CyberDissidents.org Launches Blogger Board
|June 7, 2011|
Ahl Makka adra bishi`abuha
The people of Mecca know its paths
-- Arabic proverb
Unprecedented tumult has rocked the Middle East in the past few months. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to protest dictatorship and corruption. As the above proverb notes, it is the people of the region who understand its complexities best. CyberDissidents.org is proud to announce the formation of a blogger board comprised of leading Internet activists from North Africa to the Gulf. Many of these individuals have paid a high price for their dissident--from imprisonment to torture. They have also been instrumental in the recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia.
The members of our blogger board will help formulate policies and approaches to online communities and aid us in better understanding the issues that affect them. They will assist us in shaping programs, selecting stories to highlight and engaging in dialogue with Western audiences. CyberDissidents.org provides a platform to board members and the wider online community to spread their message to policy-makers and press. We are excited to be working with this group of brave pro-democracy cyberdissidents from throughout the Arab world and Iran.
Soufiene Chourabi, Tunisia. Known throughout Tunisia as a staunch defender of freedom of speech and democracy, blogger Soufiene Chourabi highlighted human rights abuses committed by former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime. Chourabi is also a journalist who works for the Attariq Al Jadid and Al Akhbar newspapers in Lebanon. Many international media outlets rely on Chourabi's videos, photos and articles, especially during the recent unrest, and he is frequently quoted by Arabic news organizations on the subject of anti-government protests in Tunisia. Chourabi is a member of the Tunisian Syndicate of Journalists.
Kacem El Ghazzali is a Moroccan secularist blogger, mostly known for his unapologetic atheism. His writings stress the importance of freedom of thought which lacks in the Islamic countries. He is a theatrical performer, writer and political dissident. He used to be the head of the Youth Chapter at the Moroccan Center for Human Rights and is a member of the Executive Board of the Moroccan Blogger Association and CyberDissidents.org Blogger Board and one of its founders.
El Ghazzali is the author of the Bahmut blog,one of the most controversial blogs in the Arab world, and has received a number of death threats because of his views. His blog discusses issues ranging from freedom of expression to political Islam.
In 2012, he launched the "Mayasaminch" initiative which calls on Moroccans who do not observe Ramadan to eat publicly. Moroccans born in non-Jewish families are forbidden by law to drink, eat, or smoke in public during Ramadan.
El Ghazzali is one of the few atheist activists in Morocco and is a proponent of religious and sexual freedom . He has been living as a refugee in Switzerland for over a year. Kacem has appeared repeatedly in international media and television.
Hadeel Kouki, Syria. On March 10, 2011, five days before the Syrian uprising started, Hadeel Kouki was arrested for distributing pro-democracy flyers and was jailed for 40 days. Kouki, an active dissident on Facebook prior to the Arab Spring, quickly became one of the most prominent and outspoken anti-Assad voices in the course of the Syrian revolt. On August 13, 2011, and again on September 11, 2011, for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations. After realizing that she was wanted by Syrian intelligence forces, Kouki left the country on December 23, 2011. Kouki relocated to Cairo following a long trip that lead her through Turkey, France, and Tunisia. While residing in Egypt, Hadeel was beaten and threatened in her apartment on February 22, 2012, by Bashar Assad’s Shabiha. She fled Egypt on March 11, 2012, to testify at the United Nations, providing the details of her experience in Syria and briefing the UN on the current situation for Syrians today. Hadeel continues to advocate on behalf of the Syrian people.
Rami Nakhla, Syria. Rami is a Syrian writer and journalist. His interest in cyberdissent began with a personal experience with a victim of "honor killing." He came to the conclusion that these killings were symptomatic of the broader problem of authoritarianism in his country and throughout the Middle East. Rami has been involved with initiatives aimed at law reform to protect women and minorities, and he spent a year on the Syrian Women Observatory team which highlights human rights violations against Syrian women. He has participated in international training courses and conferences in Germany, Jordan and the United States.
Mojtaba Saminejad A.K.A Madyar studied journalism at the Islamic Azad University of Tehran. He is currently the editor of Ferowsi magazine and the president of Shahr-e Khorshid publications. Saminejad was first arrested on November 1, 2004 for writing about the arrest of three other bloggers. Officially, he was charged with insulting the Supreme Leader of Iran, for being a threat to Iran’s national security and for, “insulting the prophets,” (which is punishable by death). He was found not guilty on the last count, but he was still detained for three months and then released temporarily.
After his release, he began blogging about his experiences in jail and was arrested again in February of 2005. Subsequently, he was sentenced to two years and ten months in a general prison. He was held in solitary confinement for almost three months and beaten and tortured while held in jail. He was released early from prison on September 13, 2006. Several petitions were circulated while he was in prison, calling on Iran to release the blogger from jail. His blog address is: www.madyariran.net.
Maikel Nabil Sanad, Egypt considered by many to be the first prisoner of conscious following the ousting of Mubarak, Sanad was arrested at night at his home in Ein Shams and was detained for 302 days. The blog post for which he was arrested questioned the army’s political ambitions following the fall of the Mubarak regime. One of Nabil’s most immediate demands sought the end of military trials for civilians, a stipulation that Egypt’s emergency laws protected for decades. In protest of his own military trial that took place in March, Nabil began a hunger strike that lasted for four months and attracted the attention of U.S. policy makers in addition to the online community. He protested his imprisonment immidiatly after his release and continues to advocte for a free Egypt.
Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman (Kareem Amer), Egypt. Growing up in a religious family from Alexandria, 24-year-old Kareem Amer could not have imagined that he would emerge in December 2010 from an Egyptian jail after more than four years of imprisonment. Describing himself as a committed human rights activist, Kareem began expressing his personal, and generally secular, democratic opinions on his blog. Upon discovering his writings, the Al-Azhar administration expelled Kareem in 2006 (and referred his case to state prosecutors) for criticizing the state-run religious university, allegedly promoting “extremist” ideas, and for referring to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a dictator.
Kareem was first arrested in 2005 and detained for 12 days for his blog postings on the sectarian riots between Copts and Muslims in Alexandria. He was later expelled from Al-Azhar University, where he was studying law, when school officials discovered articles he had written on his blog. In his writings, Kareem criticized his university's gender segregation policy, advocated for secularism, and denounced the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar. His case was referred to state prosecutors and, in February 2007, Kareem was convicted on charges of insulting Islam and defaming the President of Egypt and sentenced to four years in the Borg El-Arab prison.
On November 15, 2010, Kareem was released from jail. He had served his four-year sentence, and ten extra days in which he was kept in prison unlawfully. While incarcerated, Kareem sent letters and statements criticizing the regime, enduring harassment from prison guards and finding himself locked up in the prison’s criminal division. On the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment (November 5, 2010), numerous organizations and activists, including CyberDissidents.org, held worldwide protests condemning the blogger's imprisonment. Kareem's imprisonment became the longest for any individual expressing his or her beliefs online.