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.


New face of Pakistan?

And now for something completely different.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Begum Nawazish Ali flirts with the country's law minister, batting her long eyelashes and calling him darling. She kisses one of the minister's sons on the cheek and practically asks another son to marry her. All in front of the television cameras.

"Look at my hands," she tells the minister, showing off her French manicure.

"Your hands are beautiful," he responds. "I feel like kissing them."

This is the most outrageous TV program in Pakistan, one that has regularly violated conservative Islamic rules and Pakistani customs while becoming a top-rated talk show. But Ali is more than just a mouthy woman, and that's what makes this popular show truly revolutionary, even subversive.

Ali is actually a mouthy man in drag. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Secularists Rally in Istanbul

Çok güzel!

Via Little Green Footballs.

AP via Yahoo news:
BENJAMIN HARVEY, Associated Press Writer Sun Apr 29, 9:33 AM ET
ISTANBUL, Turkey - At least 300,000 Turks waving the red national flag flooded central Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government, saying the Islamic roots of Turkey's leaders threatened to destroy the country's modern foundations.

Like the protesters — who gathered for the second large anti-government demonstration in two weeks — Turkey's powerful secular military has accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of tolerating radical Islamic circles.

"They want to drag Turkey to the dark ages," said 63-year-old Ahmet Yurdakul, a retired government employee who attended the protest.

More than 300,000 people took part in a similar rally in Ankara two weeks ago. ...

Go to the link for the rest. Meanwhile, AFP (via Yahoo) puts the turnout at over a million:
Nicolas Cheviron Sun Apr 29, 9:42 AM ET
ISTANBUL (AFP) - More than one million people took part in a mass rally here Sunday in support of secularism and democracy amid a tense stand-off between the Islamist-rooted government and the army over presidential elections.

The crowd, carrying red-and-white Turkish flags and portraits of founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, filled Istanbul's sprawling Caglayan square in a demonstration organized by some 600 non-governmental organizations.

"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," "Neither Sharia, nor coup d'etat, democratic Turkey," they chanted.

Police at the scene told AFP that the number of demonstrators was well over one million. Organizers said the rally drew people from all over Turkey and abroad.

The Istanbul demonstration followed a similar one in Ankara on April 14 that attracted up to 1.5 million people, according to some estimates. ...

Muslim children trash classroom; anti-Semitic attack in France.

Nine year-old Muslim children destroy a Dutch classroom because of a discussion of a pig on a farm and the only response is to expunge pigs from the curriculum.
A school in Amsterdam has halted lessons on rural life because the Islamic children refused to talk about pigs. Reporting this, Alderman Lodewijk Asscher said he wants to take "tough measures." Subsidies for all kinds of dubious groups must stop and parents of unruly children penalised financially.

Asscher told newspaper De Volkskrant: "A primary school in Amsterdam-Noord has decided no longer to teach about living on a farm. Various pupils began to demolish the classroom when the pig came up for discussion. Apparently it has gone that far. These children, 9, 10 years old, have not been given even the most elementary rules at home about why they must go to school."

Vicious anti-Jewish attack in France.
A 22-year-old Jewish woman suffered a vicious anti-Semitic attack by two men of Middle Eastern appearance in a train station in Marseille, France on Thursday night.

The attackers tore the Star of David chain from around the young woman’s neck, lifted up her shirt, painted a swastika on her stomach and then fled the scene.

Local police opened an investigation into the attack but had not yet found the assailants.

American Islamic Congress - latest news

From Zainab al-Suwaij, American Islamic Congress, via e-mail bulletin:
I just returned from a month-long trip to the Middle East, where we conducted three training conferences for young reformers in:

- Amman, Jordan, where we brought together 25 young leaders from eight countries for in-depth training in techniques of non-violent activism;
- Karbala, Iraq, where despite constant danger we taught 27 young Iraqis how to promote non-violent methods of conflict resolution and national reconciliation;
- Ifrane, Morocco , where we joined with the student Human Rights Club of Al-Akhawayn University to host 45 young Middle Eastern leaders from 12 countries to lay the foundations for a region-wide civil rights movement.

While I enjoyed my trip, my experiences reminded me of the challenges before us. The day I arrived in Morocco from Iraq, for example, multiple suicide bombings rocked the country. I was instructing young activists on implementing nonviolent reform at one moment, only to find myself comforting Moroccans devastated by the tragic actions of radical fundamentalists. The attacks (repeated the next day in Algiers and four days later in Casablanca) provided a stark example of the crises - and opportunities - that stand before us. Radicals seek to dominate the Muslim community. Basic human rights are denied by unelected rulers. And terrorists threaten the safety of all of us, regardless of our religious beliefs.

But we will not be silent in the face of these challenges.

Entering our sixth year, the American Islamic Congress has been at the forefront in advancing a platform of tolerance and understanding by creating grassroots networks for reform in the Muslim world and by promoting the moderate Muslim voice to the American public. We rely on the support of kind people of all backgrounds who are committed to promoting peace and progress - and to helping us move forward a positive agenda for the Muslim community. ...

Go to the link to find out more about AIC, and consider helping them out if you can.

Iran: Hunger Strike for Political Prisoners

From Ghazal Omid, via e-mail:
Hunger Strike in Iran Started April 7, 2007 Means Life or Death
For One of 39 Political Prisoners, Possibly All

On April 22, 2007, political prisoner Mr. Khalid Hardani was carried to the medical center of Rajai Shahar prison by two of his fellow inmates, Mr. Nasser Khirolahi and Mr. Shahin Aryanejad, due to Mr. Khaled Hardani's worsening heart condition. Mr. Hardani, who was transferred from Evin Prison to Rajai Shahar approximately two months ago, has had his heart medication intentionally withheld, and his physical well-being is worsening each day.

This hunger strike is a last resort for these political prisoners, who have no way whatsoever to alert people worldwide to their conditions in the prison, and illuminates the disinterest of UN Representatives, Red Cross/Red Crescent, and Amnesty International. Mr. Khaled Hardani and another 38 political prisoners from a number of prisons in Iran could possibly die as a result of this official apathy.

In the clinic, Mr. Khaled Hardani was not allowed to see a physician, and when the prisoners resisted pressure to end the strike, they were savagely beaten inside the clinic, in full view of medical staff, by professional torture master Aslan Beghi. Neither prisoner received any medical care, not for the hunger strike's physical effects, nor for the injuries from physical torture. Instead, they were dragged back to their filthy cells to recover on their own from the savage beatings.

Mr. Hardani, whose cardiac condition requires medication, has received no medication for his heart condition from prison medical officials since his transfer from Evin nearly 2 months ago.

Repeated letters and calls to officials of Amnesty International by Ghazal Omid (www.ghazalomid.com), Iranian dissident and the official spokesperson for 19 of the 39 political prisoners, have not been returned. UN Human Rights Commission member states have also not responded to repeated calls for intervention.

Ghazal Omid


Representative Jenson on SB2, HB2007

State Representative Bob Jenson (R - Pendleton, District 58) has issued the following statement (via e-mail) following last week's vote on two important gay equality bills in the State of Oregon:
For the past few weeks I have heard from many of you expressing your concerns pro and con regarding SB2 and HB2007. By now most of you are aware that SB2 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and public places throughout the state. HB 2007 creates a method of legal recognition for same-sex relationships in Oregon, namely domestic partnerships.

As your representative I feel a responsibility to listen to your concerns and try to make your wishes heard. Sometimes this is not difficult when the issue is one that is fairly similarly viewed within the district. However, it is an entirely different concern when there are widely divergent opinions on a particular issue.

This was the situation with the above two bills. Adding to the complexity was the complication of religion and moral beliefs, and people’s rights. While there were many people with strong religious convictions that opposed these bills there were also a large number of church groups that strongly supported the legislation. Given that situation, I had to make a very difficult vote.

While I respect the position of Oregon voters on Measure 36, which banned same-sex marriage, I also know that many voters who did so believed same-sex couples should have some protections for their relationships in the form of a civil union or domestic partnership.

Many voters further stated that discrimination in things like jobs and housing is wrong. Having lived through the civil rights years where the differential treatment of people who were different was exposed as unfair I believe that our state is strengthened when all who live and work here are equal under the law. No one should be fired from a job, denied a table in a restaurant, or blocked from making medical decisions for a loved one in an emergency simply because of their sexual orientation. Discrimination has no place in our state, and as such I felt compelled to vote for the bills.

Interestingly there is something of a precedent from our district regarding this issue. When former Rep. Chuck Norris held this legislative seat in 1989, HB 2784 came to the floor on one of the last days of the session, July 2nd. That bill essentially stated that sexual orientation was a category that could not be intimidated against. The outcome of that vote was 31-29 with Rep. Norris being the deciding vote.

Thank you, Representative Jenson, for your courage in making this difficult decision. You did the right thing.