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Social Networking Threatens to Topple Regime?
Social Networking Threatens to Topple Regime?
Facebook, blogs, and political participation in general are apparently huge threats to the Egyptian government.
Saturday, August 2,2008 10:25
by Manar , Manarisms
Facebook Group

Picture taken moments before the arrest of 6 April Youth Movement members. Source: Facebook group

Facebook, blogs, and political participation in general are apparently huge threats to the Egyptian government. Fourteen young Egyptians have been arrested for allegedly “assembling, hampering with traffic, and attempting to topple the regime” in Sidi Bishr beach in Alexandria on the anniversary of the 1952 Revolution that overthrew the monarchy—a national holiday in Egypt. The detainees are part of a Facebook group called “6 April Youth Movement” named after the April 6 General Strike for the People of Egypt—which garners over 72,000 members. Although the group is not affiliated with any political parties, on July 23, the day of their arrest, thirty members showed solidarity with Ayman Nour by visiting the headquarters of his party. Nour is the former leader of el-Ghad Party who has been wrongfully detained by the Mubarak regime since January 2005 for daring to run against him in the last (s)election. The regime conveniently charged Nour with “forging power of attorneys” to create the nascent political party—a claim he continues to deny. According to al-Ahram Weekly:

Police officers forced [the 6 April Youth] off the beach and onto the streets of Al-Raml where they continued singing and waving flags, one of which was attached to a kite.

“A truck packed with Central Security personnel arrived and arrested 14 of the 30 demonstrators while the rest managed to flee,” Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, who met the arrested group while in custody, told Al-Ahram Weekly.[...]The arrested denied any links with political parties or the Muslim Brotherhood. “They told investigators that they did not advocate destructive ideas, let alone toppling the regime. They said they would not even incite people to stage a civil disobedience,” says Eid.

[...]Bloggers, and Facebook activists in particular, have become a thorn in the Egyptian authorities’ side, especially after attempts to organise a nationwide strike on 6 April in support of textile workers in Al-Mahala Al-Kobra.

“The government believes that the number of cyberspace activists, most of whom are not affiliated with political parties, is growing steadily. What really worries them is that these young activists are ordinary people who have the potential to organise a demonstration or a strike,” says Eid.

Blogger and activist Mina Zekri agrees. “The authorities have clamped down on the 6 April activists because they are terrified of the idea that ordinary people, without any political party affiliation, are developing the potential to instigate political action. Even the phrase ‘6 April youth’ is enough to ruffle the feathers of the government. The security apparatus clearly believes that this kind of opposition has the ability to incite people to demonstrate. That’s why they hit them hard in Alexandria, where they were just flying a kite with an Egyptian flag attached to it.” [Read the full article here]

Facebook Group

Translation: Free the 6 April Youth Detainees. Source: Facebook group

It seems like the easier it has become to organize and communicate, the more tyrannical regimes have become. Thus, joining a Facebook group or creating a candid blog is now equivalent to wearing a “shoot-me” sign. Initially, the dictatorship’s actions appear petty and overly paranoid. After all, if one were to plan out the toppling of a regime, s/he would not exactly “create an event” on Facebook, or blog about it. However, these online outlets are more than just organizing tools. While dictatorships work to break people down into despair and apathy, perhaps a blog or a Facebook group is the only place where dissidents do not feel alone—especially when 72,000 others show solidarity. In addition to the “usual suspects” (his typical dissidents) and the deteriorating economic conditions, Mubarak should fear a rise of political consciousness among the youth in Egypt. Then again, I am sure paranoia is a dictator’s middle name.

Posted in Human Rights , Prisoners of Conscience  
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