Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Month: November 2011 (page 2 of 2)

#FreeAlaa

Photo by @donatelladr

On Sunday, Alaa’s detention was extended by another 15 days. At this point, the United Nations, Amnesty International, and countless other advocacy groups (including the EFF) have called for the release of Alaa, as well as others unjustly imprisoned by Egypt’s ruling military council. There are also numerous groups in the US and Europe actively pressuring governments to use their weight to ensure their release.

I continue to be angered, as well as disheartened, by the US government’s lack of action. I have no doubt that the State Department is working behind the scenes on this, as they do on many things, but with Clinton making public statements about opposing “conditionality” of aid to Egypt, State’s background work is, frankly, useless. Furthermore, if backdoor attempts are focused entirely on Alaa, and not on the bigger picture, then they’re going entirely against everything he stands for.

Congress needs to be pressured at this point for any real action (read: withdrawal of funding for the Egyptian military), and while I know some folks are working on this, we need to speak out louder. We, as individuals, need to start calling our representatives.
Once again, some links:

  • Translation of Alaa’s latest letter from prison.
  • A piece from Mina Naguib on Egypt’s “forgotten blogger” and the broader free expression picture.
  • Sokari of Blacklooks has written a great piece.
  • …as has Alia Mossalam, whose piece contains this particularly beautiful set of paragraphs which I just have to share:

Look who you’ve grown into ya Alaa :)

While ‘just being good’ is what drives Alaa to be brave; what drives me , certainly is being surrounded by family and friends and the bubble of trueness of intent that they create. I’ve been lucky these last 6 years as my life has been a constant production and reproduction and affirmation and reaffirmation, that all that is ideal can be real, and all that is good is possible and all around us.

I cannot begin to describe what it means to be in a revolution with your husband, your brother, your father, your mother, your aunt, your cousins. Death shrinks in insignificance. And the risks you take you internalize, and they become you, and part of all your lives. Needless to say, bravery, legitimacy, protest, chanting, revolution it all, all becomes about love. All the love you’ve ever felt or wanted to feel floats out of you and binds us all as ‘us’.

I can’t begin to imagine that Khaled has been conceived of this :) And that he will be born into a world of ideals, the best time of our lives, where all our focus and all our energies are focused unto being good, and proving that this IS a world where we will be.

Ten Days Later, Alaa is Still in Jail

It is nearly November 9 in Egypt and my friend Alaa is still in prison. It’s now been 10 days, five fewer than the 15 that he was assigned by a court run by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which has illegitimately tried more than 12,000 Egyptian civilians since January.

A recent photo of Alaa and Manal with Ahmed Omran and Yazan Badran (my own photo, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Alaa and his wife Manal, and their soon-to-be son, Khaled (named, of course, for Khaled Said) have been in my mind every day these past ten days.  It so happens that I’ll be in Cairo around the time of his due date, and thus have been preparing some gifts, each purchase reminding me of their friendship, and my excitement for the birth of their child…which Alaa may not get to witness.  Last night when I came home, Anas gave me the gift Alaa had brought me from Cairo when he was here last month–I’d been traveling and thus hadn’t seen it yet–and was again reminded of the kindness of my friend who has never hesitated to spare a moment for advice, or to educate me about the Egyptian revolution, or to be an open ear for whatever existential crisis was happening that day.

I suspect that anything I write here will be speaking to the choir. I suspect that if I told you that SCAF has hijacked the revolution and doesn’t give a damn about free expression, or that the US government’s $1.9 billion per year funding of the Egyptian military is despicable, you would agree. I suspect that if I told you how much it hurts to see someone as amazing an activist, husband, and soon-to-be father as Alaa behind bars, again, for speaking his mind, you would sympathize.

Therefore, there is little new to say. I am writing this not, then, to say something new, but to keep you from forgetting…about Alaa, about Maikel Nabil Sanad, about the other Egyptian activists, journalists, and bloggers who are wrongly imprisoned, wrongly convicted, and wrongly accused.

On the other hand, if you have stumbled upon this blog post with no idea who Alaa is, then rest assured: His family, his friends,

image of Manal Hassan by monasosh on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

his wife, have said all there is to be said. He has used his own words, from behind bars, to tell us what he’s going through. All of that, and a little bit more, is at your fingertips:

And if you want to take action, you have choices.  Access Now has a campaign aimed at the US government’s funding of the Egyptian military.  The ‘No to Military Trials’ campaign has online actions scheduled for tomorrow, November 9.

Edited to add:

The No Military Trials campaign is holding an international day of solidarity on November 12.  They have more information on other solidarity efforts here.

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