checkpoints and dingy police stations daily--normally targeting ordinary citizens--continues to pass unquestioned. Not only are torture and abuse tolerated; in the security services violence is broadly valued as a sign of authority, strength, bravado. It is not uncommon for lower-level officers to get promotions for such theatrics. In fact, the original video of al-Kabir appears to have circulated for months (the abuse was carried out in January 2006) among police officers and taxi drivers, Abu Ghraib-style, before it was leaked to the public. The images were likely shared for bragging purposes--and to serve as a sort of warning to those who would dare to tread on police turf, as al-Kabir had. It's hardly surprising that, following the video's wide circulation and al-Kabir's statements on a satellite television channel about his experience, he received a torrent of phone calls demanding his silence and threatening both him and his family.¨

(Via Árabawy)


Anonymous imsmall said...


It is a thing of power to have someone in control,
A raghead seeking trouble so I´ll give him plenty some,
It´s fun to play tormentor though there isn´t any goal
Beyond the cruel infliction--yeah, so maybe it was dumb.

They´re like subhuman animals a person gets so sick,
The hospitality is not so pleasant over there,
It doesn´t take a sadist to get pleasure from a kick,
But I´m glad to be gone--miasma seems to hover there.

7:15 PM  

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