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"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.

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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

I Met the Walrus

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatles fanatic named Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto and convinced him to do an interview. 38 years later, Levitan, director Josh Raskin and illustrators James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina have collaborated to create an animated short film using the original interview recording as the soundtrack. A spellbinding vessel for Lennon's boundless wit and timeless message, I Met the Walrus was nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Animated Short and won the 2009 Emmy for 'New Approaches' (making it the first film to win an Emmy on behalf of the internet).

This is without doubt one of the best things I've ever seen.

Slightly Violated

What is the difference between Iran and the real wolrd? ***

At 1:00am January 1, 2009 I  was in the office of Radio Liberty Azerbaijan, surrounded by youth, intellectuals, public figures and employees of RFE/RL. An hour before that, the radio they were working for was taken off the FM, and from that moment on, they would have to broadcast on SW, Satellite and Internet, losing most of their followers.

We would drink shampaigne, celebrating the Saddest New Year Ever, preparing ourselves for the difficulties 2009 was promising... and sadly kept its promise.

***

Going through the web-page of one of the main Azerbaijani media sources couple of days ago, I saw an article in bold headline, which said: "A Turkish woman severely beaten by the Norwegian police". So I clicked on it.

A small article told a story taken from CNN Turk, about a woman in Norway, who mistakenly called the police instead of the emergency, for her mother who was having a diabetes attack. When police arrived, the woman was being impatient and rude and for some unknown reason got beaten up by the officers. While the terrible act was happening, the mother died, left without medical care.

Although the article didn't provide with any more facts, neither did the only mentioning of this fact I could find online - on CNN Turk, the fact itself was quite disturbing. But there also was this last paragraph, added by the author of the local source, which was, not only disturbing, but also ridiculous and in fact, terrifying. It said: "The most surprising here is that Norway, which tends to judge other countries, including Azerbaijan for the slightest (!! remember this word while reading my post) violations of human rights, better take care about its own democracy".

Now, about the "slightest vilations". As Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines says in her blog, this year started even worse than the previous one. Eynulla Fatullayev was ensured not to leave the prison any time soon, Emin and Adnan's court hearings are being postponed. But the worst happened in a village Beneniyar in Nakchivan region of Azerbaijan, where after marking the Ashura date, more than 150 villagers were arrested and interrogated, including villager Kamal Aliyev, his wife and daughter. His son Yunis, poured gasoline over himself threatening the policeman who was holding his family to set himself on fire. "Do it, if you're a man", was the policeman's response. So he did.

Right after that, 500 Internal Troopers, entered the village, people were taken out of their houses, beaten up, and humiliated. According to the villagers, the exits from the village are blocked, telephone calls are being tracked and get cut, once someone calls to Baku.

Guess what - only couple of news agencies reported it. Most of the work was made by Radio Liberty.

And this is not the end - today the official (!!) statement of Nakhichevan Representative Office in Baku was released. According to it, Yunis Aliyev, as well as his whole family and relatives (thoughtfully counted one by one) are mentally ill, and the "illegal acts" happened in the village were caused by the "illegal armed groups of the Popular Front". However, both the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan and the one of Nakhchivan DENY anything happening on the area.

So, yes, Norwegian police has killed a woman of different ethnicity and religion and it's bad. We can start talking about racism among Norwegian police, discuss the oppressions of muslim population in Europe, about the problems they face, but not about the ones they cause. Some of it will be true, some not, new laws will be implemented to make them feel comfortable, more population will be against these laws or visa versa. But the main thing we.. no, not we, THEY forget about is that while we fish facts of racist killings in Europe, people of our own ethnicity and religion are being beaten, humiliated, trapped or missing on our own territory by our own POLICE. And no, we don't consider it a crime, we don't talk or write about it. Even when we're supposed to, as media.

No evil happens here. It simply doesn't exist.

***

Iranian Television aired a documentary film, which tells the "real" story of Neda's death. According to the latest "research", she was an agent of USA and Britain (apparently jointly organized espionage) and her death was faked. The blood on her face came from a bottle (!) she thoughtfully brought to the demonstration in order to organize this pre-planned show.

Yes, no evil happens in Iran either.

And this is the difference between Iran and the real world.

***

What is the difference between Azerbaijan and the real world?