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.
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!
"Hello, can I have a seat next to the window, but far from the wing?", - I asked. "Sure! No problem!", - a nice lady at Aeroflot's registration answered me.
When I got on the plane I saw my seat: next to the walkway, on the same line with the wing, in the emergency exit row, with a chair that doesn't lean back...
"The front row is empty, can I sit there?", - I asked the flight attendant.
"No, no, no, we don't even sell tickets for these seats. The oxygen bag's tier is broken and can fall off and hit you in the head!", - was the response.
"Thank you for choosing Aeroflot", - a voice came from the speakers.
After three hours in Sheremetyevo airport without Wi-Fi, ability to buy coffee or magazines, since they only accept roubles (yes, in an international terminal of the airport... and there are no currency exchange points), I kind of felt nostalgic about Baku airport. And was even more happy to get on the plane that was going to take me to Berlin - one of the cities I would have in my "visit-while-alive" list... if I had one.
And I wouldn't be mistaken.
What does it mean to be a blogger? Does/Should a blog carry the responsibility traditional journalism does? Should it be censored or "limited in freedom of speech"? These and many other questions were answered today, at the first day of Bloggertour - a get-together of bloggers from around the world, organized by the Foreign Office of Germany. The geography of the participants spreads from Costa-Rica to China. It's 15 of us - chosen by the German Embassies in our countries.
During our first day we had 4 equally interesting and informative meetings. Morning, or "where-can-I-get-coffee" part of the day has started with Robin Meyer-Lucht's lecture on German blogs and statistics. The afternoon was about German laws and how they affect or protect bloggers, presented by Jan Mönikes, expert in online law, or how he calls himself - blogging lawyer. After lunch Jens Berger, a political blogger and a jury member at the Deutsche Welle Blog Awards told us more about German blogosphere and political blogging here. The day has finished with Matthias Spielkamp and his presentation on relations between citizen journalism and traditional journalism in Germany.
So, today I've learned that:
- One is not allowed by law to offend or criticize the president of Germany in his blog. Not because he's the best or wants to seem so, but because he doesn't decide anything. He's a symbol, just like the flag.
- It is allowed to discuss Holocaust, but one goes to jail for denying it. One will also get detained for 5 years for wearing or in any way carrying swastika or any of the SS attributes.
- "Mein Kampf" is not prohibited to own and keep at home, but can not be sold in Germany.
- It is actually legal to drive or walk absolutely nude.. Unless someone is disturbed, then it becomes a case. A very funny one, apparently.
- Bloggers have all rights the journalists in Germany have: they can join press unions, get the journalist social security and etc., while their articles are protected by copyright law.
- Bloggers also carry the responsibility journalist have and also get sued.
- Baku sells more vodka than Novosibirsk.
- Croatian and Czech people can be surprisingly tall. Very tall.
- Egyptians and Azerbaijanis should live together.
- Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan understand some Azerbaijani. Or at least Tolkun does.
And, well, should I say how great the crowd is? Oh, I will.
I also will talk about Germany and smoker rights.
Because I'm a blogger.
And we criticize.
To be continued...