Last April, Five activists were arrested in the United Arab Emirates for signing an online petition that demanded reforms in the wealthy Gulf country one of them was blogger Ahmed Mansoor. After the beginning of their trials last June, the five detainees have complained several times from the mistreatment they're getting in prison and from the campaigns bashing them and their families online, one of the reasons that made them take the decision to enter a hunger strike in protest of the violation of their rights and against the fact that they have no right to appeal to court's decisions.
They refused to attend the court hearings as they considered their trials unfair, however, this did not stop the Emirati court from making the decision in a 10 minutes session on the 27th of November to sentence each of Nasser bin Ghaith, a war veteran and a university lecturer at Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul-Khaleq, a stateless of the UAE, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis to two years in jail while prominent blogger Ahmed Mansoor received a 3 years sentence. The five activists were charged for violating article 176 which prohibits insulting state officials, a charge that the detainees denied and instead assured their respect for the UAE figures and their good intentions to demand reforms for the good of their country.
The five activists completed 13 days of hunger strike when they their sentences came out, however, there are no reports yet of whether they are still on hunger strike or not. The court does not allow them to appeal and according to Human Rights Watch, the panel that made the decision was consisted of four foreign judges. The coalition of Alkarama (Dignity), Amnesty International, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Index on Censorship, said that “the interim assessment of civil liberties lawyer Jennie Pasquarella raised disturbing questions about the politicization of the case against the men and called for all five to be released immediately and unconditionally and the charges dropped. The groups also called on the UAE authorities to open an independent judicial inquiry into the decision to prosecute the five men.”
When reading the report done by the seven human rights groups, one can see that the five detainees did not have a fair trial. Lawyer Jennie Pasquarella who attended their trials said that the court did not permit access for the detainees to all documents included in their trials. Pasquarella also said that the authorities have interfered in the process as some of the sessions were held secretly and only attended by security representatives. She also said that the court depended on the testimonies of four lawyers representing people who claim to have been victims of the statements made by the activists. The UAE5 have repeatedly refused the charges of inciting violence when writing their reform demands in the locally banned online forum UAE Hewar.
Two days before the court's decisions were made, Dr. Charlotte Peevers, a barrister based in the United Kingdom, on behalf of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) published a briefing paper on suppression of free expression that included threats and intimidation made against the UAE five activists known as “UAE 5”. When reading the 13 pages long paper, one can read several horrific insults and threats made against the activists, most of them supporting prosecuting the detainees to death for ‘betrayal of the country'. After hearing the court's decision, a relative of one of the detainees, blogger Khalifa Al-Nuaimi, was beaten and assaulted by a pro-government supporter who was quoted by Human Rights Watch witness saying: “Even if the detainees are released from jail, we will put them on trial ourselves.”
More than a week ago, a female twitter user from the UAE named Rawda Hamed posted on her account saying that she was summoned for interrogation. Hamed is known on twitter for her support of the UAE5 and she claimed to have entered hunger strike in solidarity with them. Hamed said in her last tweets that this is the fourth time she was called for interrogation and since the 16th of November, she hasn't tweeted any new posts. Unfortunately, no one knows any information about her or any contact information to reach her through.
Published in Global Voices Advocacy - 28 Nov 2011
I received this statement from Dalal Al-Fadala, sister of detained activist Rashed Al-Fidala. Those detained lately were taken for storming the parliament in protest against the Prime minster of Kuwait. Many of them turned themselves voluntarily in solidarity with their fellow detainees. A sit-in has been goingon for three days now in front of the country's main court (Justice Palace) demanding the departure of the prime minister and the freedom of the detainees. In this statement, 20 out of the 35 detainees announced their hunger-strike which started on the 25th of November. Read the statement:
20 Kuwaiti youth detainees have started a hunger strike in objection to fixed and senseless accusations, inhumane living conditions, lack of medical care, and cruel and unlawful imprisonment. The 20 detainees have managed to leak out a signed letter to the media explaining the situation they are facing in trial and jail. They have been arrested two days ago, and while interrogations were over no decision has been made to their fate. Following is a translated version of the letter that was originally written in Arabic.
A Letter From Kuwait’s Youth Detainees
In the Name of Allah who said: “Indeed, they were youths who Believed in their Lord, and We increased them inguidance.” – Surat Al--‐Kahf [18:13].
With deep regret and sorrow of the situation of our home Kuwait, honorable youth defending the Constitution have been arrested. While others are left to tamper, rob, and bribe the country of its public money and seek higher positions causing the highest level of corruption. Hence, we would like to reveal to the people of Kuwait the truth of what’s happening while we are being held for interrogation.
First: Fixed and false accusations have been charged against all, reaching up to 13 charges to some detainees that could carry a total of lifetime sentences.
Second: 14 different detainees have been accused of stealing the same parliamentary gavel belonging to National Assembly Speaker Jassem Al--‐Kharafi.
Third: We are currently being held in prison cells that lack the most basic human requirements.
Fourth: One of the detainees needing immediate medical attention was transferred to Mubarak Hospital cuffed by hands and feet, as a provocative act by officials.
Fifth: Our attempts in trying to contact family members has been denied keeping us cut
Off from any news about them and their situation.
Finally, since the interrogation has already been completed by public prosecutors, and since we are accused and not convicted, and since we are Kuwaiti citizens having no reason to flee, and since we willingly and voluntarily turned ourselves in, we declare that its unlawful and cruel to deny us bail, therefore we announce the start of a hunger strike.
Our fate is with Allah.
- Hamad Al-Olayan
- Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi
- Rashed Saleh
- Rashed Al-Fidala
- Mishari Al-Mutairi
- Abdullah Al-Shalahi
- Mohamed Al-Balhis
- Faris Al-Balhan
- Abdulaziz Bu Hamid
- Ahmed Munwir
- Abdullah Khaled Al-Khina
- Bader Al-Ghanim
- Tariq Al-Mutairi
- Mohammed Nayef Al-Dosari
- Yousef Al-Shatti
- Hammad Al-Numis
- Mohammed Fahad Al-Khina
- Ali Abdullah
- Ahmad Al-Otaibi
- Fawaz Mohamed
Unlike many Western publications that presented the storming events of the parliament as just another Arab Spring uprising, WP had a more balanced take on the events saying the Amir should listen to the opposition and sack the country's corrupt Prime Minister, instead of choosing repression. Two days ago, liberal MP Saleh Al-Mulla made a statement that the recent events will be used by authorities to make Kuwait a police state, which sounds likely as reports suggest that over 60 people were summoned or arrested for storming the parliament. It is clear that Kuwait is heading to a dangerous phase with this head-wrestling between two stubborn sides.
The WP opinion was highly debated in Kuwait; the opposition supporters said it was all propaganda while the pro-regime and anti-opposition (and there's a difference between the two) found it wise and supportive of their argument. It happens rarely that a foreign editorial piece gets so much attention; all thanks to social media and political tension. However, I think that the WP does not acknowledge many factors that are playing a role in Kuwait's political crisis. First, the insistence of opposition (that include Islamists and conservatives) to take over all Anti-PM demonstrations is very much hurting the public movement and the calls for the departure of the prime minister.
Second, the side statements of opposition figures in support of Saudi Arabia or of those of Shiaphobic nature, frighten minorities in Kuwait and leave them with the option of sticking to what the government offers over whatever the opposition might come up with. A true opposition surely would not engage in defense of neighboring regimes especially the KSA which has always interfered in Kuwait's interior politics and fueled Islamists. Until we have a true public movement that clearly separates itself from the opposition, the general view will always think of this as another selfish clash between the two powers in the country; the parliament and the government (or in some cases, the ruling family). A very important reason behind this incapability of public movements to function away from MPs is due to the lack of civil establishments and the constitutional ban of political parties.
The opposition is very weak in principles; it takes sides with a foreign power, campaigns for another Al-Sabah member, deals selectively with the constitution, proposes no program/ agenda/ plan, shows no reforming intentions, accused of corruption and abuse of power, and it falls into many contradictions such as respecting the elections results and what the people chose yet refusing how those who were elected, get to knock them down with 2 or 3 votes to keep 'the cooperation' with the prime minister. The opposition is not campaigning for a change in the constitution and the system, yet it is not settling for the outcomes of the parliament. The opposition figures, in reaction, chooseto enforce themselves on the public movement and they protest as if they were not the people in charge but just powerless citizens!
Although it acknowledged how Kuwait is more liberal when compared with the region, the WP says that the powers given to the parliament are very limited. Another point forgotten here is that neither the parliament nor the public demonstrations have called on more powers; and by 'more powers' the reference here is to the right of having an elected prime minister, whether chosen by the parliament or the people. The liberals in Kuwait feel too insecure with the idea of having an elected prime minister and think it is not the best time to experiment, the leftists are of no effect to empower such a demand, and the rest are avoiding it or getting into this war on behalf of 'others' such as members of the ruling family who would like to take the PM's chair.
Anyone politically involved in Kuwaiti politics understands that the ruling family clash between the cousins is playing a big role here. The fact that the crown prince is old has made them go into battles to increase their chances for this future post. Many think that historically speaking, Kuwait now has less qualified candidates considering factors of experience, age, and personalities. There's also a generations-dilemma and the sub families inside the ruling family are growing egos and feeling more independent as they function within the society. Making clear choices within the ruling family in regard to the future posts can help solve the current political crisis that fueled discriminatory hate and gave birth to a line of low-standardized main stream media.
We need to understand that despite the fact that the parliament members were elected by the people, the people did not necessarily elect them for their stands between the government and the opposition. The low profiled 'social-services' parliament members are playing a big role in this clash and making the political operation easily accessible for the government to control. A clear law needs to be proposed and passed to eliminate the winning chances of those who come in to do 'business' on behalf of their voters and in exchange submit to the government. Unfortunately, no one is proposing this and it will be nearly impossible to get it passed by both powers.
Needless to say, WP using the examples of Morocco and Jordan as relevant models taking the right path, was absolutely ridiculous and suggests the publication's own propaganda or ignorance!
Yes, so, to sum up, there's no one-step to solve this political crisis but what is definite is that the prime minister surely needs to step down/ get sacked as there is no possible exit to this crisis without this first essential step. Also, politicians and movements need to work with a better plan that proposes a constitutional reform to protect the democratic operation from the government's abuses and grant transparency for the people to access the needed information about both the cabinet and parliament members.
ثلاث أعين وثلاث أسِرة مدممة،
كيف لك أن تبتسم وتعود إلى الخيمة؟
قالوا: "الدم مقابل الحرية.."
ماذا سستفعلون حينما تأتي الحرية؟
من أين ستأتون بالدم لتعيشوها وتشربوا نخبها؟
نجلس في كراسينا المكتنزة ونُنّظِر،
كيف على الميت أن يموت..
نشاهد عينك تطل من جنة السماء..
بوقاحة نحدق فيها ونقول: "إنها ترفرف..
عين استشهدت من أجل أطفالنا الذين لن يولدوا!"
بوقاحة نكذب وفي جلساتنا السرية نسخر:
"من قال أن هنالك سماء أو شهادة للجنة!"
وضعت عينك في كفها وقلت "قلبي أرخص"
وضعت عينك علك لا ترى الظلمة والهزائم
وتركت الأخرى تبيعك الأمل..
وضعت عينك وقلت: وطني عيني الأخرى،
زوجتي التي ستلد عيناً أخرى لي،
قلبي الذي به أرى..
عيننا التي تدمع!
On Wednesday morning, a female Twitter user from the United Arab Emirates called Rowda Hamed (@Rowda_Hamed) tweeted saying that she has been summoned for interrogation. She is one of the few Twitter users from the UAE supporting the five detained activists who recently went on hunger strike, which she joined in to show support, according to her older tweets. Blogger Khalifa Al-Nuaimi (@Alnuaimi_k) started the hashtag #RowdaHamed to support her and spread her case through Twitter.
Thousands of angry Kuwaitis stormed the National Assembly building on Wednesday 16 November, 2011, after police and security forces clashed with protestors. Kuwait's political sphere has been extremely tense in the past few years, and with the Arab Spring earlier this year, the situation took a new turn.
Before protests began in Tunisia and Egypt, there were clashes in Kuwait in December 2010 between the parliament and the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, when some MPs were beaten by anti-riot police alongside people attending a political gathering organized in the house of Muslim Brotherhood MP Jimaan Al-Harbish.
MPs subsequently demanded the opportunity to quiz the prime minister and his ministers on charges of corruption; the cabinet resigned, and the prime minister was reappointed for the seventh time since he was first appointed five years ago.
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Kuwaiti MPs and protesters have stormed the parliament on the 16th of November demanding the departure of the prime minister. Here's my interview with the BBC Radio on the events (minute 26).
|Logo taken from the Anti-Sectarianism Bahraini campaign "Just Bahraini"|
I previously wrote a piece for Jadaliyya on Shiaphobia hitting Kuwait after the protests in Bahrain. Many recalled the dark 80’s when Shia in Kuwait were getting arrested, harassed, insulted, or discriminated against because of Kuwait’s support for Saddam in the Iranian-Iraqi war. Being a supporter of the Bahraini demands for equality, justice, and liberty, I have many times been ‘accused’ of being a Shia, an Iranian agent, a Hezboallah supporter when in fact I stand in complete opposition of the criminal regime in Iran and against Hezboallah that stood shamefully against the Syrian revolt.
Unlike many voices around the Arab world, I do not find the solution in spotting the light on examples that show national unity, wherever it is, in Bahrain, Syria, or Egypt. Instead, I believe we should admit how rooted it exists so we can move to the phase of creating solutions. I also think it is surely very much rooted in Bahrain, where the Sunnis feel insecure about the probability of the Shia majority taking over Bahrain; being a close observer to Bahraini affairs, the sectarian tone is extremely disgusting and it can easily drive anyone irrationally to hatred and rejection of the other.
For some reason, I feel the need to tell my own story being someone raised in a family that has members of both sects. Being someone who is of a tribal background, the question of sectarianism takes a whole different turn. The tribal culture of the Arabian Peninsula has been the reason, for a really long time, behind its immunity of sectarianism, I believe. People of tribes had their religious awakening later with the raise of statehood; many of them had a basic understanding of religion and did not know much about religious practices. With states creating themselves, tribes became a reference to one’s roots and ancestors but not a lifestyle as they moved to live with the urbans in the cities where they started to have an education which was very much dependent on religion. In the example of Kuwait, tribes were conservative, pan-arabists, communists, socialists, or just leftists in general when Kuwait became a state engaging in the regional affairs back in the 60's and 70's. Tribes were not invaded with sectarianism or Islamic radicalism except with the empowerment of the Wahabist project that keeps spreading all over the region and beyond; a project that made sure tribes get engaged in it since they are centralized in power and large in numbers.
Due to this tribal nature, that is unfortunately vanishing, I have been raised with uncles and aunts, from both sides, belonging to either the Sunni or Shia sect. Having a secular father, I find myself blessed to have grown with no sectarian prejudices. My moderately religious mother, who did not finish her high school education, has always refused to answer our questions of whether we were Sunni or Shia and she emphasized that no one is entitled to come up with the right judgment or evaluation of this or that sect. Both my parents did not mind the fact that my brother in his teenage hood was swinging between both sects with confusion and big questions.
My bigger family, whom I lived with until mid school, had more ‘interesting’ stories. My grandmother is a Shia in the way she prays for example, but she really has no clue who Khumaini or Sistani are! My Salafi uncle tried in all possible ways to make her change her beliefs, going so far sometimes. Yet, although he is the only religious uncle I have, he was actually the most peaceful and most flexible. The rest of the family cared to practice their conservative traditions, for example, by asking me to wear hijab, for the sake of the society not religion, and to quit my ‘useless’ and ‘unacceptable’ writings. When they kept making such judgments, I stayed focused on what I want to do with the support of my father. It was only my Salafi uncle who stood up and told them to leave me alone. He never confirmed my acts, yet he never condemned them. Many times he would ask me to wear hijab so 'I would go to heaven', but I reply to him saying “yeah yeah I hear you” and he laughs knowing that I am not taking his talk seriously. When his little daughter wanted to wear hijab, unlike other fathers in the family, he asked her “are you sure? Think about it” without taking advantage of her childish enthusiasm.
My Salafi uncle took my grandmother to the pilgrimage and unlike the Salafi calls that Shia are not Muslims, he was happy to be with her and pray with her despite the differences in beliefs. He speaks out saying that Shia rituals are haram and wrong yet he does not bother people repeating it unless they ask his opinion. My Salafi uncle, despite thinking it is wrong, he never minds taking my grandmother to any of the Shia annual celebrations or eat the meals she cooks every now and then in celebration of religious figures that Shia feel strongly tied to, which is a big haram for Salafis, supposedly!
It is because of my secular father, my Salafi uncle, and my Shia grandmother, that I grew up with no religious prejudices. You can think that other religions and sects are completely wrong but you should never deny them and yourself the right to live peacefully!
To mark the 49th anniversary of the Kuwaiti constitution, a group of activists decided to remind citizens of the different clauses of the constitution. Under the theme of Tadry [ar] (Did you know?), Sout Al-Kuwait (Voice of Kuwait) produced six videos, each spanning a few seconds, explaining to citizens six select articles from the constitution.
Formed a few years ago by a group of activists and young liberals, Sout Al-Kuwait aims at promoting awareness regarding democracy and civil rights. The group meets regularly and communicates through social media to organize different events geared at targeting a wider audience and educating them about democracy, the constitution and civil rights. Their work comes at an important time as the Kuwaiti political sphere gets more and more tense as the parliament continues to clash with the prime minister.
On the 11/11/2011, Kuwait celebrated the 49th anniversary of its constitution which was the first constitution in the Gulf region, alongside its parliament that came to life as the first parliament in the GCC back in 1963.Sout Al-Kuwait's team independently worked on producing the following videos, which have all been uploaded to YouTube, to commemorate the occasion.
Seven months ago, five activists were arrested in the United Arab Emirates and put on trial on a number of charges such as using the Internet to insult the rulers, to call for a boycott of Federal National Council elections and to call for demonstrations against the state. Blogger Ahmed Mansour and activists Nasser bin Gaith, Fahid Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq have issued several statements to voice their refusal for their trials, saying that they have been mistreated, denied their basic rights, threatened, and insulted. The detainees refused to show up at the court's hearings because they consider the trial unfair, knowing that a verdict will be made on November 27, which they cannot appeal.
The five have now started a hunger strike, which they announced in a joint statement saying their open-ended strike aims to reveal the truth to the Emirati people and to demand conducting investigations regarding the seven months they have so far spent in prison. The activists have also referred to the mistreatment and frustration their families are having to endure as they have been targeted by campaigns such as the campaign run by anonymous persons nicknamed Lethal Character (Shaksiyya Fatake) and Proud Emirati, which have fomented a climate of general hostility to them and their families. They say this campaign has even interfered with a judicial proceeding.
Six months ago, Shaima Jastaniya drove her car in one of Jeddah's streets before getting arrested by the police. In September, Jastaniya was sentenced to 10 lashes for challenging the driving ban but a few days later, news spread that she received a pardon from the Saudi monarch himself. When interrogated, she said she drove her car because she had no means of public or private transportation and needed to get to the hospital. Over the past 48 hours, Saudi tweeps confirmed that Jastaniya received the court's lashing order and has 30 days to appeal. Unlike other women who drove in Saudi Arabia, such as Manal Al-Sharif and Najlaa Hariri, Jastaniya did not video-tape herself when driving to post it online.
What came as a bigger surprise to Saudis was actually the leaked document that the court sent to Al-Watan newspaper summoning two female journalists to court for writing the news article on the lashing sentence Jastaniya received two months ago. The two female journalists are Nissrin Najm Al-Din and Samya Al-Essa and here is a link to the story they wrote about the lashing, where they refer to the first two letters of Jastaniya's name.
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If Islamists were the ones to appeal as threatening to women and religious minorities in Egypt, then they are not alone when it comes to opposing passing LGBT rights in post-revolution Egypt. Recently, a Facebook page was established to promote the rights of homosexuals and to call on them to gather on the 1 January, 2012, in Tahrir Square to demand their rights. Hundreds joined the page, not necessarily to support the demands, but to write homophobic comments, murder threats, and to cite Quran verses that show how Islam forbids homosexuality and defines it as a major sin.
Denied all their rights to have documents, employment, health care, and education, the stateless youth (Bidun) of Kuwait dream of one thing only which is to escape, since the dream of being recognized by their country seems too far from the sorrow reality of discrimination, corruption, and bureaucracy. This man here in the video, was able to make it to Australia with the intention to seek Asylum, however, he's been in detention for over 16 months. He talks here in English about his story (subtitled in Arabic) asking the Australian government to 'treat him like a human'.
On the unforgettable night of January 28, 2011, a car ran over protesters near the US Embassy in Cairo. Main stream media kept replaying the video of this incident over and over, shocking audiences around the world. In Bahrain though, police cars running over people has become one of the ‘anti-riot techniques' that security forces use against protesters of different ages and in many areas of the small kingdom. As Bahrainis did well documenting many of the atrocities their regime committed against them since they started protesting last February, here are some of the videos available on YouTube that show how police cars run over protesters in Bahrain.
Continue reading this post on GlobalVoices
"If the rulers and oppressors think that, with my death, the Kurdish question will go away, they are wrong. My death and the deaths of thousands of others like me will not cure the pain; they will only add to the flames of this fire. There is no doubt that every death is the beginning of a new life."
- Ehsan Fattahian, Kurdish activist who was executed by the Iranian regime at this day 2 years.
To know the Arab blogosphere, you need to know Ali Abdulemam, the Bahraini blogger who spent more time in jail than in blogging in the past year. He is one of the fathers of Arab blogging and Bahrain's most famous blogger as he was the founder of Bahrain Online, a forum that the regime blocked in 2002. When Ali’s name comes up, we think of a man who had the courage to challenge the criminal authorities and thus became not only an opposition figure but also an icon for his people and a voice to their struggle. His cell, where he was kept since September 2010 until February 2011, symbolized the oppression that a new generation is facing in Bahrain.
As we are witnessing the case of Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdelfatah challenging the military junta in post-revolution Egypt by refusing to accredit their military trials of civilians and answering their questions, we need to remember that 6 years ago, Ali Abdulemam went through the same challenge when he and his fellow Bahraini blogger Hussain Yousef refused to be bailed out because they did not want to admit to the system and its false accusations. Ali, after his release last February, has disappeared and was sentenced to 15 years in jail for ‘spreading false information and trying to subvert the regime’. Surely, just the way he was denied a lawyer when he was imprisoned last year, Ali like all other Bahrainis after the uprising, was denied a fair trial and was sentenced in absentia.
When speaking to Hussain Yousef about how he and Ali refused to be bailed out back in 2005, he narrated the story in details: “It was March 2005, we heard of a solidarity protest that took place in front of the police station where we were jailed (Al-Qathibiya police station). We were worried about the safety of the protesters. The long interrogation sessions ended with us and Wael Bualai. They faced us with seven charges. Our lawyers said these charges will lead to the sum up of 107 years in jail! We were laughing at those charges that regimes usually use to kill freedom of speech, such as insulting the king or the royal family, spreading false information, threatening national security, attempting to subvert the regime etc. We rejected the charges, decided to go on a hunger strike, and leaked our news out somehow. We heard that the king was out of the country and that he was faced with our case by journalists wherever he went. Free people stood in solidarity with us from all over the world and Bahrain human rights center did a great job campaigning for us. Statements came out from different organizations and we continued with our hunger strike.
Then, the Interior minister sent someone to ask us to sign an apology to let us out. I asked: for whom? For the king? Or for the people? If it is for the king then let his palace ask us so, and if it is for people, let the parliament come and talk to us. I asked him in return for an apology and told him that we are on a hunger strike and that if we die it will be his responsibility and the responsibility of those who asked to jail us. He offered to bail us out for 1000 Bahraini dinars (around 3000$), and again I rejected. I was taken back to the cell, I explained the situation to my friends, and we agreed. That night we were taken to somewhere unknown and dark. Our eyes were open when we got into the bus and we had intensive security around us and a wave of cars followed us to the new place where we met a person in civilian clothes. The guy started to threaten to put each of us in a separate cell, I asked him who he was and we figured out that he was someone brought back from his vacation just to deal with us. We asked to call our lawyer to inform him of our place and he said no one would know of our place. I said it will be his responsibility if we die and the whole world will know about it. Ali called one of our lawyers. Suddenly, they treated us differently, asked us which cells we like, and we were released the following day. It was the statement of the American Association of Journalists that scared them and we knew more about the calls of the American embassy by reading the cable documents that came out last month through wiki leaks.”
This is an interesting phenomenon that we are witnessing; bloggers are going head-to-head against dictatorships and wrestling their ways out even if they were left alone. It is truly disappointing to see bloggers still getting jailed, tortured, and/or brutalized in the Middle East after the uprisings. Iran, Egypt, and Syria are only behind China when it comes to the number of bloggers and cyber activists harassed or arrested. Saudi Arabia has recently arrested, later released, three vloggers for making an episode on poverty, Kuwait interrogated and arrested five twitter users this year, while a ‘retweet’ in Bahrain might get you interrogated or even jailed.
When speaking with Nasser Weddady, the Mauritanian blogger and activist talked to us about the campaign he launched: “When Ali was arrested in September 2010, Arab bloggers and others from around the globe created one of the nosiest campaigns to demand his release by putting together a showcase for advocates rising through different platforms and multiple mediums.” In comment on what both Ali and Alaa are doing, Weddady added: “This is for liberty; it is a moral stand. These two bloggers chose their principles over their freedoms. It is not about politics, it is about principles.”
Weddady exclaimed: “Ali is a delicate case; he is not a member of a political party because he is above the frame. He was targeted by the regime because when he speaks, there’s a huge blogging community that listens to what he has to say; he has international respect. The stand of world’s democracies towards Ali’s case is shameful. His fate hinges on the world’s complacency towards Bahrain’s dictatorship. We need to realize that this is not only an Arab cause, it is a global one.”
Ali Abdulemam is not a case of his own; he is the face of his people, his generation, and a true example of how online free speech is getting raped by regimes in the Middle East. Founding the Bahrain Online forum in 1998 was a tunnel that Ali digged for Bahrainis to walk out to the world. Revealing his identity in 2002 was seen as a mix of insane courage and suicidal wrestling against a brutal regime. Refusing to be bailed out in 2005, losing his job, and living the nightmare of Bahraini prison in 2010 are all factors that make the world owe this man more than silence. It is a shame how the Arab world and the globe in general are watching the crimes done against Ali and his people, adding water on their revolution to die off. With memory we try to fight for Ali Abdulemam and with spoken words the world should get the Bahraini regime to stop its crimes and to respect the sacred human right of free speech.
Published in Global Voices Advocacy
Release our activists, release our students, release our medics, release our women, release our teachers, and now release our military personnel. All of these are Twitter campaigns that Bahraini netizens have been pushing for to create awareness about the different segments targeted by the Bahraini regime since protests started on February 14.
Activists say there are scores of military and police personnel who have been arrested and trialed in military courts during the unrest for refusing to shoot protesters, sending text messages, attending funerals, protesting, or just for being members of the Shia'a sect. The sentences they have received vary between 1-12 years.
Activists insist they have not had fair trials, just like the rest of those prosecuted in Bahrain since pro-democracy protests shook the nation. They add that the military personnel, who work for the defense and interior ministries, were also not able to appeal their sentences and that the media has unfortunately neglected their cause, especially with the lack of information about their cases.
2011 has been the year of defeat for online free speech in Kuwait as netizens have never been harassed as often as they have been in the past few months. Since last April, three netizens were arrested and sentenced to jail for expressing their opinions online and the arrests' wave has not stopped as two more twitter users got arrested recently and released within 24 hours after the raged reactions that these arrests created among citizens and parliament members. Hamad AlOlayan and Tariq Al-Mutairi are two netizens who have been actively tweeting in criticism of the Prime Minister and some of their recent tweets were seen as a violation of the constitutional 54th article that forbids making any remarks against the Amir as he is “the head of the state and is immune.” Both users have denied the accusations and said they were misinterpreted, yet they will still be interrogated due to a complaint submitted by the public prosecution, despite releasing them.
Many netizens objected and refused the way those twitter users were treated by authorities saying that there is no problem in calling them to court to question their statements and see whether they have violated the constitution or not, yet the arrests are illegal and violate freedom of speech which is a constitutional right for every citizen. Others thought one should never be questioned for expressing his opinion no matter what. The arrests have also made netizens demand a law that protects them from security authorities that are continuously violating their rights to free speech. Kuwaitis suggested that their authorities should accept criticism and work on reforms instead of trying to oppress those who demand change.
Parliament members did not miss this chance to object and use the arrests as one more card against the government. Member of parliament Musalam Al-Barrak claimed that there is a Dubai-based company, owned by a Palestinian, which monitors Twitter activists and is paid by the prime minister’s office. He said the company sends reports to the Ministry of Interior on all what is tweeted on Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. A number of parliamentarians are now planning to quiz the interior minister over those arrests and they have condemned these acts as a violation of free speech suggesting that the government is abusing power to silence people. Tens of young men and women protested the following day after the arrests in front of the public prosecution's building and some parliamentarians showed up to this sit-in. Youth, however, criticized the attendance of parliamentarians in this sit-in saying they are trying to take credit instead of working on a law that protects online free speech. Some twitter users found the reactions of some parliamentarians as useless because quizing the interior minister and attending a protest will not solve this on-going issue.
Published in Global Voices Advocacy
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Four months ago, state security police in Kuwait arrested two Twitter and a YouTube user. On Thursday November 3, 2011, two Twitter users were called in and detained by the public prosecutor for violating the 54th article of the Kuwaiti constitution which states: “The Amir is the Head of the State. His person is immune and inviolable.” Within 24 hours, Hamad AlOlayan (@hamadalolayan) and Tariq Al-mutairi (@al_tariq2009) were released. Yet, their cases will continue to be investigated.
Kuwaiti netizens were not happy with the arrests and sent support messages for the two. Many of them were not objecting to the interrogation but to the fact that Hamal AlOlayan was detained before being charged with any violation. Others were trying to show that the the two Twitter users in question did not disrespect the Amir and that what they wrote is open for interpretation.
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