It was interesting to read how different groups within a nation can influence groups of power such as the regime and inspire others to rise. Media, specifically social media, has allowed a population of young activists to rise. These activists range from 20`s to early 30`s and stand with different groups within Saudi Arabia. Although the article contained a lot of details that broke down the political perspective of Saudi Arabia I was surprised there wasn’t more details that directly addressed the Women2Drive issue although they did tie in women briefly, but it mainly focused on the pressure put on the regime to change. The use of media has allowed not only for these groups of protestors to exchange ideologies, but also as a communication device to gather together and essentially keep their “campaigns” alive and updated to the public. Although the groups had different individual goals they all had the similar goal of getting the regime to do something for the people of Saudi Arabia.
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.
I like how HarassMaps is able to use media as a medium to spread their message throughout Egypt. Not only do they advocate their message regarding sexual harassment, but they are able to educate the public about what it is, who it affects, and who are the perpetrators. It also allows for volunteers how have experienced sexual harassment to help others understand what it is and prevent it from happening to others. I like how they emphasize that a certain type of woman isn’t the target; instead it can happen to anyone. Same with the people who perform the sexual harassment, like the stat that says only 45% of adult men do it while the rest are women or children which most people do not realize. It is true that using media as a medium is an advantage when it comes to advocating because as HarassMap has stated it is accessible to a larger population, broadens who it reaches, and it is able to be used as an immediate source. It`s interesting to see how projects like these take off to actually help the cause they are advocating for, similar to the projects we are creating in class.
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.
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.
Not 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.