Egyptian bloggers who were harassed and detained in Egypt are harassed and detained in the US


A group of Egyptian bloggers who have been coming to the US throughout the past three months to cover the American elections were welcomed back to the US last night by getting arrested. Ironically, their trip was sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Snip:

[W]e've been blogging a bit about the folks over at Egypt Blogs America. It's a group of 8 Egyptian bloggers who have been brought to the US for a series of first-hand looks at the election campaigns as part of a project by the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at The American University in Cairo. The first trips they visited Washington, New York and other major cities. This week, after having returned briefly to Egypt, they are on their way back to visit journalism schools to which they've been assigned in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Austin, Texas, Syracuse, New York and Nebraska. (Disclosure: We'll be collaborating on a Second Life project with them in coming weeks.) The group has done an insightful and witty job of covering the 2008 US presidential election (including links to sites such as If the World Could Vote, where 90 percent of the 614,000 people from 207 countries have picked Obama over McCain).

In their own country these bloggers are fighting for freedom of speech and the press. Many of them have been actively harassed by their government for their efforts. Wael Abbas, for example, had his YouTube account shut down because of his anti-torture coverage.

Imagine their surprise last night when enroute back to the US, two of the bloggers were arrested and detained; one for four hours and the other for ten before being released to do what they came here to do -- observe and record.

(Ironically, they arrive in the US as the Egyptian government in recent weeks has launched a campaign of arrests and harassment of bloggers.)
Egypt Blogs America; Gets Arrested (Eureka Deja Vu, thanks Joshua Fouts). Above, a screengrab of Wael Abbas' blog.

Previously on Boing Boing:

* Egypt: blogger Kareem Amer gets 4 years for insulting Islam
* Egyptian blogger Alaa to be released from prison
* Egyptian anti-torture blogger Wael Abbas says YouTube shut his account.
* Egypt: worldwide rallies for jailed blogger Kareem Amer on Fri. Apr. 27
* Supporters work to free Egypt blogger Kareem (NPR "Xeni Tech")

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  1. I am so embarrassed! Is this how we model democracy and press freedom to the world? Is this how we show support for crusading journalists who are working to improve things in their own countries?

    Travelling under the aegis of USAID and they’re not admitted to the country. Truly Homeland Security is running amok.

    What a travesty!

  2. if one is not even safe as an invitee of the US government, what sensible person would ever risk visiting America? Or is that the idea?

  3. It is truly sad when news like this does not surprise me anymore. I con only hope that the election tomorrow will be an indicator on the times to come.

  4. think on this

    “Seventeen Chinese prisoners who have been held for nearly seven years in Guantánamo Bay will be informed on Monday [3 November 2008] that they could spend the rest of their lives behind bars, even though they face no charges and have been told by a judge they should be freed.

    No country is willing to accept them and the US justice department has now blocked moves for them to be allowed to go to the US mainland, where they had been offered a home by refugee and Christian organisations.”

  5. #5: Tak, I truly hope that one of the first things Obama does when he gets into office is to dismantle the Gitmo gulag. If we’re really lucky, he’ll dismantle the entire DHS, but I think it’s going to take a lot longer to cut out that cancer.

    Or McCain, if he wins, thought that’s looking highly unlikely right now, given polls, etc.

  6. I must say, though, these guys are quite witty, and their blog is well worth following. (Very bipartisan, too – as they point out, Arabs generally share more core values with the Republicans, but with the way they’ve been treated by Bush, they really don’t know what to make of the current election.)

  7. They were suspected of being terrorists attempting to spread seditious notions of democracy and free speech to our upstanding, authority-based society.

    We the people will have none of that sissy shit.

  8. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt, now I guess to get the authentic experience I can stay home and let my government oppress me right here. What progress we’ve seen! Thanks Bush! Thanks Homeland Security!

  9. Funnily enough, I actually spent a night in an Egyptian internment facility. And yet, I don’t feel any need to offer reciprocity.

  10. Hey Zombie,

    I went to Egypt earlier this year, and recommend it.

    When Egyptians found out I was from the USA people would laugh and say, “Hey, I come from a country with a corrupt and illegitimate government, and you come from a country with a corrupt and illegitimate government. We have something in common.”

    Lots of laughs, those guys.

  11. I just went to see Henry Rollins last night and one of his topics was that he has to get to most airports several hours early because of his thick passport. Apparently just going to Pakistan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Israel, and Egypt is enough to make you a terrorist.

  12. Kieran @7

    I’ve harboured a fantasy that the next president would act as follows:

    Allow a bill to be proposed that would strip the president of his power to conduct “extraordinary renditions” to torture hellholes on nothing but his own affirmation that the target is a terrorist. In debates and public speech, rail against the measure, saying it would endanger America, be soft on terror, etc.

    Then, if the measure fails and he finds he still has the power to do so, he would, in Solomonic wisdom, declare every representative who voted against the bill to be a terrorist, and have them immediately shipped off to Cuba or Syria, to be electrocuted, beaten with metal wires, have their teeth pulled out, and rot in a dank lightless cell until their names have been forgotten in America.

    On the second go-round, the bill would probably pass.

  13. “We in the free world have it good.”

    That’s nice for you. We in Britain have irritating notices at the beginning of DVDs we’ve paid for telling us what someone or other thinks we’re allowed to do with them, and when we go to the cinema a helpful organisation called FACT tells us what we can and cannot do when we watch the film.

    When I last visited the US there seemed to be a lot of similar stuff going on.

    Where do you live? Is your immigration policy free too?

  14. I just read the page again and realised I had been led off at a tangent.

    Maybe the fact that these guys were released, rather than disappearing onto an unmarked plane, is a sign that free world paranoia is in fact abating somewhat.

  15. Baldhead:Homeland Security doesn’t care about things like “facts” Egypt=Muslim=terrorist doesn’t it?
    Actually, I think this is more likely DHS doing a “favor” for our Egyptian “allies”.

  16. perhaps what is needed is a test case in the International Court of Justice wherein one of these immigration thugs is called to account for violating human rights.

  17. Antinous – are we estimating just declared muslims, or are we including all those secret, hidden muslims? Y’know, the hippies and the libruls ans all?

  18. – i’m gonna guess 25% what with the stans, and the phillipines, and the former yugoslavia, and canada…

  19. Hmmm … I’d guess somewhere in the 10-20% range. There are North Africans, South East Asians, Indians, Persians, Turks, Kurds, the various groups making up the Stans, Former Yugoslavia + Albania (am I recalling correctly that Albanians are Muslim?), African Americans…

    And now I’m off to look it up!

  20. Just for the record, “Arabs” was the Egyptian blogger’s choice of word, not mine.

    What proportion of the U.S. electorate are Arabs?

    What proportion of the U.S. population are Arabs who cannot vote because they are in immigration limbo?

  21. Yes, looks about right.

    Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Indonesia account for almost half of all the Muslims in the world.

    Interesting who you might piss off when you (or your electorate) start painting all Muslims with the Islamist terrorist brush.

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