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.

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Bassel Khartabil: Imprisoned Unjustly or Not?

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

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

Women in the Battle

It is interesting to see how Egypt struggles to gain human rights for their youth, but then you have intersectionality playing a role when it includes between men and women. Women, just like men go out on the ground to protest and spread information on the media. The media uses this trait as a way to either twist the story to seem more appealing or catch the attention of the viewers. Sexual harassment is a common obstacle that the young women face while protesting, but also receive the physical beatings that the men receive. International media is able to mold the concepts that common viewers have of Egyptians and their “intentions” given the attack of a journalist, especially the blonde woman. They don`t focus on the fact that it could have been state officials sent to create a bad public image for those fighting for their human rights. Although there is all this effort for promotion and advocacy of these movements, the outside sources will affect the support gained towards their causes.  Women have to fight not only for the general human rights wanted by the youth but to be heard as individuals and not treated differently based on their gender.

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I would like to focus my project on a feminist issue. I would be open to any kind of media frame because I would like to expand my knowledge on how to create different types of media. I would like to do the readings on women`s rights provided on the website to pinpoint which movement/campaign I would like to focus on.

Women in the Battle

Digital Activism and Social Movements in Egypt

khaled-said-by-hommad

The advancements of social media technologies has very distinctly impacted and fostered the growth and change of the spread of information accessible to the people of Egypt. Prior to digital activism, social movements in Egypt may have gained merely hundreds of supporters, as opposed to the thousands or more that are able to spread word of various causes through the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter. This newfound use of technology to spread awareness of various issues in Egypt helped directly to lead to the Egyptian revolution, “which would have greatly affected the participatory thresholds of other Egyptians and led to the quashing of the revolt before it could gather the momentum it eventually did,” (Faris- Social Media)

Ahmed Ghanim defines social media as platforms for user-generated ideas, and shared his account of how he experienced it’s contribution to the Egyptian revolution. I found it interesting that he stated that there were only two main forms of media for most of his life, and that they were so drastically different. He explained that the soft-spoken “other” type of media is what has been transformed by technology and social media, and this has helped it to become more mainstream in opposition to the media messages put out by the government. An aspect of this article and of the other that I found very interesting however, is what was stated about who the users are of these social media platforms. The majority of the users are regular people and citizens, but there is a percentage of users who belong to an “elite” group of activists who use the mediums to further a specific agenda, which usually is some form of response to the ruling regimes in Egypt.

Much of the articles were about Khaled Said, and about the contrast between his image as a martyr in the public and on Facebook which started the movements around his death, and about his personal life and the differences between the two images. Although he may have just been a flawed youth and some may argue that he wasn’t deserving of his saint-like status, his death and the movements that came about afterwards was crucial to the spread of information and outcries from other youth and citizens in the country who faced similar undeserving and brutal treatment from authority and police. I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the story of Khaled Said and the We Are Khaled Said movement, and the several movements rallying against the brutal treatment of black youth by police in America. Whether the face of a movement is necessarily an activist or saint themselves doesn’t seem to me to be very important, as long as the message being spread is one of importance and one that can help to benefit people who are being mistreated.

Digital Activism and Social Movements in Egypt

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

The class readings regarding social media revolutions and the distortion of digital citizenship, really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Egyptian youth and the expansiveness of media technology. For instance, the way that the youths of Egypt used social medias like Facebook to both reach and inform people, who would never know of or truly understand the atrocities that young people face, in countries that lack human rights for its citizens, is amazing and would probably never occur without the expansive capabilities of the internet. However, I do feel that the youth movement that started “We Are All Khalid Said” (WAAKS) was wrong for their portrayal of Said, as a martyr, to support their politically driven agenda. From my understanding, Said was not an activist of any social movement to overturn Mubarak or to thwart the Emergency Law that plagued the youths of Egypt. He was just a youth, that’s it. A young man who lived in a country that treated its youths, as if they were a burden to society. In some way, WAAKS portrayal of Khaled Said, as a saint who could do no wrong, is similar to how the youths of Egypt are portrayed as a problem to society.

While the youth movements of Egypt gain attention for their means, the reality of what is truly epidemic, that is the marginalization of Egyptian society economically and the current disadvantaged state of both the middle- and lower-classes, are not being addressed. I think that in order for the youth movements to have a greater impact on not only the Egyptian society, but also on societies from around the world, it is important that these digitalized movements address the more rooted problems that have affected the country of Egyptian for centuries, not just recently. It seems as if those who are using digital media to gain attention and inform others, are simply using predominant problems that effect both themselves and a more specified grouping of society. However, my question is if the youth movements in Egypt were to expand their agendas to address the whole of society and the human rights brutalities they all face collectively, would those involved in such movements eventually lose their anonymity and become more susceptible to brutalities against their livelihood, both individually and socially? With this said, one could conclude that the reasoning behind the specificity of the digitalized youth movements, is to the extent to which they can begin to address the many problems that face their society, without feeling personally susceptible to the atrocities their people endure, due to the exploitation of power by the hierarchy.

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

Differences in portrayal of Khaled Said

Although one of the articles mentioned that the Facebook campaign did not portray Khaled Said as he really was, I was surprised to find so many differences in his portrayal when comparing the two scholarly articles. David Faris writes that Said “appeared to be a clean-cut businessman with no prior police record” (Faris, 2013, 12) and thereby only mentions the public image that was created in the “We Are All Khaled Said” campaign. Ali and El-Sharnouby, however, state that Said was not as two-dimensional as he appeared in the media. While he was the ordinary, warmhearted guy that the media portrayed him to be, he also served time in military prison for not completing his military service and consumed illegal drugs.

In showing this more comprehensive image of Said, Ali and El-Sharnouby manage to show how the campaign managed to gain that many followers and they reveal its strengths and weaknesses. In Faris’ article, Said appears to be the guy the media portrays him to be and therefore the text only offers an incomplete understanding. Faris furthermore makes Said appear to have died because of his social media activities (uploading a sousveillance video), whereas Ali and El-Sharnouby claim that Khaled Said was sold out to and beaten up by the police after being lured into buying drugs and going to a cybercafé by a friend. Which story is made public about Said’s death makes an important difference about how he is perceived and how unjust his murder appears. Of course killing someone is never right, but the less outraged reactions of the people who knew about Said’s life and drug-consumption show that he might not have become such a unifying figure for protest if people did not perceive him as a person with a clean slate. His death might not have appeared as unwarranted to them as the death of an activist trying to fight injustice.

I furthermore found it very interesting that both articles claim different people to be the creators of the Facebook campaign. According to Faris, the creator was Google executive Wael Ghonim whereas Ali and El-Sharnouby attribute the role of creator to cyberactivist Abdelrahman Mansour, but also mention that Ghonim played an important role. However, the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook site itself states: “This page does NOT represent Khaled Said’s family and is NOT run by Wael Ghonim. It has been created and always been run by other administrators.” So is the information given in the articles simply wrong or does Ghonim’s participation have to be denied officially for his own protection?

Differences in portrayal of Khaled Said