Requiem for Sandmonkey

I'm still in shock. I'm still in denial, and I'm thinking, "No, he doesn't mean it." Or, "This isn't happening, it's all just a bad dream." But reality is pretty stubborn. And there, sitting right in the middle of my screen right now, are the following words:

Today is going to be the day that I've been dreading for quite sometime now. Today is the day I walk away from this blog. Done. Finished. ...

Sandmonkey is quitting. This is a dark day for Egypt and a dark day for the blogosphere. So we have to ask: Why?
One of the chief reasons is the fact that there has been too much heat around me lately. I no longer believe that my anonymity is kept, especially with State Secuirty agents lurking around my street and asking questions about me since that day. I ignore that, the same way I ignored all the clicking noises that my phones started to exhibit all of a sudden, or the law suit filed by Judge Mourad on my friends, and instead grew bolder and more reckless at a time where everybody else started being more cautious. It took me a while to take note of the fear that has been gripping our little blogsphere and comprehend what it really means. The prospects for improvment, to put it slightly, look pretty grim. I was the model of caution, and believing in my invincipility by managing not to get arrested for the past 2 and a half years, I've grown reckless.

There's more:
One has to wonder at some point the futulity of being a keyboard warrior in a country where nothing seems to matter to its people anymore. At the same time, there has been those amongst us who have loved the fame and the attention, and are now becoming the egyptian blogsphere's equivelant of Paris Hilton: They are famous for being famous, peddling the same stories and not really presenting anything of value to the debate. And then there is the fact that we are entering the "Iconogrphy" phase : We are becoming Icons. Too much Media attention, too many american organizations claiming to champion our causes while they are cashing out in donation from people gullible enough to believe them, too much hype generated by us and others, so many of us tooting our own horns and even crying wolf at times has made Icons of us. ...

Go read the rest at the link. And if you have a moment, go to the Sandmonkey index and peruse (or download!) his archives.

Here's Kat at The Middle Ground:
Sand Monkey was one of the first proponents of Democracy that I read in any other country besides the brothers at Iraq the Model. He was funny, snarky and serious all at once. He was pro-democracy, pro-American, and, though he would be categorized as "conservative" by current American politics, he is one of the most liberal Egyptians that I know.

His conversations with his NDP mother were priceless. Blogging about taxi rides, religious music and politics gave you a taste of Egypt on the ground. His site was the first place I ever talked to a real "Palestinian" about Israel, Palestine, Arafat and many other subjects. Most of all, his continued efforts to talk about the real political situation in Egypt, the motives, the laws and the people, allowed us to alternately hope for and fear for democracy in Egypt and the greater Middle East.

He's going dark now because Egypt has been arresting bloggers and, he fears, coming closer to him daily. He believes his anonymity has been compromised and, like the pamphlateers of old, he relied on that to be able to say whatever he felt about democracy and the lack of it in Egypt.

Kat links to Pamela at Atlas Shrugs with an interview:
SANDMONKEY: "Any kind of democratic reform in the country [Egypt] for the past 3 years has been rolled back specifically because there is no more pressure coming from Washington anymore."

ATLAS: Why? What happened to the pressure in Washington?

SANDMONKEY: You know what happened to the pressure in Washington. The Democrats won the Congress. There is no more pressure coming from Bush because he is not able to push people anymore to do those things. He is not able to push the Egyptian government anymore because the American public is suddenly not interested in reforming the Middle East because of what's going on in the Iraq. So suddenly the Egyptian government is not afraid of the American pressure. They are doing whatever they want to do. They are beating up demonstrators, they are cracking down on activists, they are changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties once and for all and they are using proxies to take down bloggers. ...

Go read the rest, and click on the audio link for the full interview. Many, many thanks to Pamela for letting us hear Sandmonkey's voice.

Sandmonkey was one of my absolute favorite bloggers. I loved his honesty, his humor, his chutzpah and his humility. And I'm mad as hell that the bastards got to him.

But let's not leave it there. Just in case you haven't already, please bookmark Freedom For Egyptians; this should be one of your daily stops. So should Ritzy Mabrouk.

And there's more you can do. You might not be familiar with the name, but Egyptian blogger Abdulmonaem Mahmoud has been arrested. There's a petition to free Monem - take a moment to sign it. Yeah, I know, the English translation is lame, but you get the point, right? Here's the French text, which reads a little better:
Au nom de DIEU , le clément , le tout miséricordieux

Ce n’est plus un secret , ce que les actifs dans le domaine politique en Egypte subissent : violations des libertés , arrestations violentes , irruptions à domicile , intimidation des familles et enfants…

Au fond de cette sombre scène , on constate que ces violations touchent tout le peuple avec toutes les affiliations intellectuelles et politiques , sans exception.

les bloggeurs égyptiens constituent une partie du peuple , et se situent au cœur du mouvement de la presse libre égyptienne . Etant le cas, et puisque les régimes dictateurs ont comme souci de cacher toute vérité , ils traitent alors la presse libre avec une main de fer.

l’ irruption , puis l’ arrestation du bloggeur et journaliste Abdelmenem Mahmoud , propriétaire du blog « ANA IKHWAN » ( JE SUIS IKHWAN ), et correspondant de la chaine ALMIHWAR au Caire , n’ est que la réaction attendu d’un régime policier avec toute voix libre en Egypte.

On a trouvé primordial alors , nous les bloggeur égyptiens , de formuler un manifeste consacré à la défense du droit de notre collègue à s’ exprimer librement, et à défendre le droit des bloggeurs et de la presse libre , à une opposition pacifique.

On s’est entendu alors ,nous les bloggeur d’ Egypte, sur le refus total de toute réaction basé sur une mentalité policière et violente lors du traitement d’ une opinion opposée.

Tout les soussignés , sollicitent ce qui suit :

• On sollicite du gouvernement égyptien , la libération immédiate de notre camarade , et de tous les détenus d’ opinion en Egypte .

• On sollicite de toute organisation internationale des droits de l’ Homme , et des organisations non- gouvernementales, à dénoncer ces violations du droit à l’ expression libre en Egypte .

• On refuse tout traitement violent de la part du régime politique , des causes en relation à la liberté d’ expression, ou de publication électronique ou de presse .

• Nous confirmons notre soutien inconditionnel de la société des bloggeurs sur le niveau international , concernant leurs droit à la liberté d’ expression à travers tous les moyens de publication possibles.

I don't read much Arabic (yet!) but here's an excerpt from the Arabic text -

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

لم يعد خافيا على أحد ما يتعرض له النشطاء السياسيين في مصر من انتهاكات للحريات واعتقالات تعسفية ومداهمات للمنازل الآمنة وترويع للعائلات والأطفال .

و كحلقة في تلك السلسلة السوداء , نجد تلك الانتهاكات تطال كل طوائف الشعب المصري بكافة انتماءاته الفكرية و السياسية .
وكجزء أصيل من الشعب المصري نرى المدونين في صدر حركة الصحافة الحرة في مصر , وكعادة الأنظمة القمعية التي تريد تغييب الشعوب عن الحقائق الدامغة , فهي تتعامل مع الصحافة الحرة والمستقلة بالحديد والنار .

ومن هنا جاءت مداهمة منزل واعتقال المدون و الصحفي عبدالمنعم محمود صاحب مدونة أنا إخوان ومراسل قناة الحوار في القاهرة كنتاج طبيعي للتعامل البوليسي مع القلم الحر في مصر .

You know what to do.