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?

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

It is astonishing to me how easily people fighting for simple online freedom and accessibility can be held captive and punished for doing so. After reading the pieces I have come to realize that there are many talented scholars and organizational groups who have been working together to ensure that there is an online outlet which can help activists speak out, build their own ideas and become more knowledgeable and rounded human beings.

Bassel Khartabil’s story was an example of one of these scholars who have pushed for a broader border on virtual world access. In the ‘Captured in the line of duty’ section of The Guardian’s online newspaper on Khartabil’s accomplishments, captivity, whereabouts and some information on the Creative Commons, we read about Khartabil’s success in introducing his encoded formulation that worked to make the Firefox open-source web browser available in the arabic language.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.47.05 PMNot only was Bassel Khartabil’s work brilliant but it lead to making the Creative Common’s organization more widely known, as he gained recognition from several other respectable sources and projects. The piece continues with explaining that Khartabil was able to provide input for a developing project called New Palmyra Project.

The continuation of Khartabil’s work, even while being in custody, shows his integrity and determination to help expand the online world in his country, and work towards making the internet a free source for all. The fact that Khartabil took the risk to work towards a meaningful cause even after being behind bars and captured, exemplifies a true heroic and brave figure, because it is a demonstration of someone who has fought for his beliefs, even in extremely dangerous situations.

It is heartbreaking to see that someone so talented, self driven, be incarcerated and killed, as speculations have suggested, since he has not been seen or heard of for quite some time now. The article finishes off with a memorable statement. It mentions that there needs to be more people in the society such as Bassel Khartabi, who are willing to fight for change. In my opinion, I completely agree with the statement that was made at the end of the piece. Although, scholars and activists should take extra precautions regarding their work, the world will not change without those who are willing to put themselves at risk to be the change they want to see in the world. People, such as Bassel Khartabi, are the ones who will strive, die and provide the change this world needs. With the brains, intelligence, and good hearted actions of these people it is safe to say the world may be changing, and internet accessibility as well as the right to speak up and find your own voice, in countries which prohibit that, may be expanding.

The text was inspiring, yet a bit scary. Being punished for working hard on something you believe in, expanding and creating access to more sources for the people all over the world, seems unfair to me. However, seeing someone follow their beliefs despite the possible consequences is very inspiring, and makes you realize how anyone with the will can help make a change in this world.

The Fight for Internet Freedom and Accesibility

Free Speech

The first reading addresses the issue many countries in the Middle East are facing with their government and how social media affects this. The web site article mentions how many bloggers would much rather be activists through social media platforms than becoming journalist. Bloggers mention if they were to become journals it would take away the freedom to say what they want and would hinder their ability to push boundaries. They see journalist as simply “reporting” what is going on which takes away from using specific street language or event starting movements. The internet platform is a very important tool for example, bloggers in Tunisia posted testimonials videos of former political figures that ended up in prison. These videos allow movements to spark and help people see what really is happening in their country. The article also discusses how the government will prohibit the use of certain cites because they know how impactful they can be and fear the power they can have.

The second reading is about Bassel Khartabil who developed a free software which granted access to the internet to help his country start free culture movements. He wanted people to be able to “gain new tools to express themselves and communicate.” In Syria the internet is censored and Bassel went against the law so he was detained. Like his friend Joi Ito says, ” It is a reminder that community members do work that is dangerous.” I think it is important to see how far people will go to be able to do the right things even though it is seen as wrong through the governments eyes. The more I learn about other countries the more I see how truly free we are in America. Imagine living somewhere where they censor something we use everyday, for example, like Facebook?

Free Speech

Bloggers in the Middle East

It was interesting to see how bloggers in the Middle East are in a way more motivated than other parts of the world. The people trust bloggers than they do the journalist. Even though the government is doing what they can to stop the bloggers they are more reliable because they voice their true positions regardless of government ideologies and threats. They know that they can be punished for doing so, but they do it anyway; this allows them to become a reliable source of information for the people. They are seen as activist rather than journalist and use that power to advocate their cause local and internationally as well as bring people together.

An example of a blogger would be Bassel. He is praised for his activism through technology but was taken away. The article takes about his own personal build up to become an activist through media. He developed a skill and shared it with the Arab world, but the government saw that as a threat, just like they see large gatherings as a threat. Even though his intentions weren’t to directly attack the government, the service he provided for the public was enough for a red flag to go up.

Bloggers in the Middle East

The Controversy of Activism

In the blog post “New Media, New Civics? My Bellwether lecture at the Oxford Internet Institute” Ethan exercises the question whether social media was an essential platform that extruded Mubarak. It’s evident that some social media did cover important events that others mediums did not, for example, the protests in Gezi Square in Turkey. But is the internet given too much credit?

This question goes back to the role of anonymity that I discussed in my first blog about the effects of social media in the We are all Khaled Said” post. Can people really be activist without face to face interaction?

It’s a controversial topic because many of the social movement where assisted by online planning such as #FUCKSCAF and #YOUSTINK. If it wasn’t for the anonymity, people would not be bold enough to question their human rights as much as people do online. Is it fair it to distinguish this type of action from the original meaning of activism and categorize it as “slacktivism”?

According to the online dictionary, activism is defined as “the policy of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political and social change. It technically still is activism.

Ethan compares the Arabs’ activism to the Hispanics’ activism. Hispanics have similar ways of campaigning for political and social change but they also approach their contest a little different. For example, a group of undocumented Hispanics went back to their home country in order to receive trial in a different court, where their legal status was more likely to be granted. The group did this not only for themselves but for a bigger group of undocumented individuals. In a sense, Hispanics have demonstrated to have a more strategic way of activism. Yet again, you have to look at what this indigenous groups are picketing against; sovereignty and a presidential system.

The Controversy of Activism

Arab Bloggers and the Marginalization of Free Speech on the Internet

In response to the online article by Jessica Dheere, Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label, her intuitive ideas on the state of blogging in the Middle East and North Africa, were inspiring and an exemplar of how influential the contributions of foreign based activists are to the empowerment of peripheral perspectives. In countries like Egypt, where bloggers are becoming the voice of a highly impulsive media revolution, social media activists are just beginning to temper the persecution of peaceful social movement and the suppression of internet technology. Dheere (2008), finds that within the open source environment of the internet, the influx of information exchange, has both realized political engagement and expanded the communicative capabilities of the Arab World. However, the imprisonment of bloggers is causing activists to consider journalistic expression as an outlet for their online identities (mediashift.org). While blogging is constructively a way for activists to inform revolutions and empower the work of their peers, their scholarly contributions to freedom of speech and human rights, are being criminalized by regimes that make internet activism illegal. Essentially by controlling the communicative capacity of Arab people, these commanding and authoritative regimes are functioning to subjugate the extent of influence blogging activist have over the resolve of their social revolutions and the meditation of their followers.

In the online article Bassel Khartabil: Fears for Man Who Brought Open Internet to the Arab World, by Zoe Corbyn the author expounds upon the Syrian Assad’s incarceration of Bassel Khartabil. As a human rights activist and social media developer, Khartabil’s open-source internet technology (Aiki Lab) has not only improved communication between regions of oppressive Middle Eastern cultures, but also advanced the capabilities of information exchange around the world. Corbyn (2015), sees the imprisonment of Khartabil in 2012, as an attempt by the Syrian government to strike the technologists, journalistic activists, and human rights specialists of the social media movements in Syria (theguardian.com). Her subjective position on Khartabil’s contributions as an innovative developer, who has been wrongfully accused and detained by a controlling regime of corrupt officials, is quite inquisitive and imploring for justice and the safe return of the activist. Khartabil’s development of new language to communicate openly with outside members of the free software community, has actively expanded the range of voices, in support of the Arab movements. While his modernism is quite obvious, it is Khartabil’s influence over the internet and communication technology that has caused him to be unjustly condemned by an unaccountable regime of injudicious oppressors.

Arab Bloggers and the Marginalization of Free Speech on the Internet

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?