• April 13, 2007
  • 15 minutes read

Free Monem?

Free Monem?

The blogosphere and mass media alike have rallied impressively to the cause of Abd al-Kareem Sulayman (Kareem Amer), the Egyptian blogger imprisoned for four years for his writings against Islamists.   At the time, I pointed out that while I very much supported focusing on Kareem’s plight, “selective outrage, where Westerners care about one anti-Islamist blogger but can’t be bothered about equally arbitrary and illiberal repression of hundreds of Islamists, only reinforces general skepticism that this isn’t really about freedom, human rights, or democracy.”   Some people objected to the comparison between Kareem and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, since the former was only a blogger persecuted for his ideas.  OK, point taken:  the issue is the persecution of youthful bloggers for their free expression of ideas and political activism.    

Early this morning,
the blogger Abd al-Monem Mahmoud (“Ana Ikhwan”) was arrested by Egyptian security forces.  Monem, a 27 year old journalist, has been one of the driving forces behind the recent turn to blogging by a wide range of Muslim Brothers – including an orchestrated blogging campaign on behalf of the imprisoned Brotherhood members and leaders.  Police raided his house early this morning, but he wasn’t there;  he sent out a mass email announcing his situation and then turned himself in.   Alaa Abd el-Fattah, the first benficiary of a high profile “free the Egyptian blogger” campaign, says:  “I believe his arrest is mainly an attempt to silence the campaign agaisnt sending Ikhwan leadership to military tribunal, Monem was coordinating the campaign which used blogs as it’s main tool.”  I believe that his arrest may be due to his rising public profile – including my article in the Guardian’s Comment is Free, a recent appearance at the Al-Jazeera Forum (where he was featured on al-Jazeera’s morning show), and the recent Cairo Anti-War Conference (where he comfortably shared a stage with leftists and human rights activists to spotlight allegations of police brutality).  His “crime” seems to be his growing effectiveness in coordinating an opposition media campaign.   The last I heard, Monem remained in jail and out of contact; I’ll update below once I hear more.

Abd al-Monem Mahmoud (left) with leftist blogger Mohammed Sharqawy (source: Arabist.net)

So do those quite appropriately concerned with the fate of Kareem also care are about another blogger arrested for the peaceful expression of his ideas, and his use of blogs to coordinate peaceful political campaigns… even if he is from the Muslim Brotherhood?  Most Egyptian activists understand the common challenge they face, and many are rallying to Monem’s cause despite their ideological differences – and Monem distinguished himself with his public support for Kareem despite their own ideological differences.  Will outside observers do the same?  Or are the skeptics right about selective indignation?

UPDATE:  There is now a report on the Ensaa site that Monem is fine and was not arrested – while security forces did raid his house, goes the latest story, and he did send out the message that he was turning himself in, a friend of his now supposedly says that he’s not in custody.  Another more recent reports suggests that Monem is not in custody, but is not “fine” –  security forces are searching for him and mistreating his parents.    Is this really a case of state repression against a prominent blogger, or is it really a case of how blogs can quickly spread inaccurate rumors, especially when bloggers are already in a state of near-panic?   The case is developing fast – the Egyptian blogosphere is already festooned with “Solidarity with Abd al-Monem” banners.  I’ll update as I hear things.

SUNDAY UPDATEAbd al-Monem is now reportedly in police custody.  The Egyptian blogosphere and activists are rallying to his defense in an impressive way – both because Monem is widely respected and liked, and because most Egyptian activists recognize that his arrest is part and parcel of the same regime-led threat to political freedoms regardless of his ideology.   The American media and blogosphere – not so much:  other than myself and Global Voices Online, I can find not a single reference to his case.

Monem Pictures From Yallalaly Blog


Related topics:

Marking 4th Anniversary of Torturing State Security Detainee No.25

El-Adly Video Gate
Hossam el-Hamalawy, 3arabawy – Cairo, Egypt
Muslim Brotherhood to field candidates in elections, crackdown …
International Herald Tribune – France
Blogger on Ice
Washington Post – Washington,DC,USA
The ’Crime’ Of Blogging In Egypt
The Washington Post
Bloggers being watched in the Middle East.
ANNA JOHNSON, Associated Press – Cairo, Egypt

Bloggers in Mideast transforming dialogue but face clampdowns by authorities
A.P – Cairo, Egypt

More videos of Egyptian police brutality
Hossam el-Hamalawy, 3arabawy – Cairo, Egypt
Boulaq torturers to be tried 9 January
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Partial Blacklist of Egyptian Police Officers Accused of Torture
Ikhwanweb, London-UK
Torture victim receives 3 months in prison for “resisting authorities”!
Ikhwanweb, London-UK
Egyptian police torture woman detainee (Videos)
Ikhwanweb, London-UK
MB blogs: A Step Towards More Freedom of Expression
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Blogs Against Military Rulers
Ikhwanweb, London-UK
Egypt: Release Journalist Who Criticized Torture
Human Rights Watch (press release) – USA
MB blogs: A Step Towards More Freedom of Expression
Ikhwanweb, London-UK

Internet Freedom in the Middle East: Challenges for US Policy
Washington Institute for Near East Policy – Washington,DC,USA