Constitutional Reformists & Saudi Arabia

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Most Arabs would agree that Saudi Arabia needed change without thinking the issues and drastic measurements that needed to be partaken. Before 2011, constitution reformist in Saudi Arabia have receive extreme punishments from the regime. A major penalty occurred in February 2007, during the release of a petition signed by many activists. The ten leading members of the movement were arrested. Many of them were important figures to the Sahwa’s intifada in the 1990s. This caused them to establish the first completely  independent Human Rights non-governmental organization (NGO) known as (SCPRA).

SCPRA was able reach out to others through the internet which was considered a huge mistake. The internet gave constitutional reformists the ability to connect with a wide range of other people, many who ranged in age and obtain different ideas. Through Facebook, many of the constitutional reformists reached out to the youth which cause them to become more active in their political thought. Many of the youth were ready to challenge the authority of others such as sheikhs, or Arab leaders.

Not only that, but this interconnectivity help sent the young Saudis abroad to impose believes and advocate for King Abdallah. Throughout this recruitment many young constitutional reformist emerged. Their ideas and actions actually contributed to the boot of Mubarak by publishing a provocative communique arguing that the only way Saudi Arabia can avoid revolution is by constitution reform. It can be assumed that the conversation of constitution reform influenced the Egyptians to desire a new form of government resulting in the protests after the realization of the need to dismiss Hosni Mubarak as an sort of authority.

The SCPRA led to forms of documentations such as the ” Towards a State of Right Institutions” petition which demanded an elected parliament with real powers and an appointment to a prime minister rather than a king. This petition was signed by many big names that made Saudi Arabia hopeful of changed. Eventually constitution reformists process in creating forms that demand change is the regime made a difference. More jobs were created and more funding for housing was provided.

However, not everything was rainbows and flowers. The police forces were more strict to those who protest about further call to action about reforming the regime. Communication outlets were destroyed such  websites including Facebook.This just comes show some of the situations constitutional reformists had to face in their attempt to make a change in Saudi Arabia.

Ultimately, was I have learned is that many difficult situations emerged  in order to reform Saudi Arabia and realized that SCPRA became an initial point to these events. From what I have read, I can conclude that some effective measurements of hope of change are the establishment of documentations that state what kind of change one is hoping for. I feel that if other areas of the Middle East took this approach they would be more successful. Yet again, this only sounds easier said than done and would determine on the extent of their system’s corruption.

Constitutional Reformists & Saudi Arabia

You Stink

The YouStink campaign targets removing the garbage that the Lebanon government refuses to acknowledge. The movement has an active website that is published in two languages to accommodate both the locals facing the issue and those who are interested in learning more. Not only does it provide their mission and what they stand for as a group but also have direct links to social media accounts that provide even more opinions and information. What amazed me were the pictures in the article written by Taylor. It was powerful to see not only the amount of trash just there in the open, but how the protesters are dealt with. They are hosed down, beaten, shot at, and injured fighting for sanitation in their homes. You think that the government would take action to help the people. They are asking for a simple thing, which is to pick up the trash. Without following through the spread of disease as a problem arises. I put myself in their situation and it sounds horrible: the thought that trash would just pile up in the streets.

You Stink

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

Organized Football Fandom in Egypt and #ElnenySigns

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The Ultras

One panelist discussed the the Ultras, the premiere football fandom in Egypt, and their relation to Egypt’s militarized state. In February of 2012, a riot broke out in the Port Said stadium during an Egyptian Domestic League football match, resulting in 73 deaths and 73 trials. The riot began with El Masry (home) fans storming the field and attacking El Ahly (away) players, causing the players to seek refuge in the changing rooms while police attempted to control the riot. Brute force was used by the police and the fans, and in the wake of the riots, Egypt’s domestic league was shut down for two years (which eventually became indefinite). Strict policing of football stadiums was set in place and football fans across Egypt were robbed of their outlet to the game.

Leading up to the Port Said riot, the Ultras played a key role in organized political advocacy and even in rebellious street fights. The group has an immensely creative and efficient system of organization and powerful group protest that derives from the organization and cheering of their football fandom. The Ultras’ organization, rowdiness, and effective crowd-rallying performances made the Ultras a target of the militarized state. The state feared the Ultras for other reasons as well: the Ultras had a great nationalist spirit to them, and their strive for a state of pleasure and fun threatened the military’s idea of Egyptian culture and practices of the state. So, when the Port Said riot occurred, the state capitalized on the opportunity to shut down football in Egypt and attempt to sever the Ultras. Determined to regain the stadiums as public space, the Ultras passionately joined the riots and protests of the militarized state.

The Ultras offer the idea of the “imagined state” to the revolution;  their immense football fandom created an imagined sense of community that connects the fans across Egypt with the management and players of their favorite team in an interactive manner. This ability to imagine an idealized state fuels the revolutionists’ abilities to imagine an improved Egyptian government, with strong and progressive ties between state and civilian.

#Elneny Signs

The Egyptian football league closure resulting from the Port Said riot caused Egyptian football professionals to leave the country and seek other professional leagues to play in. One Egyptian nationalist, Mohammed Elneny, who was a successful Egyptian national player in the U21 division was driven to a Swiss league, where he would go on to win the Swiss Super League with his team three consecutive times. In January of this year, Elneny signed with one of the world’s largest clubs and a major club in the British Premiere League, Arsenal. gun__1452767415_elneny2

Elneny has had a tumultuous journey to success and a $17 million contract with the internationally renowned Arsenal. His resiliency to deal with the Egyptian revolution, having to leave his home country at a young age, and still train to become a successful player is truly astounding. Elneny was able to capitalize on his opportunities, opportunities that hundreds of aspiring Egyptians would answer if not for their governments oppression.

Organized Football Fandom in Egypt and #ElnenySigns

We are all Khaled Said

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Throughout the reading I was able to understand what “We are all Khaled Said” meant and what it represented to the people in Egypt. Majority of the youth in Egypt is growing up in a dysfunctional country were there are great scales of unemployment, drug abuse, poor quality education, and a corrupt legal system. As stated in the article Distorting Digital Citizenship, 62% of the population in Egypt is under twenty nine years old.

Many social media outlets have helped enabled uprising in many countries experiencing inhuman behavior towards citizens. One of the important movements in Egypt that spread rapidly would be “We are all Khaled Said” through the social network of Facebook. This movement helped the youth fight back the abuse they were receiving from the police through the incident of Alexandrian Khaled Said whom was beaten to death by police. Khaled Said was an indirect symbol who was able to represent the youth because he was easily relatable and his incident evolved the movement aimed towards the Emergency Law. Through this law, police powers were not limited, there was censorship, and citizens had no rights. The WAAKS allowed the starting of other small social media that address various of other issues Egypt faced such as sexual assault, marriage, drugs, etc. This aided the youth in seeing how important and influential social networks can be and recognizing the power it can have within their youth culture.

Khaled Said had a history of drug abuse and being problematic. He may not have been an ideal heroic symbol but he helped advance a rebellion against Hosni Mubarak former president would was eventually thrown over. Although there are still many remaining problems in Egypt to be faced this has helped spread awareness within the youth. Many are still hopefully that the youth will be more politically inclined and use the readily available and cheap forms such as the media and internet to gather together toward their human rights.

We are all Khaled Said

Digital Activism and Social Movements in Egypt

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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

Social Media: A Catalyst For Change

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Social media networks have given power to the individual, particularly the youth. With a digital tool that is safe and easy to use, activists have the ability to use social media networks to communicate with large numbers of people, and ignite a revolution, in authoritarian countries. This was the case for a repressive Egypt, where social movements like Kefaya (The Egyptian Movement for Change) and the April 6th Youth Movement, paved the way for one of the recent important digital forms of activism which was a catalyst for the Egyptian Revolution, the “We Are All Khaled Said” (WAAKS) youth movement.

For a long time, the youth in Egypt has had a tapestry of unanswered problems which has resulted from the ruling of the National Democratic Party (NDP) under Hosni Mubarak. The youth, that encompass the majority of the population, has been constantly marginalized and repressed both on the political and economic scale. But, the final straw came on June 6, 2010 when Khaled Said became a martyr after his gruesome death at the hands of two police officers.

Khaled Said’s death is one of the many unfortunate examples of Egypt’s harsh authoritarian regime, specifically pertaining to the Emergency Law. His death was one that many Egyptian citizens could relate to, thus the name of the famous Facebook page, “We Are All Khaled Said.” What made this campaign have such a national impact was the role that social media played. By using an online platform, like Facebook, to discuss the harsh realities that the Egyptian youth face, WAAKS created a campaign that was not going to be ignored.

Even though the WAAKS youth movement caused attention, as Ali and El-Sharnouby pointed out, “…people are still waiting for their problems to be addressed.” Even after the January 25 Revolution, Egyptian youths still face many unanswered problems including low-quality education, no steady income and employment, drug abuse, etc. There is definitely still so much to be done in the fight against Egypt’s repressive authoritarian regime but social media networks have illustrated that youth can use these digital tools to share their problems and move toward change.

 

Social Media: A Catalyst For Change

The Power and Problems of WAAKS

While reading about the “We Are All Khaled Said” movement, what struck me most was the ways in which the movement failed. These included narrativizing a “two-dimensional” version of Said by failing to discuss the issues that he faced and that many of Egypt’s youth still face, which included drug abuse, poverty and low-quality education, just to name a few. Instead, Said was made out to be a martyr of police brutality and used to spearhead the movement against the Emergency Act.

“The Khaled Said of WAAKS represents the inclusive youth of the Egyptian revolution, while the other Khaled Said represents the exiled Egyptian,” write Amro Ali and Dina El-Sharnouby in Wired Citizenship.

WAAKS had the opportunity to use Said’s murder to open up a dialogue on multiple social issues that Egypt’s youth faces. WAAKS could have done this by focusing on the social problems that Said struggled with throughout his life. Instead, they polished his story in order to better position him as a martyr of the single issue of police brutality.

Victims like Said should be used to encourage public-thinking about the complex issues that societies face. One of digital activism’s biggest strengths is also one of its largest challenges. Internet-users have grown accustomed to neatly packaged, bite-sized bits of information. Part of the Internet’s power to mobilize individuals comes from users’ ability to instantly share easily-digestible information like tweets and status updates. Although problematic, WAAKS’s simplifying of Said’s story increased the power he granted them by giving the movement a more clear objective.

Would WAAKS have had the same power to mobilize people if it acknowledged the complexity of Said’s social problems instead of simplifying him into a martyr of police brutality?

In a reality that faces highly complex social issues, how can internet campaigns better address such complexities while still influencing people on large scale?

— Johnny Rafter

The Power and Problems of WAAKS

Social Media in the Middle East

After reading both articles, I learned the social impact of the Khaled Said campaign. Although I had heard about Khaled Said and the facebook campaign during the revolution in 2011 I was intrigued to learn about his life before his untimely death. I now understand why the campaign was so compelling and popular because Khaled Said was a young man suffering from the same difficulties that more than half the country was facing. Not only was he young and seeking to make a better life but he was a living example of the hardships of the youth seeking an education, jobs, and security for a good life. What I found interesting was that his death at the hands of officers demonstrated the exact problem of the country who was willing to take the life of their children to attain power and regulate their ruthless regime. It was significant for Egypt because his death also proved to the country and protestors that the state was unwilling to comply with their demands and ultimately was another strategy to reinforce fear and order back into the people, particularly the youth. This then added on to the list of problems the country was dealing with, police brutality, and a grave violation of human rights. The revolution was essentially a human rights revolution and the youth were seeking an opportunity to attain something with their lives as the societies do in the West.

However, I believe it instead spread another revolution globally on social media that not only changed the way social media was used but it spread the horrors and realities of Egypt’s crises. As described in the article, “Social Media Revolutions” Wolfgang Danspeckgruber states “Social Media Networks operate via social networks, which means that we generally trust the information we see from friends and acquaintances online.” This is essential because the fact that people were trusting the social media reports more than the journalists and news coverage caused the social media campaign to be successful. Therefore, the Khaled Said campaign changed Egypt internally and even though many of the country’s traditions and conservative principles look down upon Said’s personality and life before he was killed, he impacted the majority group of Egypt’s young demographic.

What’s interests me about the Khaled Said campaign was the way it took off online. And I now I’m curious if something similar were to happen today for instance, another massive protest or revolution scenario, would social media provide an even bigger outlet or similar wave globally? Now that there are more popular forms of social media like Instagram would the response be bigger. I ask this because the response for the recent Paris attacks occurred very quickly and the hashtag #prayforparis took off among the youth and celebrities from all over the world. Not only am I astounded from the response from Khaled Said and the recent Paris attacks I’m interested to see if the world will respond the same for the Middle East as they did in Paris.

 

Social Media in the Middle East

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