Monday, July 28, 2008

"Preparing for Democracy": Mubarak Thugs Arrest, Torture Egyptian Facebook Activist

If you want to find an example of how "our allies in the Mideast" administer their autocratic thuggery, look no further than here - a horrendous episode courtesy of Our Man Hosny, whose "dreaded SSI" could have just left off the "I" to wake the sleepers.

When Egypt’s secular opposition groups called for a nationwide strike to support disgruntled factory workers last April, Ahmed Maher wanted to help. So he did what many middle-class 20-somethings here do: He logged onto Facebook.

Two weeks before the strike, he and a friend, Esraa Abdel Fattah, started a group on the popular social-networking site to support the walkout and invited friends to join. But soon they realized they had much more than just a new Facebook group on their hands.

In Egypt, a country still under the iron-fisted rule of President Hosni Mubarak, even something as seemingly innocuous as Facebook can run afoul of the red lines around unacceptable political activity.

And as the popularity of the page grew, Egyptian authorities took notice.

From 150 friends each to 3,000 to over 60,000 supporters by the time of the strike, the Facebook method was wildly successful in recruiting activists. But the strike never took place, nor did a second. At first, according to this report, he was defiant, “If we allow ourselves to fear them, we won’t do anything,” he told the BBC. “Then I would consider myself a partner in the crimes taking place in Egypt.”
But later under fear of SSI reprisal, Maher went into hiding until the SSI finally arrested him and subjected him to torture:

Even though the second nationwide strike never got off the ground, Maher was arrested in early May, just two days after he had returned home, by four carloads of plainclothes police.

In an interview, Maher says he was shackled, blindfolded, and stripped. He says the police dragged him across the floor and beat him for almost 12 hours. They demanded to know the password to his Facebook account and asked for information about the 60,000 people in the group, then threatened to rape him if he would not comply, he says.

The above picture of Ahmed Maher's back after the beatings was posted by award-winning blogger Wael Abbas and posted here.

This seems to be the MO for the Egyptian SS(I) and other Mubarak operatives, who famously intimidated female journalists in one protest awhile back by raping and threatening to rape or sexually humiliating them. Just Friends...???

After his 12-hour ordeal, Maher was put in a small cell where officers treated his bruises and tried to explain themselves. “They came to me and tried to apologize,” says Maher. “They kept saying ‘Oh, the men who beat you were just a few bad guys. We love Egypt, too. We love this country as much as you do, but Egyptians aren’t ready for democracy. Just look at what happened in Iraq.”

This is almost word-for-word what Prime Minister Ahmad Nazeef said a few years ago in an interview with Charlie Rose: "The Egyptian people are not ready for democracy." Seems to be a policy: impose an abusive autocratic police state enforced by draconian human rights abuse - all to "prepare" the "not-yet-ready" people for, eventually, "democracy". Is this the same kind of "preparation" we're offering the rest of the Middle East? Those guys at Gitmo just weren't "ready" for democracy yet! So we've got to "prepare" them. In fact, it seems most of the world isn't really "ready" just yet.

Meanwhile, some people insist on being "self-taught" when it comes to democracy, I guess.

Maher says that he still receives harassing phone calls and threats of rape from the Egyptian authorities, but remains intent on transforming his Facebook group, which is still online, into a real political organization. He recently met with opposition leaders to brainstorm ideas for a movement called “Facebook Youth.”

Although many say these grassroots efforts won't come to anything, I personally hope they do. Nothing is less effective than sitting back being intimidated. Many in Egypt agree. As long as the U.S. doesn't shore him up, Mubarak's days are numbered.

No comments: