Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stay Strong Obama, Close Gitmo, End Torture!

President Obama's commitment to reverse and investigate Bush's brutal and illegal detention and interrogation policies is under real threat.

Torture advocates like former Vice-President Dick Cheney, perhaps fearing personal consequences for their actions, have launched a massive campaign to oppose Obama -- and, incredibly, they're winning. Even many members of Obama's own party are now withdrawing support for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. If a country like the US refuses to reject these policies, it will be a massive global step backwards for the cause of human rights.

Obama officials say visible public pressure is vital for them to stay strong on this issue. To make sure we're heard, let's put up a massive billboard right in the middle of Washington DC, where all the political staffers pass by every day. For $25 each of us can buy one square foot of support for President Obama; for $1000, we can own a letter -- click here:

The billboard will point to what we want - the closure of Guantanamo this year, all the victims of secret prisons accounted for, an independent investigation into past torture practices, those who authorized or committed acts of torture held accountable, and effective detention and interrogation practices that respect the rule of law in all ongoing wars.

As President Obama himself said in his National Security speech this week - these past 'War on Terror' policies were illegal, ineffective, alienated the United States and increased global insecurity. But, in the last two weeks decisions have been made about Guantanamo, military commissions, and photos of torture that put the "Hope over Fear' doctrine at risk. He is up against dangerous populist forces and unless stopped now, something quite frightening could emerge - a world of indefinite preventative detention, ongoing rendition and impunity.

It is a crucial time for us all to tell President Obama that we expect him to act on his principles and values and not just hear them in fine rhetoric. What better way than an unmissable billboard towering over the streets of the most powerful city in the world. Click here to fight back:

We could be at a turning point - away from lawless executive power and the politics of fear. But, we have to make our voices heard as we shout together that we don't believe the fear-hype, instead it is through respect for the law, each others dignity and justice that we can best overcome global violence and divisions.

The choice is ours at this juncture. In Obama's words, change does not come from him. It comes from all of us. Now, let's make it happen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

نتائج المسح الأول من الاستفتاء: من يريده المصريون لحكم مصر بعد الرئيس مبارك؟

خبر صحفي عاجل
23 مايو 2009

من يريده المصريون أن يحكم مصر بعد مبارك؟
نتائج المسح الأول من الاستفتاء

أعلنت الناشطة الحقوقية داليا زيادة، اليوم نتائج المسح الأول للإستفتاء الشعبي الذي كانت قد أجرته في الأسابيع القليلة الماضية عبر الوسائل الإليكترونية والاتصال المباشر مع الجماهير حول من يريده الشعب المصري لحكم البلاد عقب الرئيس الحالي محمد حسني مبارك، وقد حدد المسح الأول بشكل مبدئي ستة مرشحين يمثلون التيارات السياسية المختلفة في الشارع المصري، وهم حسب الترتيب الأبجدي: د. أيمن نور - محامي ليبرالي وزعيم حزب الغد، أ/جمال مبارك – رئيس لجنة السياسات في الحزب الوطني، د. جورج إسحق – تربوي منسق حركة كفاية سابقاً، حمدين صباحي - صحفي ناصري ورئيس حزب الكرامة، د. عصام العريان - مسئول المكتب السياسي لجماعة الإخوان المسلمين، والمستشار هشام البسطويسي - نائب رئيس محكمة النقض.

وقد أظهرت النتائج الأولية، حصول المستشار هشام البسطويسي على أعلى الأصوات بنسبة 25% تلاه الدكتور أيمن نور والأستاذ جمال مبارك بنفس النسبة لكل منهما وهي 21%، تلاهما الكاتب الناصري حمدين صباحي بنسبة 17%، بينما جاء ترتيب الدكتور عصام العريان الخامس بنسبة 13%، وكان الدكتور القبطي جورج إسحاق، المنسق السابق لحركة كفاية هو الأقل حظاً حيث حصل على 3% فقط من إجمالي الأصوات التي شاركت في الاستفتاء.

تعد العينة التي خضعت للمسح الأولي ممثل جيد للشعب المصري، حيث كانت نسبة المشاركين في الاستفتاء من الشباب تحت سن الثلاثين هي 67% وهو ما يعادل تقريبا نسبة الشباب في مصر، كما كان 93% منهم مسلمين إلى 3% فقط مسيحيين، و4% لا دينين.

جدير بالذكر أن أغلب الذين اختاروا المستشار هشام البسطويسي ليكون على رأس قائمة المرشحين، عللوا اختيارهم بأنه رجل حيادي ولا ينتمي لتيار سياسي معين! وقد لا يبدو ذلك مستغربا إذا ما وجدنا أن 64% ممن خضعوا للأستفتاء ذكروا أنهم مهتمين بالسياسة لكن من بعيد.. و53% منهم وصفوا أنفسهم بأنهم يفضلون البقاء دون الإنتماء لتيار سياسي أو حزب معارض بعينه، بينما تشتت بقيتهم بين التيارات السياسة السائدة، وهذا يعكس بوضوح فقدان تلك التيارات والاحزاب المصداقية لدى رجل الشارع العادي.

كما فضلت بعض الأصوات عدم الاختيار من قائمة المرشحين المذكورة، وأضافوا أسماء أخرى يرونها مناسبة أكثر لشغل منصب رئيس الجمهورية عقب الرئيس الحالي، كان منهم على سبيل المثال لا الحصر د. أحمد زويل، السيد عمرو موسى، د. محمد البرادعي، واللواء عمر سليمان. وسوف يراعي المسح الثاني للاستفاء إدراج هذه الاسماء ضمن قائمة المرشحين.

للمشاركة في المسح الثاني برجاء زيارة هذا الرابط:

لمزيد من المعلومات، برجاء المتابعة على موقعنا:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can a comic book about MLK change the Middle East?

Last year, I -- as North Africa Director of the American Islamic Congress -- proudly worked on editing and publishing the Arabic version of "The Montgomery Story" Comic Book. Publishing such a book in Egypt was a challenging story of overcoming many obstacles over the course of almost four months. Thousands of copies of the Arabic version is now distributed all over the Middle East. Last week, I received a notification from my colleagues at AIC-Boston office that a Vietnamese activist group got inspired by our idea of translating the comic book into Arabic and they translated the comic book into Vietnamese and published it to inspire young people there. I also, knew that the comic book was translated and published in Spanish. Among all these pleasant news, I received an email alert today that the famous academic website: History News Network published this interview with me about publishing such an important historical book for Arabic readers. I am really happy! Enjoy reading the article with me:

Can a Comic Book About MLK Change the Middle East (At Least a Little)?
By Noah Mendel
May 11th, 2009

The American Islamic Congress (AIC), a multi-national civil rights organization, announced in March that it had published an Arabic translation of an old comic book celebrating the life and ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

First published in 1956, amidst the Civil Rights movement, “The Montgomery Story” centers around the events of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Spearheaded by Dr. King and famed-activist Rosa Parks, the bus boycott successfully put an end to segregationist policies on Montgomery's public transit system.

Dalia Ziada, the director of AIC’s North African Bureau, was responsible for translating and editing the Arabic version of “The Montgomery Story,” eventually distributing 2,000 copies throughout the Middle East.

Formed in the wake of 9/11, the AIC is part of a much larger social movement gaining steam throughout the Middle East. Comprised mostly of young people, this movement, recently labeled the “soft revolution” by Time magazine writer Robin Wright, seeks to reconcile cultural conservatism and religious observance with modernity. The AIC’s self-prescribed motto, for instance, is “passionate about moderation.” In addition to comic books, the AIC utilizes Internet resources like Facebook and Twitter to promote women’s rights and free expression and combat terrorism.

The intent behind both the original and most recent publication of “The Montgomery Story” was to disseminate Dr. King’s message of non-violent resistance. “The Middle East is famous for being the ever-conflicting area,” Ziada said. “On the regional level, there are a good number of wars, clashes and murders every day. On the domestic level, there are a huge number of arrests, crackdowns, and suppression over human rights and civil rights activists every day.”

The response, however, particularly from young people, has often been violent and ineffective in enacting change, Ziada told HNN. “In my opinion, it is time to use nonviolent action in dealing with the historical problems of the region and the domestic conflicts of each country in the Middle East.”

Dr. King famously advocated a non-violent response to Jim Crow politics throughout the 1950s and 1960s, helping to make huge legislative and social gains for the advancement of African-Americans. “Martin Luther King’s legacy offers a powerful alternative to violence, and we hope this new Arabic comic book can inspire young Middle Easterners to take responsible action for reform,” Ziada said.

Ziada herself first became familiar with Dr. King’s message of non-violence in 2006 while attending an AIC-affiliated conference in Cairo. Ziada wasted little time in applying her newly-found knowledge. “On the same night of the presentation, there was a very big issue in our family: one of my uncles was going to circumcise his daughter the next morning.”

Ziada herself is a survivor of female genital mutilation, and has since led reform efforts against the practice. “I used to fight against FGM in my family (with traditional methods) since I was 10 years-old. However, this time, I decided to use the nonviolent method of King.” It worked, and in the morning Ziada’s uncle called saying that he was convinced; his daughter went unscathed.

Spreading the message of non-violent resistance throughout the Middle East is ultimately a means to an end for Ziada and the rest of the AIC; that is, to inspire action. “The main message I hope that Arabic readers will take from the MLK comic book is that: change is not impossible. It is time to stop using our muscles blindly. Let's try using our intellect in innovative, creative ways to pressure decision makers and end dictatorship, tyranny and the suppression practiced against us.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April 6 Youth: Just another Egyptian Grassroot Movement!

Hello!I just came back from a wonderful trip to Morocco with my organization (The American Islamic Congress) as we organized one of the best Interfaith Dialogue conferences ever. I will tell you more details about it in my next post.
This article, below, was published one week ago in the Civil Society Magazine of Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. I hope you will like it.

April 6 Youth: Just another Egyptian Grassroots Movement!

By: Dalia Ziada*

Last April 2008, Egyptian grassroots activists captured international attention with a daring strike calling for reform. Aided by a natural sandstorm, and citizens' fear from state security repression, thousands appeared to participate in a "stay-home" strike in Cairo, and thousands of workers in the industrial city of Mahala took to the streets. As the strike’s anniversary approached, Egyptian activists received a flood of Facebook messages and emails with the title: "April 6: Egypt's Day of Anger!"

A huge number of Egyptian young people joined the call for reviving the strike in the virtual world. The digital activists known as the "April 6 Youth” created a Facebook group that attracted thousands of members. They also formed local online groups for each governorate in Egypt: April 6 Youth Mansoura, April 6 Youth Minya, etc. The main group and the subgroups formed and operated online.

Yet when it came to the real world, the strike failed in a dramatic way. The number of American activists who protested outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington DC was bigger than the number of the local activists who participated in demonstrations outside the Egyptian Press Syndicate downtown Cairo. The number of international audience who cared for the issue was three or four times like the number of local citizens, including activists and human rights advocates, who showed interest in the strike at all. Only tens of the many thousands who joined the April 6 group on Facebook dared to express their anger --- online!

What changed this year? First, the security forces were more organized and prepared for the day than the April 6 Youth themselves. They made sure to arrest young activists from different affiliations and political backgrounds who are expected to participate in the strike. Then, on the April 6, they made sure to secure all the main streets in the capital city of Cairo as well as the industrial city of Mahala. Second, there was no sandstorm. Third, and perhaps most important, activists clearly need to develop better techniques for translating virtual organizing into real world action.

April 6 Youth, thus, is truly an "Egyptian" grassroots movement. Few months from now, if not few weeks, it will vanish away just like what happened with the other movements that appeared recently to confront the dictatorship and repression of the ruling regime. The most popular of them is "The Egyptian Movement for Change – Kefaya," founded in 2004, by veteran leftist activists and intellectuals. Kefaya, the movement which succeeded in attracting thousands of Islamist, leftist, Coptic, and liberal activists, as well as breaking the Egyptian taboo of criticizing the ruling regime and encouraging ordinary citizens to express their anger via demonstrations and other forms of protest, failed to last for three years. Now, the role of the movement does not exceed editing a defunct website which does not receive, in best cases, more than 200 visits per day!!

Other grassroots movements which appeared in parallel with Kefaya, such as Shayfenkom, March 9 for University Professors, Egyptians for Judiciary Independence, etc. stood up for only few months then collapsed suddenly. Kefaya, and the other grassroots movements including the newborn April 6 Youth failed to live up to citizen's aspirations. Their role was merely providing citizens with cyber and realistic spaces for shouting and complaining. They did nothing new to what Egyptians do all the time, which is cursing the darkness. Instead, these movements should have provided them with the candle they need to eliminate this darkness forever. There are no easy answers to this challenge, but striking on Facebook alone or shouting in very small demonstrations of maximum 10 or 20 participants, downtown Cairo, will not generate reform!


*Dalia Ziada is the Director of the American Islamic Congress; North Africa Office based in Cairo, Egypt