Political Reform in Arab Spring

How much action does one group need to take in order to get political reform in their home country? This was one of several questions going through my mind while I read this article. The author did an excellent job explaining the history, government structure, dominating religions and the overall status quo of the political atmosphere in Saudi Arabia. It helped me brush up on the type of government that was established and a brief description on who was running it. But anyways the main focus was about young activists from all different areas of society: young, old, poor, working-class, you name it was in favor for dramatic political reform. Similar to the young people in Egypt, they wanted equal rights for all. But on the other hand, the major difference between the overall protests against these regimes is the reaction from the regimes themselves. As I read more about the article the Saudi Arabian regime made a significant difference in economic reform instead. With money gained from U.S. aid, donations and other outside channels, they used that money to establish the creation of more jobs and subsidized housing. At first I thought this was amazing that the younger, poor citizens are gaining some economic benefits for at least the short-term. But as I kept reading it looked more and more this was a temporary fixed to the long-term problems. It turns out the regimes economic reform had ulterior motives, it was a means to help stomp out the protests for political reform by targeting in their minds the backbone of the revolution: the young and poor. So in turn their efforts was semi-successful and it was only a momentary distraction than an actual obstacle. So their struggles reminded me of what I learned from a different class discussing how long it takes for those long-term problems to be solved. I believe these individuals may not get the political reform they want by tomorrow or in a month or so. But with enough hard work and determination, they will get the equal rights they truly deserve.

Political Reform in Arab Spring

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

How far does one go to make a difference of making a social taboo to talk about into an open conversation? This was one of several questions that went through my mind while reading different articles about the rise of sexual harassment towards women in Egypt. From looking through a set of graphics about the subject matter it was a larger deal then what I presumed. At first I thought these cases of sexual harassment these women are dealing with from cat calls from strangers to men openly asking to have sex with them. But as I read more of these articles, it was more than just that. Some cases was mentioned some of these women were actually groped and other inappropriate physical contact that is only a few steps away for situations like this escalating to a full on rape attempt. That was shocking at first, but the first two articles discussed an app that could help inform, promote and communicate with others. The app that was mentioned called Harrassmap, from the reading it mentions one of the primary functions was to list helpful tips and resources for these women who have been sexual harassed. Furthermore it’s trying to established “safe zones”, general safe havens that help deter that kind of behavior and if needed stop the altercation altogether. The other article that talked about this program in more detail talked about the long term benefits, from on an individual level to a national scale. I liked when it listed some of the secondary features of the program. It uses data collecting to inform and displayed listed or potential offenders in a specific area. This program really reminds of an American website called Megan’s Law, which uses data collecting to display and inform the general public of registered sex offenders living near any said area.

So overall I found these articles made me feel more hopeful about all these issues happening in the Middle East in general from past readings. For once I think that this one digital campaign idea/concept is gaining progress and actually making a dramatic difference in people’s lives.

Sexual Harassment in Egypt: Social Taboo or Legitimate illegal act?

Bassel Khartabil: Imprisoned Unjustly or Not?

How far would you go to do the right thing, even if it meant going to prison for it? That was one of many questions I asked myself if I was in same position as him. As I read a couple articles about this guy and was truly amazed once I learned more about him. Through reading these articles I learned some basic information. I learned he was born and raised in Syria, was an only child, gained an interest in computers and coding from his uncle. Furthermore I learned is he got a bachelors and a master’s degree. But I was truly surprised once I found about one of his major accomplishments to that region of the world. He helped bring more open-source programs and access to an area of the world where the internet is heavily censored and monitored. As well as help a popular open-source site he was working at called Creative Commons to translate the text and other information into Arabic. This in turn make this site more accessible and spanned countries instead of certain regions of one country. But when I was reading more about his history I learned more about the tragic turn about his eventual arrest and detainment. I felt some empathy for this individual, he went to great lengths to make peoples live better, but did it regardless if he was praised or unfortunately in this case imprisoned for it. That is very admirable of him and few people in this world have the convictions to do something right regardless of the number of obstacles in his way. So I was happy to learn he found someone to share his life with during his imprisonment and got married. But I also found out his troubles were not over, I learned shortly after he was moved to an undisclosed location for another special court hearing and no has heard from him since. So in conclusion this is another real life application of how far activists will go for social change, even if they have to pay the ultimate price for that change.

Bassel Khartabil: Imprisoned Unjustly or Not?

Dahieh: owned by public or private hands?

Who has the most influence in a changing landscape after a major civil war? Is it the general public or the private sector that ultimately controls and influences the rules and policies? With the case of Beirut, after a large civil war that ended during the 1990’s. The power shift has been put into the hands of the private sector. More specifically over issues like land ownership and who has access to it. From the articles I read about public use of certain parks and neighborhoods were very strictly regulated by owners. For example, a popular park called Hursh Beirut, was closed off out of fear of certain undesirable activities. Actions like kissing, running on the grass, having a picnic, etc. As I read on in the article it became more and more clear to me that public space in this city is being closely controlled by the high ranking members of localized government and the private sector.

At first when I realized large chunks of land are being closed off and reorganized, my first big question is why? Further reading into text I discovered that is one of the biggest motivators to make this happen is purely profit reasons. I learned that with some of the blocked off areas of property was being reorganized as fancy, premiere plots of real estate for the private sector. They went through all the stops, security guards posted around these neighborhoods around the clock, restricting access to these open spaces, etc. This and other incidents after like the assassination of their Prime Minster has left the city more divided and monitored than ever.

Overall after reading this article the conclusions I came are some of the following: that citizens access to public space and public life as a whole in this city is slowly being crushed to death. As well as that it’s more of a heavily controlled security state rather than a city freely accessed by all.

Dahieh: owned by public or private hands?

After Tahir Film Festival

Another event I went to learn more background information about the Tahir revolution in Egypt was by attending a local film festival, which collect a set of short films that visually displays, discusses and raises overall awareness of what really happened in Tahir and after the president resigned.

The first set of short films laid the general foundation of the conference’s overall message in my opinion of to remember their actions and continue to move towards change to make it last for the long term. Anyways the first few short films had a collection of clips of protesters during the beginning and the highpoints of the protests in the Tahir Square. An illustration of this was a rough timeline on the different levels of opposition the protesters were dealing with over the span of the first 24 hours. From screaming insults to rocks being thrown at them to even some individuals throwing Molotov cocktails from the rooftops. Those series of clips made the whole event real to me more than any article about the subject could. On the hand, one of the other reoccurring themes these short films had was once in a while there would be a short clip of the day to day activities of people in Cairo. An example of this was a short video of two men handing and throwing large containers of coke bottles in the back of a local supermarket. These mundane activities were a breath air in the numerous acts and portrayals of violence.

Another aspect I observed towards the second half of the short film line-up was the use of artistic expression in the subject matter. An illustration of this expression came in the form of a set of b-roll, exterior shots of decaying neighborhoods or buildings. With that being displaying and audio clips gathered from a project called “Speak2Tweet” played in the background. Individuals were able to leave voicemails as a means to talk and protest these issues due to the shut-down of localized connections to the Internet.

Lastly my overall impressions of this film festival was this, I think it was a wonderful and successful idea to bring different designers, film makers and activists to document about these issues in a visual format. But after seeing all of the short films, some of the creators got caught up too much in the artistic expression aspect of their projects and may have lost sight of the overall message it tries to deliver in the first place.

After Tahir Film Festival

Miltary trails for Citizens: Is it necessary?

Is the whole truth displayed in the news anymore? That was the major question in the forefront of my mind when I watched a clip of interviews following the social revolution later became called “The Maspero Massacre.” These protestors were having another rally and one thing lead to another. Than all of the sudden military personnel started driving their vehicles recklessly up and down the streets in order to disband the rally. When that became no longer effective, some soldiers start opening fire on the protesters in order to break up the rally. Several people were killed, heavily injured and arrested by the military personnel. I originally saw this clip in a larger set of short films at a local film festival a couple days ago. Honestly when I first witnessed some of the actual footage of the rally, some of it was very shocking. Seeing the random bodies bruised, beaten and ran over in some cases, were horrifying to watch. So this short film gives this issue perfect justice on the actual realties of what was happening with current citizen and military relations.

Words can’t thoroughly expressed how I felt while watching this short film. The one feeling I felt was great empathy towards these people. They got discriminated against and in my opinion the lucky ones were the people detained for a few hours and then rereleased. At first I had no idea of the reasons of why these military personnel would commit these outrageous acts of mindless violence. But then I realized after learning some history of Egypt before and after the social revolution. Is that it had a long standing set of policies of how to treat opposition and with protesters. Such policies like for having military trials for civilians and as well as keeping the peace by any means necessary. Overall I don’t think this problem will be fixed overnight, but I think will time and effort of hard-working people to make innovative change. Than those policies will be a thing of the past.

Miltary trails for Citizens: Is it necessary?

Feminest protesters in Egypt: Activist or Criminal

Were there more than one group protesting their issues alongside everyone else in Egypt? From reading more articles about different activist groups, I realized another group of activists were protesting for social change as well as other issues like needing a democratic leader in power or addressing the police corruption. Those issues took center stage and got most of the global attention. But as mentioned before these women and many others fought for issues just as important during the time of the social revolution happening in Egypt. These feminist activists groups were trying to address and make dramatic social change within their home country with issues like sexual assault, sexual harassment and being label as a criminal without cause.

During the course of reading these articles I noticed that these feminist groups did not get equal attention by the global media as the other issues being addressed during that time. But with closer examination of the article and from information gained from previous discussions of the overall history of the Middle East. I recall the general status quo in most countries in that region that women have severe limits of how they dress, how they interact with the world and their basic rights warped into something unrecognizable. So I am not surprised their issues were not given the equal amount of attention as the other issues. Lastly the only other and in my opinion the most severe factor that has hindered their progress is how some of the controlling governments is labeling them. Once again using the recent social revolution in Egypt as my grounding example for my argument. As I read I observed the different labels that the controlling government were calling these activists and supporters. They were called some of the following: criminals, prostitutes, animals, beasts and terrorists. If you can dehumanize a group of people, it is harder for the general public to relate to them and or rally more individuals to their side. These harmful labels also destroy any legitimate integrity they have and lose their overall credibility.

So in conclusion, in my opinion this small faction of activists are being attacked more than just on a physical level. Some of them are being attacked mentally through harassment and their reputation destroyed in turn. In the end they are taking the charge in a society were women are second class citizens, and in turn fighting to be in equal footing (human rights wise) with the men.

Feminest protesters in Egypt: Activist or Criminal

Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

Is social media the best way to protest certain issues? This question was discussed indirectly through previous blog posts and in person. From reading this week’s articles and discussions, my immediate answer to this question has changed. At first I thought in order to create great political change was to have a laptop and an internet connection to do the job. But as read more and more background information about what factored and influenced these young people to rise up and fight for their rights. Once again I’m using the social revolution in Egypt during the beginning of 2011 as my frame of reference and tangible example for my argument. On one hand the social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Were an amazing outlet to input, inform and discuss several issues the young people of Egypt were dealing with, issues like police brutality, corruption, right to peaceful assembly, etc. Another aspect of this way of protest was a more covert way to discuss among fellow protesters and able to send information of their struggle to the outside world to raise more awareness of what really is going on there. Last aspect this medium gave more impact was a easier way to rally others and keep track of fellow protesters through Facebook pages like “We are all Khaled Said”

On the other hand it has some potential pitfalls, one possible scenario is once the controlling government figures out that there using social networks to protest and showing pictures or videos of their horrible acts. They could in turn shut down localized feeds to those specific sites or shut down the whole Internet in the region altogether. Furthermore the postings, blogs and articles would not really solve the problem, only telling people that something is wrong. In order to make any sort change both long and short term. The protesters have to leave their tablets, smartphones and computers behind, take it to the streets and make that change happen for themselves. As the main admin of the “We are all Khaled Said” page Wael Ghonim continues to say in several interviews after the social revolution in Egypt. He continues to downplay his role and agrees whole heartedly that he was not the real hero. He explains the young people in the streets protesting in person about these issues are the real heroes.

To conclude I will discuss some of the possible ideas I have for my project I will work on with several others in the class. One idea is using a series of memes, PSA’s or Vines to make a satirical critique and raise awareness of these human rights issues in the Middle East. Another idea is to take a traditional approach and build a webpage on programs like Square-space to raise awareness and discuss about these issues.

Social Media used for protest: Good or Bad?

R-Shief Lecture

While I attended a lecture as one of the events I needed to attend to for one of my courses. At first I had no idea what it was and how it was connected to anything about digital activism. But some of my questions were answered as the lecture was being presented. I found out the basic information about R-Shief. It is a multi-layered program that collects, organizes and displays different types of data (keyword searches and hashtags) from Twitter. Than once the data is finally collected it is able to be graphed and displayed of the most common keywords being search and the spike in popularity of said keyword on any given time and day. The site collected data in several different languages like Spanish, English and Arabic.

Another aspect of this complex program is what is the overall purpose for this site? As well as who would use it and why? Some of those questions were answers in the general background history of the program. From what I’ve learned it is meant to be a research tool for academics and scholars regardless of discipline. It’s about research and gathering data of incoming trends, ideas and social norms happening in the Middle East. I found this very interesting and was given a sum up version on how it actually works through a couple of demonstrations.

Last element of this program I learned from the lecture was where they wanted to improve on and answered some questions from the audience. Their overall goal for this program is to continue to evolve and be able to actually track where these messages are coming from. As well as pulling the data from multiple social networks like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook just to name a few. Lastly their final goal is to have this program user friendly and be able to have it integrated at the university level and they’re in the beginning steps of integrating it here at UCSB. My final observation was a question someone asked about the program to possibly translate the original language to English? She replied no and displayed a strong opinion that translating should be put into the hands of real human translators instead of computers. Overall it was an interesting lecture of innovative technology and the multiple uses the program has to offer.

R-Shief Lecture

The approach of using non-violent or violent means for social change

When I read an article about social movements and mobilization in the Middle East, I was unsure at first of the terminology the author was describing. Things like what was SMI stand for? What are these social movements ultimate end goal is? Are these movements on a massive scale spanning multiple countries or only informally organized on the local level of different regions across one country? What are the kinds of consequences that would result if individuals decide to rise and create change in their government? But while reading this article the biggest question that came to mind is this: If these social movement groups are successful in some way in making innovative change, will it be long lasting for future generations to appreciate or will it only last for a generation of people?
As I read some of my immediate questions were quickly answered. An aspect I learned from this article is the two different overall approaches to making long lasting change in their home countries, run by these regimes with strict rules and regulations that limit the freedoms of some or all people that live under them. One approach is the use of non-violence, commonly expressed in online social media campaigns like “Black Lives Matter” raising awareness of police brutality towards black people in America. Another example of expressing non-violence to make change is the use of protest/peaceful assembly. I think this a great first step for any social movement to start getting the word out to the general public. But, it also has some potential consequences for those actions. An example of this was a group in Egypt called EOHR took over and protested in a steel factory. But was shortly ended when police forces coming in to stop and or detain protesters. Sadly one of the protesters were killed during the struggle. Than on the other hand is the use of actual violence. The most common way to express this option for social change is the use of defacing/destroying private or public property and possibly harming others associated with the regime a.k.a. riots.
So in conclusion do I believe that one approach is better than the other? I don’t think so, all I know is this: this region of the world has been in conflict in some shape or form for more than a decade now. On the idea of people having basic human rights like freedom to vote, peaceful assembly and due process. As well as the ultimate question in how are these people in these oppressive regimes will get the freedom they deserve.

The approach of using non-violent or violent means for social change