Revolution

Corrupt No More

A good things about living in small communities is that rumors usually turn out to be true. I do not mean the gossiping-about-people-and-their-sex-lives kind of rumors, but the ones about important news. Right after Tunisia held the revolution and in the middle of the Egyptian one, the air in Baku started to change. A wave few around Baku, whispering that taking bribes is now forbidden - there is no corruption anymore. And, well, after living your whole life in a country, where you know you'll have to bribe whatever you do and wherever you go - it sounds kind of shocking at first. And since you also know "where the news come from" you don't believe the media sources either.

And that's when you go to the people and ask them if it's true. It turns out it is. A friend of a neighbor was supposed to pay 100 000 EUR annual bribe for his four supermarkets. When he came to the tax guys, they silently sent him to the cashiers, where he paid his official 10 000 EUR and went back home absolutely happy.

Another guy brings cars for sell from Europe to Azerbaijan. He usually pays around 80 000 EUR for several cars on the customs. This time, however, he was also sent to the cashiers and paid 5 000 EUR. He went back to "his guys" and offered to give them the rest, but the horrified used-to-be-bullies sent him home and told not to come back with these kind of offers. The guy celebrated all night and all day.

Then you read about dozens fired in ministries, reforms to be implemented in the most corrupt structures and special services created to address people's problems and complaints. And for the first time in your life you feel the scent of Change.

But the saddest part is, the first thing to come to your mind is: "I wonder how long it will last". Because, let's be honest, why does it take two revolutions thousand miles away to fix the biggest problem, that harmed and drove away two generations of your people and made the country #134 in the world corruption index?

However, since as any desperate activist I'm not only a cynical critic, but also a believer, I'll lean back in my chair and wait. I'll wait for the 19-year-old to be released from the prison; I'll wait for my friends to be taken off the hook of a conditional release for the crime they did not commit; I'll wait for the irrational projects and economical solutions to be abolished or fixed; I'll wait for the day when I will not need rumors to believe the news.

Amen to that.

Sandmonkey on MSNBC

Sandmonkey and yours truly being scared at Stassi archives in Berlin, Germany in 2010.

Sandmonkey and yours truly being scared at Stassi archives in Berlin, Germany in 2010.

Famous Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, whom I recently interviewed for RFE/RL and who later was arrested, assaulted and basically robbed by the Egyptian police, is talking on MSNBC from Tahrir square here.

Sandmonkey Arrested! You - next.

The most famous Egyptian English-speaking blogger Sandmonkey, the one I made an interview for RFE/RL two days ago with was arrested today.

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: Twitter user RamyYaacoub reports: On the phone with @SandMonkey: "We were released, we did NOT run away . . . heading back to safety now" #SandMonkey

UPD: Twitter user RamyYaacoub reports: @SandMonkey: "We were just released after a 2 hour arrest, the beating came before the arrest" #SandMonkey

@RamyYaacoubSandMonkey: "My car is completely destroyed, my cellphone was taken, we were saved by my friend's extra phone"#SandMonkey

UPD: @RamyYaacoub: @SandMonkey: "Massive Chaos ensued before we got arrested, my phone is gone, money, and car is destroyed" #SandMonkey

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."

On Twitter: RT @Sandmonkey: I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken #jan25

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.

The story of their arrest in details, and Sandmonkey's interview to CNN here.

"5 years ago I was a minority opposition, today - I am the people."

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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.

Read more...

Быть египтянином сегодня...

My interview with Egyptian blogger and my friend 

Sandmonkey

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.

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Democracy Freedom and Dignity

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? 

#Jan25

Aljazeera Cairo bureau has been shut down. Just visited by plain clothes government security, TV uplink is now closed 

#Egypt

8 guys here. Angry discussion at our live position that’s been bringing you all those dramatic pictures 

#Jan25

#Egypt

Packing our equipment. We have been kicked out of office. Jazeera only network being shut down according to these guys 

#Jan25

#Egypt

Gov’t agents say they’ve been watching our coverage but also listening to our phone calls. 

#Jan

25 

#Egypt

UPD:

@bbclysedoucet just saw a man in a suit and tie directing Cairo traffic..police nowhere to be seen #Jan25 # Egypt

Dan Nolan

Fighter jets now streaking across the skies of downtown Cairo as curfew approaches 

#Egypt

(via phone)

A show of force to intimidate protestors. Doubt it will work, nobody seems to be leaving Tahrir Square 

#Egypt

(via phone)

@CNNbrk Fighter planes fly low over crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square, 10 minutes before state-imposed curfew. news.blogs.cnn.com/…

@CNNbrk#Egypt opposition leader ElBaradei calls for Mubarak to "leave today and save the country." news.blogs.cnn.com/…

UPD:

@sharifkouddous Tahrir is packed. Crowd has swelled. Jets keep passing overhead. Mood is celebratory. Chanting for Mubarak to get out. #Egypt

@ellozy: Thousands chanting in Tahrir Square: "Hosni [Mubarak] has gone mad!" #jan25#Egypt

UPD:

@Tahirimran: The soldier says if I don't want to get injured I should leave, I ask him what do you mean? He tells me things wold turn nasty#Egypt#jan30

@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

@sharifkouddous: People wave and hold up victory signs whenever the helicopter flies low overhead #Egypt

UPD:

@Dima_Khatib: Clinton: we expect free fair elections as an outcome of what is happening in Egypt. FIRST TIME US SAYS THAT !!! #egypt#jan25

@Debbas#Egypt Demonstrators are being taken to jail in Tahrir Square in Cairo . Source OTV Lebanon

@CNNbrk: #Egypt troops fire warning shots into air in Cairo's Tahrir Square as demonstrators defy curfew. http://on.cnn.com/eJR2rB

UPD:

Dan Nolan: In Tahrir Square I see a soldier pull a woman,child+ #Egypt flag on top of his tank.Dancing/waving to chants of 100's of cheering protestors

@Aljazeera: ‎#Egypt army has just told the crowd gathering at Tahrir Square that military will not go against the people #Jan25 #aljazeera

UPD:

@sharifkouddous: Crowd chanting now: "Mubarak has lost his mind" #Egypt

@sharifkouddous: A soldier was carried on shoulders through the crowd. Loud chants of "mubarak this is your last night" #Egypt

@dancefromiraq: another big protest happening on Abdel Moneim Riad Sq. #jan25

@behzad77: please hospitals in Egypt are in need for blood. Please donate if you can! Spread the word and save lives, iA. #Egypt#Jan25

UPD:

@CNNbrk: Nile TV reports prison outbreaks throughout #Egypt. Number of escapees unclear, but more than 3,000 arrested. news.blogs.cnn.com/…

@rhyssumm there r 100,000s of ppl across egypt. do the math of excluding the too young&too old & add protesters' families = most egyptians

@octavianasr#ALjazeera Arabic reports #Egypt Army chief told the protesting crowds: army "won't go against them." #Jan25Via AJ English

UPD:

@sharifkouddous: The energy is indescribable. Huge part of crowd clapping in unison, chanting together. #Egypt

@sharifkouddous: Mubarak is finished. He cannot beat this. They will stay until he leaves. And they are so many now. #Egypt

@sharifkouddous: I am in the middle of a sea of people. Chanting together. "Mubarak get out. We are the children of #Egypt."

@AlArabiya_Eng: @ElBaradei heading to Meydan Tahrir (Liberation Square), Cairo to address the crowds. Estimated at over 100,000.

UPD:

@noornet: AlJazeera: Just confirmed that Mohamed El Baradei (opposition leader of IEA) & son Ali join protestors in Tahrir #jan25#Egypt

@asa_wire The Arab Revolution has spread to Algeria: 10,000 marched yesterday http://bit.ly/fcmY8O#egypt#jan25

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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".

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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.

UPD:

Totally cool pics from Egypt at Totallycoolpix

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Egypt in videos:

An impressive video of an open clash between police and protestants in Egypt on January 28:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXbRdumboZ0&w=480&h=390]

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:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3K6RWDLp8U&w=500&h=311]

Al Jazeera's report from last night. Cairo men organizing neighbourhood security groups to protect their homes and property:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7EcB5_fyRY&w=500&h=311]

And of course, a hilarious report on Egypt by Jon Stewart's Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c

The Rule of the Nile

www.thedailyshow.com

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:372456

Daily Show Full Episodes

Political Humor & Satire Blog

The Daily Show on Facebook

R-Evolution

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.