Egypt loves their bloggers – in handcuffs that is

Egypt loves their bloggers – in handcuffs that is

When Abdel Rahman Ayyash traveled to Turkey earlier this month, he expected to learn about the role of Islam in governance. The 19-year-old reform-leaning Muslim Brotherhood blogger got more than he bargained for upon returning from that trip on Wednesday evening when Egyptian security forces arrested him and a fellow blogger, Magdy Saad



Egypt bloggers cartoon

CAIRO, July 23, 2009 (MENASSAT) – The two bloggers are now languishing somewhere in the city, the Brotherhood’s English Language editor said. According to Khaled Hamza, Ayyash’s father has been informed of the arrest, but is unaware of his son’s location.

“We hope he will be released soon, but other than that, the details are limited,” Hamza said.

Ayyash has been an outspoken member of the Brotherhood’s burgeoning reformist movement, led by the younger generation, and his arrest has spurred activists’ anger and frustration.

The popular 
Arabist blog wrote, “These guys are among the most influential young Islamist bloggers in Egypt, generally voices for dialogue with other currents and reform inside the Muslim Brotherhood.”

For Ayyash, the move comes as he continues his push to create a new space for discussion over the Islamist movement in Egypt. His arrest signals that he is getting too popular for the government’s desire, a leading Brotherhood official told MENASSAT on Thursday.

Ayyash, who blogs at “
Abdel Rahman’s blog,” has been under the government’s watchful nose for some time. He writes about Islam and its role in governance, and has recently spoken about the optimism created in the Arab world over the election of American President Barack Obama.

“I hope Obama will bring people together and by talking with the Brotherhood he would be able to win the hearts of many people in this part of the world,” Ayyash said in a previous interview before his Turkey trip. He argued that the mistrust created by the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attacks has run deep, but through a concerted effort, it is possible “to move forward on creating the means for both Muslims and America to work together to end the violence on both sides.”

Obama may not be able to do much for the Ayyash, as Washington has not taken an interest in the younger elements of the Brotherhood since assuming power in January. Now, on Egypt’s Revolution Day, the young blogger finds himself detained, unable to attest to the cultural dialogue he witnessed in Turkey.

Saad is also part of the young Brotherhood blogging movement and runs the “Yalla Mesh Mohem” blog, or “come on, it’s not important.”

More arrests

In a separate incident Wednesday, Ahmed Abu Khalil was taken from his home in a dawn raid by security forces and moved to an unknown location. His books were allegedly taken during the arrest. State Security did not inform his family over the cause for the detention or where he was taken.

Most activists believe he is being held in the Nasr City State Security headquarters.

He blogs at 
Al Bayareq, or lanterns, and is a self-professed Islamist, who mainly writes about personal issues and has not entered the reformist fray, but his detention may soon change that fact.

The Arabist argues that Ayyash, Saad and Abu Khalil were arrested in connection to their efforts to secure the release of Brotherhood Executive Board member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, arguably the leading reformist in the Islamic group.

Aboul Fotouh has been under detention since June 28, along with two other senior members of the Brotherhood and is now serving a second 15-day detention. He has been in a local Cairo hospital since July 15 due to respiratory problems.

According to one doctor treating him at the hospital, the leader is currently in stable condition and is breathing better after being connected to his own artificial respirator.

Gamal Eid, the Executive-Director at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, lashed out against the arrests, saying, “This is a new episode of the blatant violation program practiced by the security services, with absolute illegitimacy and with shameful consent of the prosecution, the only entity responsible of questioning police authorities about such encroachments and law breaking incidents.”

For the Brotherhood, the arrest of the younger members marks a turning point in the ongoing battle with the government. The group has lashed out over the high-profile arrests of its leaders and now the bloggers, saying that “in a time where the regime and the government are incapable of providing the needs of the people, solving its problems and ease its suffering for all sects, and while the youth of the country can’t find work and corruption is spreading everywhere … orders are given to heaps of security to arrest this nation’s sincere and moral citizens without any real accusation or charges.”

Less than 24-hours since Ayyash, Saad and Abu Khalil’s arrest, Brotherhood youth are charging forward and demanding their release.

Calls have already begun to be disseminated across the activist channels, notably Twitter, where calls for demonstrations have been demanded.

For Ayyash’s father, the waiting game has begun. For the myriad activists who support freedom for bloggers and writers in the country, the detentions on Wednesday mark a new battle in the struggle to move Egypt forward.

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