First the message was spread on Twitter, saying his father tried to call him, but someone else picked up the phone and said "You are next".
I've also tried to call, the same person picked up and first said: "Efendim", which is used for "Hello" in Turkish (apparently it is also used in Egypt). I asked if I can speak to Mahmood, the person replied: "Who are you?". I asked the same question again, the replied: "Who are you and where are you from?". I asked again if I can speak to Mahmood, the person replied: "Mahmood - police. You - next", and hung up.
I called again the second time and asked if they can tell me if Mahmood's all right and not injured. The person said "Mahmood okay". I asked how long he'll have to stay in the police, the person shouted: "Okay!! Bye bye bye bye", and hung up. Now Sandmonkey's phone is off.
A friend of him contacted me, saying her brother was with him. She is trying to call but someone picks up and doesn't speak.
At the moment, we are trying to spread the information among international community.
In our conversations during this week, he told me the State Security was using different kind of tricks to find him.
UPD: Sandmonkey's blog is down. The screen says This Account Has Been Suspended
UPD: Sandmonkey was reportedly arrested when he was delivering medical supplies to people on Tahrir Square.
UPD: Sandmonkey is reportely held in Abdeen Police Station in Cairo (?)
Under this link you can find the last blog post of Sandmonkey cached
UPD: Huffington Post mention
UPD: some tweets report Sandmonkey was first attacked by thugs. NOT CONFIRMED
UPD: Al Jazeera's Yourmedia just mentioned Sandmonkey's arrest live: "We receive reports that prominent blogger Sandmonkey has been arrested. We heard a lot of him, we know him, he was updating his twitter but not for 5 hours now".
UPD: Apparently Sandmonkey's phone is back on. Facebook user Jylan Khairat says: I just called his phone also and someone else answered pretending to be him, then he said in arabic "we'll get you all".
UPD: some tweets report Sandmonkey has been released. Some say he escaped. He and his friends have been beaten, his car destroyed, his phone confiscated, the medical supplies stolen. Trying to confirm now.
UPD: BBC also reported his arrest and release.
UPD: Sandmonkey on Facebook: "I am ok. My car destroyed, was beaten, but am fine. don't call my cell and delete me from ur bbm until i get it back."
Last update from my telephone conversation with Sandmonkey:
He and his friends were driving the car to Tahrir square to deliver medical supplies to people, when Mubarak's people approached them. They managed to escape and stopped by the police point to seek help. Instead, police officer took the keys of his car and ordered people to attack them. They were in the car, while around 100 people were destroying it.
He managed to escape the car from the other door, but was taken to the police station. There they confiscated his phone and money, and ripped his car apart. They were given no explanation, pressed no charges. After spending two hours in police micro-bus they were released, apparently, because "people made such a big fuss out of this arrest".
Sandmonkey is home and safe. He's bruised and slightly injured with pieces of glass. His friends also injured.
He was the first person I called when I saw news from Egypt. "I can't talk, dear, I'm pretty teargased right now", he said.
I met him in Berlin. It was a blogger conference with participants coming from all around the world. For him it wasn't the first official international event he was invited to because of his activity. Very soon, we found a lot in common - he would tell me about his society, I would tell him about mine. When the uprise in Egypt began, I couldn't think of a better person to interview about it.
My interview with him for RFE/RL:
"Sandmonkey" is one of a number of bloggers and activists in Egypt getting the message out of the country through Twitter (he is sending his tweets via a friend in Jordan). RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Nigar Fatali spoke with him about Internet activism in Egypt and its role in the country's uprising.
RFE/RL: What does it feel like to live in a country where Internet and mobile phone connections can be shut down by the government at any time?
Sandmonkey: It is not fun [laughing]. It clearly affects you. People are being transported back to 1980; they have to go back from technological progress to using landlines. And most of them don't even know the landline numbers of their friends to call and check on them. Having no access to the Internet and a curfew are driving people insane. For activists it means the inability to upload pictures and videos of the horrors that are taking place here, while for many other people it basically means the inability to do their job. No one goes to work because there's no Internet. The banks don't work because of that; the country in general is in paralysis. The fact that the government can shut down the Internet and phone connection anytime they want is simply unnerving.
RFE/RL: Why do you blog under a nickname? Do you plan to reveal yourself?
Sandmonkey:I've always kept my identity anonymous and I'm not planning to reveal it because some members of my family are affiliated with the ruling NDP party and I don't want to put them at risk.
RFE/RL: What is it like to be an activist in Egypt? Do you get oppressed or threatened?
Sandmonkey:These days it actually feels strange; scarier and more exciting. One day you're breaking barricades, the next day you get tear gassed, and the day after that you try to escape the gunshots of street thugs. But it's very rewarding because we see ourselves and our people being validated. We're proud of them for taking responsibility for their destiny and saying "No" for the first time in their lives. Everything about being an Egyptian got redefined in the last days. Before, many people would not agree with us. No one would believe that we could take action or do anything together, as a nation. Today, everybody is with us. Now people believe it's possible. Five years ago I was a minority opposition. Today, I am the people. And this feeling is indescribable.
My interview with Egyptian blogger and my friend
for Radio Liberty in Russian. Soon to be published in English.
Sandmonkey – никнейм, который выбрал для себя один египетский блоггер и активист, начавший вести свой блог в 2004-м году. Он взял себе ник и скрывает свое настоящее имя из соображений безопасности.
На сегодняшний день sandmonkey является одним из самых популярных блоггеров в Египте - его блог насчитываыет более 5 300 000 просмотров, а его страничку на Twitter отслеживают почти 6 000 человек.
В Египте почти с начала событий введены ограничения на Интернет, а с понедельника прекратил работу последний провайдер. Нигяр Фатали взяла интервью для РадиоАзадлыг у sandmonkey по телефону вечером 31 января. - Каково это - жить в стране, где правительство может отключить интернет и мобильную связь в любое время? - Это невесело (смеется). Воздействует на человека. Сейчас люди перенесены обратно в 1980, из технологического прогресса им приходится возвращаться к наземным линиям связи, проще говоря, к городским телефонам. И большинство из них даже и не знает домашних номеров своих друзей и близких. Комендантский час и отсутствие интернета сводит людей с ума.
Активисты лишены возможности загружать фотографии и видео тех страшных событий, которые здесь происходят. Для других отсутствие интернета означает невозможность работать - люди просто перестали выходить на работу. Банки тоже не работают, страна в подвешенном состоянии. Сам факт, что правительство может отключить нашу связь с миром в любой момент настораживает и откровенно нервирует.
- Почему Вы пишите под псевдонимом? Вы планируете раскрыть свое имя своим читателям в свое время?
- Я всегда писал под никнеймом и не собираюсь раскрывать свое имя, потому что некоторые мои родственники тесно связаны с правящей партией и я не хочу подвергать их опасности.
As the resistance in Egypt continues today, these are today's updates.
Egypt in Tweets:
@alfredoboca: If your government shuts down the internet, shut down your government.
@hasanalikhattak: women expected to take active role in protests today after men spent the night protecting neighborhoods #Egypt #Jan25
@samihtoukan Arab people are not extremist nor terrorists.Our time has come.We deserve democracy and to live with freedom and dignity #jan25 #egypt
@sandmonkey: 5 years ago my beliefs made me a minority opposition, today I am the people #jan25
@chrisalbon: AJE in Egypt is shut down. If there was ever a time for citizen journalism, this is it.
UPD:Dan Nolan updates information on the closure of Al Jazeera on his Twitter.
AlJazeera crew leave Suez as no longer safe to be there. Direct threats made against jazeera. Unsure where anger originating? Thugs?
Aljazeera Cairo bureau has been shut down. Just visited by plain clothes government security, TV uplink is now closed
8 guys here. Angry discussion at our live position that’s been bringing you all those dramatic pictures
Packing our equipment. We have been kicked out of office. Jazeera only network being shut down according to these guys
Gov’t agents say they’ve been watching our coverage but also listening to our phone calls.
Fighter jets now streaking across the skies of downtown Cairo as curfew approaches
A show of force to intimidate protestors. Doubt it will work, nobody seems to be leaving Tahrir Square
@sharifkouddous: sitting next to my uncle. He's been protesting alone on the streets for years. My uncle: "remember when I would stand alone and protest? Now look at everyone here. "this is a dream come true" #Egypt
@Aljazeera: #Egypt army has just told the crowd gathering at Tahrir Square that military will not go against the people #Jan25 #aljazeera
@rhyssumm there r 100,000s of ppl across egypt. do the math of excluding the too young&too old & add protesters' families = most egyptians
@AlArabiya_Eng: @ElBaradei heading to Meydan Tahrir (Liberation Square), Cairo to address the crowds. Estimated at over 100,000.
Egypt in news:
UPD: "Muslim Brothers" are nothing like Islamic fundamentalists of Iran or Afghanistan. Egypt will not repeat their destiny", says El Baradei while being interviewed by CNN. --- Agence France-Presse reports that "thousand" prisoners have escaped from Wadi el-Natroun prison today. The exact number is not clear though.
UPD: Thirty-four members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, including seven members of the leadership, walked out of prison on Sunday after relatives of prisoners overcame the guards, a Brotherhood official said. The relatives stormed the prison in Wadi el-Natroun, 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Cairo, and set free several thousand of the inmates, Brotherhood office manager Mohamed Osama told Reuters. No one was hurt, he added.
UPD:8 HAMAS members have also escaped the Wadi el-Natroun. Two of them, reportedly, are already in Gaza.
The employee of Azerbaijani Embassy in Egypt Nijat Khojayev has been shot dead on his way home from work, confirmed by MFA Azerbaijan. His body will be delivered back to Azerbaijan later today. Azerbaijani government, however, didn't make any statements on this issue yet. Allah rehmet elesin!
Reuters puts together key elements of the USA-Egyptian relationship, giving brief recent historical overview and publishing the sums of financial aids provided to Egypt by USA in exchange for diplomatic relations with Israel.
Probably the biggest news for today so far, is the shut down of Al Jazeera bureau i Egypt. Their license has been revoked, journalists deprived their accreditations. Channel's online producer Evan Hill tweets: "State TV announces Al Jazeera's broadcasting license and press cards are being revoked. Our bureau is packing up. #jan25". "The team is working on a plan if the shutdown does occur. For obvious reasons, won't be tweeting the details here. #jan25", he adds later. Al Jazeera's UAE correspondent Dan Nolan has also shared channel's plans: "Don’t worry we’ll still report what’s happening in #Egypt no matter what new restrictions they put on us. #Jan25".
Egypt in pictures:
MSNBC's slideshow on Egyptian bloggers and their destiny can be found here.
A Facebook collection of pictures named Women of Egypt picturing Egyptian female prostesters.
Another great Facebook collection of January 28 protests by Roberto Pitea.
Totally cool pics from Egypt at Totallycoolpix
Egypt in videos:
An impressive video of an open clash between police and protestants in Egypt on January 28:
Egyptian army cleansing Cairo museum after looters. Reportedly, a group of protesters has built a human chain around the museum, protecting it from looters until the military forces took over:
Al Jazeera's report from last night. Cairo men organizing neighbourhood security groups to protect their homes and property:
And of course, a hilarious report on Egypt by Jon Stewart's Daily Show:
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
In May 2010 I took my first trip to Berlin to join Bloggertour 2010 organized by the Foreign Office of Germany. It was 16 of us from all around the world - from Costa Rica to China. It was a group of very special people, who, despite the racial and ethnical differences, were speaking the same language - the blogivism one.
But there was one, very special person for me, someone who understood perfectly what I was saying about my country and our mentality. Someone who had surprisingly similar stories about his country and also, at some point, had to become cynical in order to be able to keep on loving his land. Among all of the bloggers, he was the one who didn't need additional explanation. As you might have already guessed - he was Egyptian. No more words needed here.
Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and other Arabic countries bring me a whole set of mixed feelings. On one hand, it's disturbing, since there is a possibility for them to repeat Iran's or Ukraine's destinies, where revolutions failed either to radical regimes or Russian influence. I would love to know that behind today's events there is or will be a plan, which will dramatically change the Arab world for better.
At the same time, I enjoy what's going on too much for an outsider.
Contemporary revolutions, in my opinion, have much more chances to be successful than it was even 30 years ago. They're highly coordinated, informative in details and unifying, not only for the resistants, but for all their supporters around the world - and it's usually millions. Every detail will either be reported, or tweeted, or facebooked, giving us the privilege of re-tweeting, re-posting and sharing - making us feel a part of it, even when we're sitting on the couch chewing Doritos.
Besides, since the education has also became more international in recent years, there is also a big chance for countries like Egypt or Tunisia, many citizens of which have studied or are still studying abroad, to build a strong state with devoted educated individuals ruling it. And finally, there are numerous proven political and social systems, that can reduce corruption, monopolies and human rights violations to minimum, which can be easily (or not so) implemented and bring a totally new meaning to their future.
But the best effect of these events, for me personally, is the reaction of the 30-year-rulers of other countries. Probably for the first time in their lives they clearly see that whatever they did in the past, whatever intentions they were motivated with and whatever they were trying to get out of - it will eventually come back to bite them in the ass. And no big brothers can secure them from it.
Revolution is barely a good thing. It is usually driven by unhappiness, followed by tragic events and causes deaths and injuries. It makes many miserable and others violent, it affects the economy and can destabilize the country and the region for a long time. But sometimes it just has to be done. Because there's nothing worse for nation's pride, than being quiet towards injustices and giving up the essential rights by settling for what's given from the above. And by above I certainly don't mean God.
Today we are all Egyptians. So let's hope it ends well.
This post is not about me. It's about two people, worth love and respect who had to go to prison. And came back.
And their friends and close ones, who stayed on the other side and didn't give up.
Azerbaijani bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were arrested on July 8th, 2009 with the charge of hooliganism after being beaten by two athletic strangers in one of the downtown cafes. Evidences, such as street camera, which showed them, beaten, going to the police station to file complains, as well as many other evidences that could prove them innocent, were not accepted by the court. Testimonies that could help them, were not heard either. After four months of pre-trial detention, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were plead guilty and sentenced 2,5 and 2 years of detention respectively.
But let's start from the beginning.
The night Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade got arrested around 30 people were standing in front of the police station. It was only 30, because Emin asked us not to post any information, since they were promised to be released soon. Their friends were waiting outside the station the whole time, even after a group of policemen, pushed them on the road, saying they are not allowed to stand there, calling them a 'gang'. After 8 hours of waiting, Adnan called to say they are being arrested for 48 hours.
And then there was a snowball...
The campaign, we called AdnanEmin, was probably the biggest of its kind in Azerbaijan. No one will be able to tell you how exactly it all started. It just did. The moment they were arrested, it was posted on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Then moved to blogs, Radio Liberty, then to Yahoo Groups, e-mails, Skypes, Youtube, local media, international media, international organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and others) and NGOs, political parties and politicians. Then there were numerous statements (EU, CE, OSCE, US Department of State, UK Foreign Office, German Foreign Office and others), meetings, Emin and Adnan being included to agendas, Azerbaijani officials being asked about their case wherever they would go. Articles about them would be translated to countless number of languages, including Russian, English, Turkish, French, Spanish, Portugese, Macedonian, Hindu, Simplified and Traditional Chinese and many others. There was also the appeal of friends of Adnan and Emin to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev , signed by hundreds of their supporters.
Emin's and Adnan's court hearings would gather up to 100 people, sometimes more. Protest actions would be held in several cities of the world, including Paris, London and Washington DC. Emin's birthday in October 14th, 2009 would be celebrated in London, Paris, Strasbourg, Istanbul, Ankara, Budapest, New York, Houston, Moscow, Basel and several other cities. There were videos for Adnan's birthday on July 13th (4 days after their arrest).
Then there was Hillary Clinton, mentioning the case of Adnan and Eminprior her visit to Azerbaijan, which was a big
"Now, it's only left for Obama to mention it", people would joke... And then, he did.
This campaign was held by a group of friends and supporters of Emin and Adnan, and their friends all around the world. This campaign was held without any financial support. This campaign was mostly intuitive and absolutely sincere.
Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were released conditionally on November 18th and 19th, 2010. Today, they're home, with their families and friends. They are happy to breathe clean air, sleep in their beds and eat home made food. They say the conditions in prison were tolerable, detainees treated them with respect and guards did not use any violence on them. They have plenty of funny stories from prison and even more information they want to share with the world from almost 300 books they read there.
And they are still not done reading and watching all the material about their campaign.
On July 8th, before a group of policemen pushed us on the road away from the police station, the officer asked us who we were and why we were standing there.
"We're their friends", was our response.
"How many friends can a person have?", officer cynically smiled.
"Oh, you'll see", we thought.
And they did.
This post shouldn't be about me, but partly, it is. Because writing it makes me happy as never.
Welcome home, Emin and Adnan!
I've started my work in PR when I was 20. Even though it was a governmental structure, we were lucky enough to have good management and actually try to do something. On the other hand - we were close enough to other governmental structures to know how much money gets spent and what outreach was being received. Budgets were enough to feed the families of the whole management, while outreach was simply not worth it. At least PR wise. If you are thinking about starting business in Azerbaijan, probably the first word you should learn is "otkat" (ot-cut). This word we adopted from Russian language means the amount of money one has to bribe with if he receives a grant or a purchase from a certain structure.
And if you think that this is being covered and not talked about - you're mistaken. An Azerbaijani is usually fine talking about the otkats he received or had to pay. "How else should my family survive in this economy", he'll say if you ask.
Otkat works in all fields: business, education, arts and of course PR. As a result - cattles of expensive 4-wheel-drives filling the streets of Baku, millions spent on projects, outreach of which are once again - not worth it. 20 million manats for Flowers Day, 10 million dollars on participation in Eurovision (while Russia only spends 30 thousand), millions of money on cultural events around the world, which are mostly attended by Azerbaijanis. And does it bring more tourists to Azerbaijan? No, it only makes people pick up the phone and check the prices and then choose Turkey or Spain for vacation. Because it's simply much cheaper.
Let me tell you another PR story, which I've already mentioned a few days ago will write more broadly about in my next post.
A couple of months ago German Embassy contacted me asking if I would be interested in attending an International Blogger conference to be held in Berlin in May. "Of course!", I said. A month and an interview later - I was chosen as a representative of Azerbaijan to attend a 10-day Bloggertour organized by the Foreign Office of Germany.
What can I say? It turned out to be the best event I've ever participated. Not only was it well-planned and completely paid, but also so informative, I've already drafted two and wrote 1 post about things I've seen and learned there. And I'm only going to mention 30% of it - parts of the program that impressed me the most.
As a result - 16 most popular bloggers from around the world (and my blog was the weakest there) sharing their impressions and experience with their readers, who will repost those in their blogs or share on their Facebook pages. Outreach - thousands of readers and a line for the next year's tour.
Should I tell about a number of scholarships for international students and kind of promotion it gives to a country? Or work with Social Media activists? Or hundreds of festivals and celebrations held all around the world? La Tomatina in Spain? Saint Patrick's day in Ireland? Shopping festival in Dubai? Even the Pillow Fight in London? Or Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin I was lucky enough to see?
That's my friends, what I call PR. And our ambitions to show ourselves in a good way by spending loads of money are nothing more than just a nice icing on a really bad cake, no one will order again. And no otkat will save it.