Keeping the pressure for Radwan

We’ve all seen from recent events around the Arab world that authoritarian regimes tend to cave to pressure (unless they are Gaddafi, but he is a madman not just a dictator). This is just what Radwan’s family and friends are doing to free him. With a successful social media campaign, many Egyptian activists on their side and regional as well as international media attention they are definitely playing this right.

Muhammad Radwan, is a 32 year old Egyptian and American engineer. He’s been living in Syria for almost a year running a company his father owns shares in. Last Friday, Syria saw another eventful day in a series of days of an uprising. Radwan being the curious person he is, and according to his mother due to his love of taking pictures and most recently tweeting, he was last seen at the Ummayid Mosque where he made this last tweet.

The “Confession”

A day later we find him on television making this “confession”:

He says that he was in touch with a Colombian that was referred to him by a friend because he was looking for someone to talk to in Syria. He said he agreed to send this person pictures and video for 100 Egyptian Pounds per picture and the price of the video hadn’t been decided. They asked him on a completely different note if he had ever been to Israel, and he admited to going and meeting a friend there. He also explained that he asked them not to stamp his passport and went through Jordan.

There are so many things wrong with this “confession” that we just have to believe that the authoritarian Syrian regime made him make this bullshit confession, just like Gaddafi’s regime made another Egyptian volunteering in Libya confess to being with Al Qaeda and coming to disrupt libya:

1. Radwan is a well paid engineer, if he were to help a journalist or give photos he wouldn’t do it for money or he would charge A LOT of money, not 100 LE which is the equivalent of 15 USD.

2. According to his cousin Tarek Shalaby, this Colombian works for “Radio Colombia” and Tarek was the one who put them in touch. So this guy works for Radio, therefore he would not ask Radwan for photos nor videos as they are of no use for him.

3. According to Radwan’s family, he has never been to Israel. And even IF he has, Radwan is a traveler, and he would have gone to see Jerusalem like any other tourist does.

The Social Media Campaign:

On Twitter and Facebook, Radwan’s family launhed a massive social media campaign to raise awareness about their detained cousin. Very quickly the world caught on and to date there are over 5000 likes on the Facebook page and constantly updated tweets following the hashtag #FreeRadwan. These initiatives may seem small compared to someone like Reuters covering this story. However, let’s not forget that the January 25th Facebook event came before the cameras. And social media is definitely a very powerful tool in rallying people.

Media Coverage & Free Radwan Rallies

Radwan’s case, thanks to its strange nature and the efforts of his friends and family, has recieved  a lot of media attention. However, a lot of the media coverage, labels the video above as a confession to selling photos to Israel or confession to being a spy. Whereas, it actually is not what he said. The Syrian regime put it in that context, but he actually confesses to nothing. He only says he’s been to Israel and planned to send photos to Colombia. All of a sudden you find news stories saying he confessed to selling the pictures to Israel or that he is accused of being a spy.

Around 100 protesters outside of Syrian embassy in Cairo

More photos of Protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo on Flickr.

Even with the somewhat exaggerated media, it is definitely helping his case. There have been protests staged to free Radwan in London, Texas and Cairo. In the Cairo protest, we stood silently in front of the Syrian embassy in Cairo with flowers, posters indicating our one demand. After about an hour or so, the Syrian embassy opened its door to as many protesters as can fit in the courtyard and the ambassador and some officials came out to speak with Radwan’s mother and the protesters. He tried to explain that Radwan confessed, and that they need to go through with the investigation and promised Radwan’s mother, Maha, that if he was innocent the ambassador himself will go to her house and appologise. The protesters were not happy nor satisfied with what the ambassador had to say, except for one who kept praising the ambassador. Only later we found out she belonged to a certain state owned newspaper. (Side note: Reporters should really keep their opinions to themselves, especially when they work for state media.)

Here is a report from Ahram Online on the protest.

Radwan, the dude

Often described as a traveler, Radwan was born in the US, brought up in Saudi Arabia and has been traveling all over the world, most recently after saving up for years working he ended up on a long term trip to South America before moving to Cairo for a few months and then heading up to Syria last year. He’s one of those characters that is just living in his own world. Always has very interesting thoughts to share, has a mind of his own and often ends up misplacing things. I haven’t known him for long, met him a couple of times before he headed to Syria. It was when he came back on Friday the 28th and stayed till about a week after Mubarak was outsted, where I got to know him. We spent our Tahrir days in ‘Bansyon El Horeyya‘ also known as the ‘Freedom Motel‘ where Tarek had been camping for days. We also live quite close to each other so we went home together with others almost daily, and that took a while since every two minutes we were stopped by the neighbourhood watch and asked to show our IDs. Radwan is just a lovely person, he’s not a spy, or trying to create any sort of chaos. He’s a regular, politcally aware individual, who like his mother puts it “was in the wrong place, at the wrong time”. Oh yeah, and he has pretty eyes (like really pretty).

If you can help Radwan, in anyway you can please get in touch. Any pressure on Syria whether through contacts there, media pressure, foreign actors… etc. can help bring an innocent man home to his family and friends. His father is in Syria still trying to see him or get him to talk to a lawyer with not much luck. He really needs any help he can get.

Radwan on Friday January 28th Protesting in Cairo - Photo by Hossam El Hamalawy

Saturday: Super Moon and Democratic Practices

Even though I was pushing for a No to the constitutional ammendments since going into parlimentary and presidential elections with a new constitution that hasn’t been butchered by Mubarak and his thugs for 30 years meant we had a backbone to our revolution. However, it seems that the “yes” vote is the clear winner.

Usually what you are used to hearing during elections and voting procedures in Egypt is news of people arrested, people stopped from voting, lobbying inside, buses of people paid to vote and accounts of dead people voting. Even though yesterday was not perfect, including an attack on possible presidential candidate El Baradei and the arrest of human rights lawyer Ragia Omran, I have to say yesterday given the circumstances was very much a success.

25 million people voted, as opposed to 6 million people voting in November’s parliamentary elections. That is more than half of the people eligible to vote in Egypt. Not only that, this process was rushed, confusing and the Military Council did a very bad job in communicating the implications of voting yes or no. Yet within all these circumstances 25 million Egyptians still felt involved enough to go vote, and that is a clear indicator of political participation and interest as well as the success of the ongoing revolution.

Update since posted: Only 18.5 million people voted not 25 million as previously reported. For the more figures of the result of the constitutional referendum click here.

We have a lot of work to do, a lot awareness to raise. Political parties, movements and independents that are pro-reform, pro-democracy and want to work to make Egypt a country which stands for the revolutions slogans of freedom and social justice will need to work extra hard to get themselves represented in parliament. Citizens will also have to take an active role in raising awareness, lobbying for these groups and ensuring the voting population understands the implications of voting and the importance of their newly found voice.

On March 19th, Egypt witnessed what maybe is the first real democratic process it has seen in the past years. On March 19th also the moon was the closest to the earth it had ever been in 18 years. What better way to celebrate such a huge step for our revolution than under a moonlight so bright that it lit up Cairo’s already shimmering sky?

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سلطات الرئيس و شرعية الثورة تحكم علينا أن نصوت لأ

وحدة صحبتي بتدرس في جامعة أكسفورد بعتتلي المنشورة دي في ايميل بعنوان “ليه نرفض التعديلات و نطالب بدستور جديد”. يجب علينا جميعاً أن ننشر الوعي من خلال كل وسائل الاتصالات على فيسبوك و تويتر و ايميل و طباعة و توزيع. لو عايزين نعيش في ديمقراطية و حرية حقيقية لازم يوم السبت تطلع النتيجة لأ

ممكن تقرا أو تنزل منشورة من اللينك هنا   http://bit.ly/eLhopO

A good friend of mine studying in Oxford sent me this flyer titled “Why we say no to the amendments and demand a new constitution”. It simply explains all the aspects. We all have to spread awareness about this through all communication methods like facebook, twitter, email, printing hand outs… etc.  If we want to live in a free democratic country, the result on Saturday must be NO

You can read or download the flyer through this link  http://bit.ly/eLhopO

 

Why I’m voting NO

The Egyptian revolution has been a peaceful battle for change. This change is not just about Mubarak or his minions. It is about changing the entire way in which we live, work, produce and most importantly make decisions. A revolution by definition is overthrowing the old to bring in a new system. Our demand is a system that is based on democracy, active participation of citizens in decision making, and living in a society where the individual really matters.

Vote No!

However, next Saturday the army is asking us to vote on accepting or not the constitutional amendments that they have formed a committee to put forward. I’m not going to talk about the content, because that has been discussed by people who actually understand more what they are talking about, so there are many better sources to help one understand why they should vote yes or no in that sense. From my side I have another issue with it.

Why the hell is it happening so quickly?

The amendments were done to a constitution that the past government has been butchering for decades to support them in clinging on to power. Part of the revolution’s demands was a new constitution that supports freedom, democracy and social justice. This document is something that is meant to be sustainable, and we have pretty much agreed that this piece of paper we call a constitution is no longer valid. In fact one of the amendments is actually that within 6 months of a parliament being elected we will be drafting a new one.

Yeah we need to elect a new president, so we need rules on how one can get nominated and elected since the old ones no longer are valid. Fair enough. Just create temporary rules for that. But to change the constitution like this is completely exclusive. The ammendments just came out 2 weeks ago, and in a week we are expected to be ready to vote yes or no, when most of us don’t really understand what are the implications of this, and those who do understand do not have enough time to reach the voters.

I’m voting NO. Not because I disagree with the content (even though I do on some parts), but because I am against the process as a whole. Democracy means including people in decision making and having people make informed decisions, something that this process is just not giving us.

What Women Want in New Egypt

Over the past weeks we have seen mass protests by people across all segments of society calling for political change and reform, in hope that this change would reflect on economical and social issues in the future. As the days progressed we saw workers striking and protesting for their rights, journalists protesting for free and honest media, artists and film makers against censorship, people with disabilities protesting for an inclusive society and infrastructure, and many others according to their fields or backgrounds. Women are 50% of the society, and they face marginalization, unfairness politically, socially and under Egyptian law. It’s about time we do something about it. Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, long time acivist psychologist and especially concerned with women’s rights said “The cause to libirate women [in Egypt] who are half the population, is not separated from liberating the nation” .

That is why next Tuesday, to celebrate the International Day for Women, everyone in Egypt who believes women should be equal members of society on every level, need to take the streets. A group of women’s rights activists are organising a “Million Women March” in Tahrir at 3 pm.

My favourite slogan from the event on Facebook is: “I have a mother and father, I want a female or male president”.

In Egypt, no one can deny that women are not treated equally in society. That includes on a legal, political and most importantly cultural level. Here is a few main issues women face, not all issues I might add, that I would like to highlight that should be worked on in the new Egypt.

Politically:

  • We were left out in the constitutional revision committee
  • The clause on the Egyptian president’s origin assumes that the Egyptian president needs to be a man
  • Women’s quota is not helping women find seats but rather limiting them
  • Women always have minimal representation in the cabinet

Socially/Culturally:

  • A large percentage of women suffer domestic violence and never report it
  • Female Genital Mutilation is practices heavily in Egypt even though it is no longer legal
  • 85% of Egyptian women suffer sexual harassment in big cities
  • A woman’s role in society is often confined to being a wife and mother

Legally:

  • Sharia law discriminates against women in both inheritance and divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunisia might have started this wave of revolutions in the Arab world, but we took it to the next level as a global movement. Our country has a responsibility now, towards the Arab world, and the whole world, to show that revolutions can succeed and bring about real change, and active participation of all members of society. Gender is a factor. We need to be the model on how women are just as important to men on all levels of society, as we’ve seen, the snowball effect in the region is unreal.

So join the movement on Tuesday, which is a continuation of the revolution that called for social justice and real change. Not just on a political level, but a cultural one as well. It not only aims to call on the government to take concrete actions, but on our collective society to change their perspective on a woman’s role in society. It’s not a march by women, it is for women, by women and men.

The Future: Arab Revolutions and Arab Unity

The domino effect

Ever since Tunisia’s uprising started, we’ve seen many across the Arab world. Egypt followed Tunisia’s uprising on January 25th, and 18 days later successfully toppled the thirty year dictator Hosni Mubarak. During the Egyptian uprising we’ve seen similar ones in Jordan, successfully removing their government, Yemen, where the struggles continues till now. The day after Mubarak stepped down we saw uprisings in Algeria, Bahrain and Libya. Later we saw uprisings in Iraq, Iran and even reaching China and Vietnam. All these uprisings continue to achieve goals and demands the people are making to their governments, and will hopefully lead to these countries being run by their people in a democratic fashion. Democracy as a concept is often precieved as a western invention, but actually, ruling one’s self through representatives and elections has been done across the centuries and it ensures decision making is done by a majority and not a few ruling the destinies of millions.

Agree with his policies or not, Ex-Egyptian President Gamal Abdelnasser, called for a unified Arab rule since the 1950s. Based on Social equality and sovereignty. His vision never saw light, and unfortunately was toppled by two Egyptian rulers, Sadat and Mubarak, who had different agendas of allying Egypt with the west. We have been witnessing similar examples of power trips, selfish acts and greed across the leaders of the Arab world. This lead to an Arab population that was oppressed, suffocated and with the majority of their populations living in dire conditions and struggling to put food on the table.

Below is a video of the Egyptian Poet Hesham El Gakh in the ‘Prince of Poets’ Competition that gathers poets from across the Arab world. In this poem he preforms in one of the early rounds of the competitions he discusses how the people of the Arab world are united, and how our leaders are separating us using football clashes, religion and cultural differences. He talks about how we are all one, and how we all belong and own all of the Arab world. (Sorry, there was no translation of the poem available for non Arabic speakers, But the goal of the poem is above)

 

What we are seeing happening across the Arab world from uprisings and revolutions are the Arab people, fueled by decades of anger, hurt, betrayal, hunger and a vision for a better future for all the Arab world, their individual countries included. Unity means strength, prosperity and independence.  For centuries the Arab people have suffered western imperialism, and when we got rid of that, we suffered western cultural and economical imperialism facilitated by our very own leaders.

Now is the time of change for all the Arab world. One by one we are toppling our oppressive leaders and regimes. I believe the next months will show the world many uprisings and revolution across the Arab world. 2011 only started less than three months ago and we’ve seen two so far successful revolutions and almost a dozen uprisings that will hopefully lead to revolutions.

Below is an image I got off of my good friend Ali Azmy’s blog, showing a visual representation of Arab revolutions and uprisings:

Revolutions and uprisings in the Arab World

The Arab people are united, and once we are the decision makers in our countries, we will unite, it is inevitable. And that will completely change the world as we know it today. And if we look at the bigger picture, if the Arab world unites, then this would mean no borders, sharing of resources and open relationships with the countries around. It will mean there could be a new power in the world, that emerged after years of living in oppression. If this union proves to be strong, then maybe we are one step closer to having a world where we are world citizens. It has already started. To close this blog post, you can find below a video my friend Tarek Shalaby made about his trip with a few Egyptian friends and a British friend to Libya during the uprisings to transport aid to the wounded. Even in the midst of our own revolution many Egyptians went to Libya to help and offer support, while others collected donations and bought supplies. It’s bigger than one’s country now. It’s a global movement. Now the wave is in the Arab world, who knows where it go in a few months. Freedom is contagious after all.

Power to the people, power to the peaceful.

 

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