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Egyptian Blogger on Hunger Strike, Saudi Blogger Detained (Video)

Egyptian Blogger on Hunger Strike, Saudi Blogger Detained (Video)

There have been many comparisons of Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, to the uprisings that began in Tunisia last December and then in Egypt, and then to Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Syria and even Saudi Arabia. Tuniisia is to hold its first free elections since the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on Sunday. Egypt is to hold its first elections next month. But many activists have been dismayed at the interim government, the military Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which seems unwilling to relinquish its power.

In March, Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad was sentenced by a military tribunal in March to three years in jail after publishing a blog post entitled “The people and the army were never one hand.” This title “deliberately inverted a popular pro-military chant” and incensed the generals who continue to rule Egypt. Sanad was found guilty of “insulting the Egyptian army.” He is now on the 57th day of a hunger strike and has said he is boycotting the latest court case against him, which was held on Tuesday and which his family and lawyers refused to attend; his younger brother, Mark, called the military retrial a “soap opera.” Said Sanad in a statement:

“If the militarists thought that I would be tired of my hunger strike and accept imprisonment and enslavement, then they are dreamers. It’s more honourable [for] me to die committing suicide than [it is] allowing a bunch of Nazi criminals to feel that they succeeded in restricting my freedom. I am bigger than that farce.”

Amnesty International has declared Sanad, who is believed to be in critical condition, a prisoner of conscience and his case has sparked an opposition movement to military trials for civilians. Up to 12,000 Egyptians have been tried under such tribunals since the fall of Hosni Mubarak and despite promises to end them expressed by Egypt’s de facto leader, Field Marshal Tantawi.

This week also saw the detainment of a popular Saudi video bloggerFeras Bugnah. He and his colleagues Hosam al-Deraiwish and Khaled al-Rasheed were arrested on Sunday out of concerns about their online show, “We Are Being Cheated“; at least two of them are being held in a prison in the Saudi capital of Riyadh:

The report was the fourth episode of the show posted on YouTube in the past two months. Each of the slickly produced short videos features Mr. Bugnah on camera, narrating the reports and interacting with his interview subjects in a lighthearted but impassioned style not unlike that of the American filmmaker Michael Moore. Mr. Bugnah’s look at poverty in Riyadh blends comedy with activism right from the start, as he first asks well-off residents of the city if they are doing well. When they reply that they are, he then cuts to impoverished children who say, no, they are not doing well.

Here is the episode, with English subtitles by a Saudi living in Manchester, England.

While a number of women have sought to oppose Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, there has been no uprising in the country as in Egypt and other Arab countries. But Egypt and Saudi Arabia both continue to suppress the voices of civilians calling for change and saying what life in their countries is really like.

In just a few months, it will be a year since December 17, when  Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit seller in the city of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in protest of the confiscation of his produce and his humiliating treatment by a municipal official and her aides. Will the calls for democratic reforms that spurred the Arab Spring endure? What can the protesters of Occupy Wall Street learn from their example?

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Photo of protesters marching in Cairo and chanting against military rule taken in September 2011 by Gigi Ibrahim

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26 comments

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10:21AM PDT on Oct 29, 2011

Most people believe that the ouster of Egyptian president, Hosni
Mubarak, was the result of a popular uprising and that freedom and
democracy now reign in the once oppressed nation. That is a myth
perpetuated by the lame stream media outlets world-wide.

The truth is that it was a coup d'etat backed by western
intelligences and using the mass protests as cover. The evidence
of this is that the demands of the protestors have not been
addressed and that the PROTESTS, which once allowed the coup to
take place, are now brutally suppressed.

People in Egypt are far from being in a better place than they were...

4:03AM PDT on Oct 24, 2011

BY SHOWING THIS WHAT YOU PEOPLE (THE WESTERN WORLD) WANNA SHOW??? THAT ALL THE GOVERNMENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST ARE EVIL???? NOOOOOOOOOO. THERE IS POVERTY IN EACH AND EVERY COUNTRY OF THE WORLD. I AGREE THAT THE GOVERMENT SHOULD DO MORE TO HELP ITS PEOPLE, BUT YOU CANT SAY IT CAN ONLY HAPPEN BY BRINGING THE DEMOCRACY. I'M FROM INDIA THE LARGEST DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD, HAVING VAST ECONOMY, BUT I REGRET THERE ARE MORE THAN 70% POPULATION IN POVERTY. WHY THERE IS NO POVERTY IN THE USA, EU OR ANY OF THE DEVELOPED COUNTRIES??? WE DONT SEE THAT BECAUSE THE MEDIA WORKS FOR THEM AND THEY DONT SHOW ANY THING NEGATIVE ABOUT THEM.

2:12PM PDT on Oct 22, 2011

God bless all who are working toward freedom and equality for all. I hope that the conflicts around the world can eventually be resolved and that those who speak out against evil and coruption will be heard.

I for one will continue to sign petitions/letters asking that political prisoners be freed.

6:35AM PDT on Oct 21, 2011

A great many people care Thomas M... That is why the battle is so hard.

1:40AM PDT on Oct 21, 2011

Thanks for this. As for Thomas M - surely the answer is: 'We all do!' What's the name of this community?

10:07PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Well, it is not something we should be pointing fingers about...We have watched our constitutional freedoms be taken away and just now (thank you 99%ers) are starting
to wake up. I only hope it's not too late. If Egypt's "occupation" was about religion we need to be just as aware that that is the strength of our constitution and the separation of church and state must be preserved or we will face the same situations here.

6:15PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Thanks for the info.

4:42PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

"Will the calls for democratic reforms that spurred the Arab Spring endure?" Americans don't understand that this was never about "democratic reforms". It was about an Islamic takeover that Mubarak kept at bay, even if he was an evil dictator, he at least kept the Christians safe from attacks. These people will never have freedoms like we do. AND for the most part, even the majority of the muslim women don't want the kind of freedoms we enjoy here in America. We should continue our dialogue with any that will speak with us about how true freedom works to the benefit of all people and that it is wrong to suppress/oppress anyone.

4:14PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Imagine if we jailed all the bloggers here,half the people would be in jail.This is so stupid.

2:41PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

There are no simple answer for the people of Northern Africa and the Middle East.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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