Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The One Citizen – by Maikel Nabil

At a press conference last week, SCAF's Mukhtar Al-Mullah issued a number of statements that revealed the hidden intentions of the military to kill the nascent democracy in Egypt. When towards the end of the conference he was asked about me, he refrained from answering. And when asked about Alaa Abdel-Fattah, he tried to justify the detainment of Alaa, and then concluded by a very telling sentence, "Maikel Nabil and Alaa Abdel Fattah are Egyptian citizens, and we are very keen to protect all Egyptians, but we're talking here about one citizen out of 85 million". Al-Mullah did not say who that "One Citizen" was, Alaa or myself but what difference would that make?

The Military in their stupidity think that One Citizen is without value and easily marginalized. Their minds do not comprehend the fact that One Citizen put an end to Mubarak's regime, one citizen: Khaled Said1.

The first thing that came to my mind when I read Al-Mullah's words was a quote by John Stuart Mill: " If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind". This is precisely the difference between fascism and freedom. Fascists claim that there's no harm in sacrificing One Citizen for the good of the community, and it was under this banner that people in Germany, in the Soviet Union, in fascist Italy, Nasserist Egypt, Baathist Syria and Maoist China, in Cuba and Milosevic's Serbia, lost their freedom to tyrants who massacred whole communities while claiming each time that it's just One Citizen, sacrificed for the community.

In my lectures on liberalism I always said that if the individual was at odds with society, as liberals we should take the side of the individual against society. Protecting the individual (the One Citizen) means protecting the values of individualism and individual liberties. Those who claim they can build a society made up of oppressed members are deceiving themselves, for if the individual is the building block of society, how do you construct a building out of stones that are crushed and broken?

Neo-fascists forget that all great deeds in history were done by One Citizen. It was One Citizen named Galileo who maintained that the earth was round, while all the inhabitants of the planet denied it. One Citizen named Muhammad who brought Islam to humanity; the message was not revealed to 85 million people, but to One Citizen. Throughout history, human creativity has always been individual creativity: Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Nietzsche, Darwin, Edison - great deeds were always carried out by individuals who stood out, even while the rest of society did not go far beyond their natural instincts. The sacrifice of one individual for the good of the community is the argument put forward by tyrants to enable them to persecute thinkers, philosophers, scientists and all others who offered their services and their creativity to humanity.

I am not addressing myself to the military, for they are advancing toward their end like the enchanted, ignoring all indications of their fate. I am addressing myself to society, a society that was taught to accept the violation of One Citizen’s rights for the greater good of the community, as if the power that oppresses one will be able to later respect the rights of the community. This society that has accepted the displacement of the Nubian community in the name of national interest, that has accepted the expulsion of Egyptian Jews, the confiscation of their property, the revoking of their nationality, in the name of the interests of the majority. The same society that has sequestered gay rights, that has limited the individual freedoms of individuals under the guise of maintaining the family system and the interests of the greater society. It is time for the 85 Million to understand that their freedom is tied to the freedom of that One Citizen, that all freedom is lost once they allow the wolf to choose the first victim from amongst the herd, that they cannot regain the freedom of society unless every One Citizen is free.

Immediate freedom for Alaa Abdel-Fattah, for myself, for Ayman Mansour, for Amr Al-Beheiry, for each and every One Citizen in Egypt. Not because that would be the moral thing to do, but because you will never be free as long as the One Citizen remains captive.

El Marg's Prison Clinic
December 15, 2011

Press Release: The Imminent Death of Blogger Maikel Nabil, Imprisoned by the Egyptian Military

Maikel Nabil, 26, is the first Egyptian blogger to have accused the Egyptian army of using extreme violence against peaceful protesters.

On March 28th, 2011, Nabil was arrested after having published a blog post in Arabic entitled "The People and the Army have never been one hand". Images, videos and personal analysis offered a documented account exposing the military violence being used against peaceful protestors. He was arrested at his home and, although a civilian, presented before a military court.

On December 20th 2011, after 9 months of imprisonment and 125 days of hunger strike allowing milk, juices and medication only, Maikel Nabil was finally sentenced to two years by a military court. He was then immediately transferred from El Marg's Prison clinic to be placed in solitary confinement.

Already considerably weak and underweight, Nabil decided to extend and intensify his hunger strike and is now refusing all liquids, food and medication. and is now in his 9th day of that strike.

Nabil contests the military court's legitimacy, its verdict, being arrested for his writings and opinions, and being detained in inhumane conditions. Nabil also stands for the 12,000+ Egyptian citizens that are currently languishing in prison since January 28th 2011, after facing expedited military trials.

Without regard to his fragile physical condition, Nabil is now held in solitary confinement, in a tiny, garbage-filled prison cell without a bed. His general practitioner, cardiologist and parents have no access to him. His physical condition has entered a critical phase as vital organs are giving signs of failure (kidney and liver).

DEMONSTRATE TOMORROW (Dec 29th) for his freedom.

On military violence against Egyptian peaceful protestors

In his incriminated blog post, Nabil documented what many saw and witnessed, but feared to expose. Since December 17th 2011, the world has seen the hideous footage of a female protestor being stripped, beaten and stomped by soldiers, while others were being shot at with live ammunition. On that single day,12 died and over 500 were severely injured or tortured. On October 9th 2011, international networks also broadcast the Egyptian army's APCs running over and smashing protestors gathered around the Maspero State TV building, killing 24 and injuring hundreds. Endless hours of footage continue to document the ongoing inhumane crackdown of the Egyptian military on Egyptian citizens. For having exposed the truth, Nabil is enduring a sadistic agony.

Maikel Nabil's short biography

Born in Assiut on October 1, 1985. Graduated as a veterinarian in 2009. Also a political activist, Maikel Nabil has a long history with the military institution as both a conscientious objector and founder of the No to Compulsory Military Service movement. His engagement against compulsory service caused his repeated arrest and brief detention in November 2010. On his blog, Maikel Nabil describes himself as a liberal, secular, capitalist, feminist, pro-western, pro-Israel, atheist, materialist, realist, pro-globalist, intactivist (sic), anti-militarist and pacifist.

Particularities of Maikel Nabil's case

Although of Coptic Christian descent, Maikel Nabil is vocal about his atheism, in a country where religious conservatism is on the rise and sectarianism against the Coptic community has become violent. His public support for peaceful relations with Israeli people made many Egyptians fail to support his campaign for release and free speech within Egypt. For the average man on the street, Maikel Nabil falls perfectly into the Egyptian military's narrative vis-à-vis Egyptian revolutionaries "sponsored by foreign elements". In State controlled media, he is addressed as "an anti-nationalist, christian-atheist, pro-Israeli element". Nabil is being judged on two levels, by both the military and a conservative society, for his atheism, his perspective on Israel, his openness to gay rights, his support for freedom of speech and, primarily, for exposing military crimes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Half an Hour With Khaled

A piece smuggled out of jail by Alaa Abd El Fattah. 

Published in Arabic an al Shorouk on December 19th

Fate chose that my imprisonment should be connected to the civil judiciary: I was imprisoned in 2006 with fifty comrades from Kefaya movement and untold hundreds of the Muslim Brotherhood because of our solidarity with the intifada of the judiciary against Mubarak and his regime. We protested for the independence of the judiciary and their complete supervision of the elections, and so were imprisoned by the State Security Prosecutor for a month and a half.

And now, in the era of the revolution I was imprisoned by the military prosecutor as a punishment for insisting on appearing before a civil judge. And perhaps also as a punishment for my role in the events of Maspero, which was also connected to the civil judiciary: our stand in the Coptic Hospital to ensure a serious investigation by the pubic prosecutor and our insistence on genuine autopsies by the coroner. This stand was the reason my name was listed in the files of the police and military intelligence.

With the killing of new martyrs in Tahrir we gained a victory in the Maspero case. But it is a victory with a Ganzouri taste. It’s true that the case was referred to the civil courts but instead of standing in front of an independent investigating judge I find myself once more in front of the higher state security prosecutor.

In the era of the deposed we used to refuse being tried by state security prosecution because it is an exceptional judiciary. But in the era of Ganzouri we agreed to it on the basis that the exceptional civil is better than the exceptional military. And because it was a Ganzouri victory I did not rejoice. In fact I came back from the prosecutor in a miserable state. I spent my most difficult week in jail because what had gone before had been a struggle and a stand against military trials, and struggle inspires patience and makes resilience easy. But what was the meaning of my continued imprisonment after the case was referred? What’s the aim of my resilience?

The lawyers assured me that the appeal against the imprisonment on remand would be in front of a civil judge: at last I would appear in front of the judge for whose dignity, stature and independence we were tortured and jailed for.

I was thinking of nothing then except getting out to be there at the birth of my first child, Khaled. Our doctor had advised an early Cesarean for the sake of Manal’s health, and with every renewal of my imprisonment we took a risk in postponing the birth in the hope that we would win and I would be there.

Khaled was in solidarity with us; he would not come out despite the passage of his nine months and waited for our last hope: the appeal in front of a civil judge. Our hopes were high, for there was no reason to jail me. I am innocent until proved guilty, and my return from abroad specially to appear in front of the prosecutor was evidence that I would not flee. And in any case the charges against me were clearly fabricated, the investigation not serious, the testimonies of false witnesses conflicting. We put forward our evidence and asked to hear witnesses who would prove that I was not in Maspero at the time of the massacre. It seemed that the truth was clear.

Khaled did his bit and waited for the judge. The lawyers presented their defence. Manal stood in front of the judge and asked that I should be released to be with her at the birth. But my civil judge looked at her strangely. I think I knew when I saw that look that he would not do right by me.

My morale collapsed completely. I drowned in fear and worry for Khaled and his mother. For the first time I was sorry for myself. My imprisonment had become a kind of absurdity, and my mind and my heart could not bear absurdity. I understand why a state security prosecutor would jail me, but why would the civil judge jail me? What’s the enmity between me and him? And what’s to become of me now? Will I turn into one of the thousands of miserable creatures in Torah Investigation Jail? We wait for months, sometimes years for a judgement that never comes, from the hands of judges whom the law tells that we are innocent until proven guilty, and whom the constitution tells that our freedom and our rights cannot be constrained except by court order. But they do not hear. Our imprisonment continues, our cases never end, and we are forgotten by the world that stretches out beyond the prison walls. Everyone in the jail is faded and miserable, even the cats are pale; their movements slow, their eyes spent and broken.

I went to sleep convinced that this was my fate: I had six months at least before my case was brought before a court

And then came Khaled! Next day, in the afternoon, I got a message telling me he and Manal were well, and a photo. Love at first sight. Love at first photograph. The prison disappeared with its walls and its cats; everything disappeared except my love for Khaled and my joy at his arrival. I slept content.

On his third day Khaled visited me. It was a surprise. I’d expected that the doctor wouldn’t allow a visit until at least a week. Khaled visited me for half an hour. I held him for ten minutes.

My God! How come he’s so beautiful? Love at first touch! In half an hour he gave me joy to fill the jail for a whole week. In half an hour I gave him love I wished would surround him for a whole week. In half an hour I changed and the universe changed around me. Now I understand why my imprisonment continues: they wanted to deprive me of joy. Now I understand why I will resist: my imprisonment will not stop my love. My happiness is resistance. Holding Khalid for a few moments is carrying on the fight.

I was not alone for a second in my resistance; I’m always accompanied by supporters. And so I wasn’t alone in the joy of Khaled, I was flooded with the joy of comrades. I’d become used to receiving telegrammed tweets in my jail: congratulations for the Eid and for my birthday, I also got congratulations for the return of the revolution to the Midan. But Khaled was something else! A huge amount of telegrams, most of them from people I don’t know and might never have the honour of meeting; they wrote to express their joy at Khaled’s arrival and their love for him. They wrote introducing themselves, the names of the members of their families, their addresses, their jobs, their cities. They wrote that Khaled has uncles and aunts in hundreds of homes everywhere in Egypt.

Sadly I was not allowed to keep these messages; I read them once hurriedly then they vanish. I will not be able to speak the names of every aunt and every uncle to Khaled, but their love has reached him. Half an hour that inspires me with happiness that I survive on for a week. Just the news of his arrival inspires people who don’t know us with a joy that makes them send telegrams to an imprisoned father.

Half an hour in which I did nothing except look at him. What about half an hour in which I changed him? Or half an hour in which I fed him? Or half an hour in which I played with him? What about half an hour for him to tell me about his school? Half an hour for him and I to talk about his dreams? Half an hour to argue about whether he should go down to a protest? Half an hour for him to give me an impassioned speech about the revolution and how it will free us all? About bread and freedom and dignity and justice? Half an hour for me to feel proud that my son is a brave man carrying the responsibility of a country before he’s of age to carry the responsibility of himself?

* * * *

How much happiness in half an hour like that? In that last half hour the father of the shaheed spent with this son?

Prison deprives me of Khaled except for half an hour. I’m patient because we shall spend the rest of our half hours together. Why is the father of the shaheed patient?

The shaheed is immortal, in our hearts immortal, in our minds immortal, in history immortal and in paradise immortal. But does his immortality bring happiness to his father? His heart will burst with love for the remaining half hours of his life. Will he empty what’s in his heart in the arms of history? I wait for my release and I’m resilient. What does the father of the shaheed wait for? That he follows the immortal to heaven?

We thought the judge would do right by us; in 2006 we chanted, “judges, free us of the tyrants”, then my natural judge jailed me to deprive me of Khaled. The father of the shaheed thought that the solider would do right by him, and in February we chanted the Army, the People, One Hand, then the soldier killed us to deprive us of the immortal.

Looking for the reasons for my imprisonment is absurd. My imprisonment will not restore their state. Similarly, the death of most of the shuhada is absurd; perhaps at the beginning they killed the shuhada to stop the revolution, but why did they carry on killing after it was proved time and time again after it was proved that the revolution would continue? The killing even increases as they draw closer to defeat. I remember the snipers appearing on the day of the camel, they came late, after it had become clear that the square would hold. It was killing for the sake of killing: killing simply to deprive us of the immortal. Absurd; for killing us will not restore their state.

We need to be vigilant: they do not kill us to restore their state; they kill us because killing and jailing are normal behaviours in their state. Yes, normal behaviours. It’s just that we kid ourselves. It wasn’t only the police of their state who let us down; did the deans of their colleges not share in running over our children? Were we not let down by the bakeries and the gas depots of their state? By the ferries and ports of their state? Were we not let down by its wheel of production that lavishes millions on the director and the consultant while at a standstill but cannot spare a crumb for the worker when turning? Were we not let down by its economy that closes down the textiles factories while the cotton is piled high in the farmers home but keeps the fertilizer plant pouring poison into our water? Were we not let down by its football clubs that let security brutalize the fans if they cheer too noisily but intervenes to shield players when they raise arms? We are let down by all its institutions and every leader in it and tomorrow we will be let down by its parliament and its president.

I did not imagine that my heart carried the love that burst forth with the birth of Khaled; how can I understand the sorrow that is in the heart of the father of the shaheed? My God, how can it be so cruel? That you should bury your son rather than he bury you? Is there a worse injustice? Is there a worse imbalance? We kid ourselves and pretend it’s an exceptional event and that it is possible to reform that state, but all the evidence shows that it is a normal event and there is no hope except in the fall of that state.

Yes, their state should fall. We fear facing this truth, we fear for the country if the state should fall; if the Midan should cause the state to fall what remains for us? Egypt is not the Midan.

It’s true that Egypt is not the Midan. But we have not understood the Midan. What do we do in the Midan? Well, we meet, we eat, we sleep, we discuss, we pray, we chant, we sing, we spend effort and imagination to sustain ourselves, we rejoice and cheer at a wedding, we sorrow and weep in a funeral, we express our ideas, our dreams, our identities, we quarrel sometimes, sometimes we’re at a loss and confused, searching for the future, we spend each day as it comes, not knowing what the future hides for us.

Is this not what we do outside the Midan? Nothing is exceptional in the Midan except our togetherness. Outside the Midan we think that we rejoice at a wedding because we know the bride and groom, in the Midan we rejoiced and celebrated at the wedding of strangers. Outside the Midan we think that we grieve at a funeral because we know the deceased, in the Midan we grieved for strangers and prayed for them.

Nothing is new in the Midan except that we surround ourselves with the love of strangers. But the love of strangers is not a monopoly of the Midan: hundreds sent me messages of love for Khaled from outside the Midan, some describe themselves as belonging to the sofa party. Millions grieved for the shaheed in every home in Egypt.

We rejoice at a wedding because it is a wedding. We grieve at a funeral because it is death. We love the newborn because he’s human and because he’s Egyptian. Our hearts break for the shaheed because he’s human and because he’s Egyptian. We go to the Midan to discover that we love life outside it, and to discover that our love for life is resistance. We race towards the bullets because we love life, and we go into prison because we love freedom.

The country is what we love and what we live; what makes us happy and what makes us sad. If the state falls it is not just the Midan that will remain; what will remain is the love of strangers and everything that impelled us towards the Midan and everything that we learned in the Midan.

Love is immortal and sorrow is immortal and the Midan is immortal and the shaheed is immortal and the country is immortal. As for their state it is for an hour. Just for an hour.

Abu Khaled
The morning of Friday, 9 December 2011
Cell 6/1
Ward 4
Tora Investigation Jail

Sunday, December 18, 2011

They lie.. A brief history of Egyptian Military rule since January

December brings us a new wave of revolt demanding the SCAF's transfer of power to civilian rule, and an unprecedented wave of violence and human rights violations by military police. Let us not forget the military violence and restraint of freedoms has been escalating, albeit prevalent since January. Here is a brief history ending with a vast array of videos and pictures covering the last 48 hours.

The kidnapping and assault of protestors (beating and torture in some cases too) can be traced back to the 18 days in Tahrir . However most arrested protestors chose to keep their testimonies confidential and a number retracted them. January was still a time when people were willing to believe.

A report by Human Rights watch on the 9th of February documents the military's detainment and torture of peaceful activists as far back as January 30th. These are the diaries of activists and protestors arrested from February onwards collected by the No to Military trials campaign. The first confrontation between army and protestors that launched the No Military trials campaign was on the 26th of February, when peaceful protestors Amr El Beheiry and 9 others were arrested, presented before a military court and convicted with up to 5 year sentences with false charges and minimal investigation.

On the 9th of March over 100 people were arrested in a violent clearing of Tahrir square by the military. Of these were 18 girls who were beaten, photographed and submitted to 'virginity tests' as described in a report by Amnesty International. These also included Aly Sobhy , accused of being of a thug, and who was to be sentenced and convicted had it not been for the launch of the No Military trials Campaign that pressured for his release, and succeeded. Many unnamed and unknown protestors and passer-bys who were arrested that day are still in military detention.

In addition to this, on the 28th of March Military police stormed into the home of 28 year old blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad and arrested him for his blog entry: "The army and the people wasn't ever one Hand". Maikel was charged with 'insulting the military establishment' and sentenced to three years of improsinment, eventually shortened to two years. Maikel's arrest is not only a violation of his freedom of expression, but the way he was sentenced and the charges that were leveled against him in the Military courts were also violations in and of themselves.

In the early hours of the 9th of April, and after a Friday protest (on the 8th) where defecting military officers joined the revolutionaries , the military stormed, in what was the bloodiest and least documented attack until then, killing at least two people. The defecting military officers were shot and/or kidnapped. Their fate is still a mystery. More on this with footage in the Guardian .

The violence, killing, arrests , torture, military trials and convictions continued through milestones such as the attack on a protest by families of the martyrs on the 28th of June; the forced eviction of Tahrir on the 1st of August (and the Guardian); the attack on protestors infront of the Isreali Embassy on the 9th of September (19 arrested); attack on protestors in Abasseyya and near the Ministry of Defense on the 30th of September (11 arrested, one killed).

On the 9th of October the military attacked a peaceful march that consisted mostly of Copts in front of the Maspero State Television and Radio building. Armoured Personnel Carriers and live bullets killed 28 people and injured hundreds. When the Army launched its illegitimate investigation, the first suspect they named was Mina Daniel, killed that night. Alaa Abd El Fattah, a prominent blogger and activist, was called in to the prosecutor and, on refusing to accept the legitimacy of the Military Prosecutor's investigation on a crime in which it is implicated, was imprisoned. He has now been in jail for 50 days.

The 19th of November witnessed the beginning of a fresh wave of the revolution, demanding an end to military rule and a clear dated plan for the transfer of power, after 11 months of restricted freedoms deemed the possibility dim. The Tahrir sit-in was met with a battle lasting 5 days where the military and riot police used a particularly toxic tear gas, rubber and live bullets on protestors. At least 40 protestors were killed and over 1,700 injured. Here is a series of videos documenting that bloody week.

A report was released by Amnesty after the bloody week highlighting military violations and erosion of human rights since the revolution.

Since the elections, protestors still waiting for a clear time-line for the transfer of power, and the immediate resignation of a murderous army, moved the sit-in to the ministerial cabinet, to let traffic flow through Tahrir, and prevent the newly assigned government by SCAF from operating before their demands were met.

On the 16th of December, a protestor in the sit-in was kidnapped and brutally beaten for asking an official in civilian clothing (suspected of kidnapping protestors) for his ID. Clashes erupted and protestors were met with live and rubber bullets, as well as the throwing of stones, furniture, concrete slabs and china from atop the Ministerial cabinet by military police.

The violence has been indiscriminate, targeting (and sexually assaulting) women, elderly, foreign and local journalists and the killing of an Azhari Sheikh. At least ten others have been killed in the last 48 hours, hundreds injured, over a hundred arrested.

In circumstances as grave as these, every citizen is a freedom fighter, and every man, woman and child, armed with a phone or camera, becomes a witness to the violence and a citizen journalist. And here is the coverage, of 100s of videos and tens of testimonies, to date.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NoMilTrials Coordinator Kidnapped and Robbed

Last Friday one of the co-ordinators of the Alexandria section of the NoMilTrials group was kidnapped. He was beaten, sexually abused and had the NoMilTrials Alexandria hotline phone stolen.

Here is his account.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Alaa Abd El Fattah's Appeal Rejected

Today, Alaa Abd El Fattah appeared for the first time in front of a civilian judge. His lawyers had loged an appeal for him to be released from custody, pending the trial of those accused of violence at Maspero on October 9th. The appeal was rejected and Alaa was returned to Tora Maximum Security Prison.

Field Marshal Tantawi announced on Friday 25th that the Maspero case file was being transferred from the Miliary Prosecutor to State Security. This was designed as a concession on the day that saw Tahrir full of people chanting for the downfall of the regime.

It was with great disappointment and frustration, then, that today's civilian judge has chosen to continue Alaa's detention, rather than allowing him to be present at the birth of his first child, Khalid, who is due on Wednesday.

The work continues.

This video should serve as a reminder of who should really be facing investigation for the killing of 28 unarmed protestors on October 9th.


Today, December 6th, Alaa's first child, Khalid, was born. He is in excellent health.

Thursday, December 1, 2011