Friday, January 27, 2012

Maikel Nabil Released

Update: Blogger Maikel Nabil was released on 23 January, one day after the attacks and three days before the time announced. He was released at night so that no one would be there waiting for him. He released the above video on the night of 24 January 2012. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Maikel Nabil’s Release - Not a Great Day for Freedom

Yesterday in a publicity stunt to appease the masses ready to revolt once again, the SCAF issued pardons to 1959 military prisoners including the first prisoner of conscience Maikel Nabil. Military sources as well as Maikel Nabil’s lawyer Amir Salem confirmed that the prisoners would be released the following day.

At the coffee shop next to Tora Prison. Photo by: Mark Nabil
Mark Nabil(@mark_nabil), Maikel Nabil’s brother tweeted that we would meet at 8 am opposite Tora El Balad metro station to greet Maikel when released. We arrived a little past 8.30. Mark and his father had not yet arrived. The weather was gloomy and cold, and the sky was scorched with gray, but the excitement over a possible release of Maikel Nabil was worth it. I was glad to see Max Strasser (@maxstrasser) who shared my excitement. We moved towards the prison a little after Mark arrived.  There were a little over 10 of us.

Mark went to the prison gate in order to ask about Maikel’s status and he was informed by the officer at the gate that the decree (the paper to release Maikel by the military judiciary) had not yet arrived. The sky could not make up its mind whether it would rain or not. It drizzled ever so slightly every once in a while. Mark suggested we wait at a coffee shop till the papers came through. We sat at a coffee shop our number had risen to around 18 people or so. Meanwhile he and his father made calls to Maikel’s lawyer, Amir Salem, in order to determine what was holding things up. Salem said he would have them fax the decree over to the prison. We didn’t know if that was a success.

Mark going back and forth informed us of the news. He said an officer told him that Maikel will not be released today. Mark’s father said we could wait outside and possibly start a sit-in, but it didn’t seem realistic with the small numbers. We got up and what looked like a high ranking officer said ‘Mabrook’ from inside his car. We responded that Maikel wasn’t going to be released today according to another officer, and he said that they were actually just waiting for the fax.

There was a lot of confusion as to what was really happening, with various calls to Maikel’s lawyer and uncertainty about whether Maikel would be released. Then came another piece of news; that Maikel and others would probably be released on 26 January, possibly for concerns over them joining the 25 January protests.

We stood outside the prison door, the one we had stood outside before when organizing a protest for the release of blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah (@alaa). We didn’t know if they were giving us this information because it was true or if they just wanted us dispersed.

The residents gathered round and some began discourse over what we were doing. We had to explain that this wasn’t a protests, we were not chanting and we were just waiting for our friend Maikel. They asked us not to do anything that would bring them harm.

One of them was a driver of a toktok with a degree in commerce. He said he understands SCAF’s games with the petrol, the gas and all the austerity measures to force us to succumb, but he also said he was barely struggling and he was humiliated driving a toktok. He told us that not everyone in the neighborhood would be as understanding as he is. He asked us to move to a side. It seems like we’ve become accustomed to stand in protest in the middle of the road rather than safely at the side. We complied so that we don’t bother the residents although it seemed pointless in such a road. More resident drama happened as they asked as to our purpose, unable to criticize us for waiting for someone who has already been pardoned. I would like to point out that there were foreigners at that time that weren’t given any trouble by the local residents. The residents were half rebuking, half inquiring.

We waited around, trying to find out from lawyers what the reality of the situation was, whether Maikel would be released today or not. Then came a change when some of the other ‘residents’ arrived. There were a few of them who looked like they were looking for trouble. One of them just shouted harassingly at women but was called by the officer at the gate and told not to use this style of harassment. Then after a while there came that same guy who stirred up trouble when we were protesting when Alaa was in custody. He was a man of reddish-white complexion, white hair, average build and spoke very roughly never waiting for a response. He praised the army and viciously asked us to leave as he headed away. Last time this happened, he came back with more of his buddies and started scuffles for no reason.

We decided to go back to the coffee shop and avoid confrontation. Some people decided to leave at that point. I wanted to stay but for I had leave for compelling reasons.

As I boarded the metro, I read Mark’s tweet, that they were confronted by people carrying sticks and knives. I later found out through Marina (@violin_queen) who was with us at the protest that they were threatened with murder if they ever came back to the neighborhood. She also tweeted that a photographer Michael Adel was taken inside Tora prison, beaten and threatened he would be killed. The citizens armed with knives and glass bottles then boarded a CSF truck that went inside Tora prison after their attack.

Related news:  Prisoners ‘pardoned’ by Tantawi remain in prison

Monday, January 09, 2012

3askar - Mohamed Mahmoud and Cabinet Attacks Documentary (Nov/Dec)

This video is worthy of a post of its own. It depicts the events and the brutality of the military in the months of November and December of 2011. It is a compilation of various footage shot by various channels and citizen journalists. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Who Will Stand by the Poor and Oppressed?

The pope, in his speech described the military leadership along the lines of honorable men that make us proud. It is no secret that the men he praised are criminals in every sense of the word. They are murders, thieves and liars.

What are we to understand when criminals are exalted and when injustice is praised? What are we to understand when the pope sees honor in killings and lies? What are we to  deduce when the symbol of morality for Christians praises lies, deceit and finds honor in injustice.

I thought we were supposed to stand for justice. I thought we were supposed to stand for truth. I thought many things. I thought the church was supposed to follow its teachings. I thought the pope was supposed to lead people into doing what’s right. I thought many things.

Silence is golden, true, but complicity is not. Why is it that we do not do the right thing anymore? Why don’t we even attempt? People pray five times a day and yet do not want to say the truth. People are afraid of what might happen to them I suppose, so they accept what they’ve been given. They accept the nothing they’ve been given.

I have no words to tell the pope really, except that maybe I understood Christianity incorrectly. I remember reading that Jesus stood up for the poor and oppressed when no one would. He did not take the side of the law enforcers, the scribes and the Pharisees but took the side of the sinners. He took the side of the poor, even when they did wrong. He condemned the rich and powerful. Is that not what we should do? Should we not take the side of the poor and the weak? What good is it then to follow Christ if we do not follow his example?

Maybe I understood Christianity incorrectly when I thought that to follow Jesus’ model, one should always hold the truth dear and not utter a lie. Maybe I misunderstood Jesus when he told those who were filled with righteousness and no remorse that they were vipers.

Christ said he is the truth when he was asked. He said it because He values the truth and He is the truth. Then why don’t we say it when we are asked? Why don’t we say what truly happened. Why don’t we ask for someone to find out the truth for us?

When Christ was hit, he asked why. When our brothers and sisters were killed at Maspero by army forces, did we even ask why? We know that we will be unjustly accused and condemned, but we have to ask anyway, we have to speak the truth when the time is right. Instead of calling for justice or even forgiveness for the murders, their heinous acts were praised as ‘honorable’.

Once in a while, people forget the way of Christ when they deal with politics too long. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.” Now money, taxes and power all belong to Caesar and that we should give. But truth, justice and integrity belong to God and we must give him that even at the expense of Caesar. Praise in the face of injustice is not rightfully Caesar’s. Giving up our rights is not rightfully theirs. We must speak the truth, we must hold whoever has killed accountable and do what we set out to do. Preach the truth and the wisdom of the truth.

Who will stand by the poor if not us? We do not need to fight, we do not need to take up arms, we need only speak the truth as loudly as we can.

Truly honorable people can be heard in the background saying 'Down with military rule'

In retrospect, the truth