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Free Fouad: Arab Bloggers Speak Up!

The dean of Saudi bloggers Fouad Al Farhan (Ar) is still being detained – a month after he was handcuffed from his office in Jeddah and taken to an undisclosed location. Bloggers from Saudi Arabia to Tunisia are rallying behind Al Farhan and calling for his immediate release.

Tunisia:

For Tunisian activist Sami ben Gharbia, the entire Arab world seems to be a prison, where words and those uttering them are buried. He explains:

لماذا؟ قد يتسائل البعض. و ما دخل مدون سعودي في قضية تخص فضاء التدوين التونسي؟ السبب بسيط قد يكمن في أن قضية فؤاد تختزل لوحدها مأساة و رسالة التدوين في هذا العالم العربي الذي بات سجنا كبيرا تـُقبر فيه الكلمة الطيبة و من تلفظ بها. لماذا ندون و لماذا ندافع عن هذا الفضاء الذي أعطانا ما لم تعطه لنا أوطاننا و أهدانا ما يعمل ولاة أمرنا، بجبروتهم و عساكرهم و وشاتهم و خزينة دولة كان أولى بها أن تخدمنا، على مصادرته؟ لأننا كما كتب فؤاد و عدد “نرفض عقلية القطيع”.
Some of you may be asking why? And what is the relationship between a Saudi blogger and the Tunisian blogosphere? The answer is simple and it is because Fouad's case contains in itself the misery and message of blogging in the Arab world, which has today become a large prison where words and those who utter them are buried. Why do we blog and why do we defend this cyberspace which has given us more than our nations and more than what our rulers – with their tyranny, armies and treasury, which should serve us – are taking away from us? It is, as Fouad had written, because we refuse the herd mentality.

Ben Gharbia also urges bloggers to stand by Al Farhan, by publishing his plight. He says:

من أجل فؤاد و من أجل المبادئ النبيلة التي يحملها… أدعو الإخوة المدونين التونسيين و العرب إلى نشر قضية فؤاد و الدفاع عن
For the sake of Fouad and for the values he believes in, I urge Arab and Tunisian bloggers to write about Fouad's case and continue to defend him.

Saudi Arabia:

From Saudi Arabia, where the issue is closer to blogger's hearts and freedom, 7ala Bezyadah calls upon fellow bloggers to recognise Al Farhan's efforts in blogging and demand his immediate release. He writes:

أعتقد أن التدوين الآن أصبح ذو تأثير قوي على الساحة السعودية… وفؤاد الفرحان قد أجبر من قبل لكي يتم إيقاف مدونته وأيضاً إيقاف مشروعه لدعم مدوني السعودية بواسطة إنشاء “رابطة مدوني السعودية”… ولم يستطع فؤاد الإبتعاد عن التدوين كثيراً فعاد بروح جديدة وقوية… والآن نقرأ عن خبر إعتقاله… ولا ندري ما هي المسببات لهذا الإعتقال حتى الآن…
وواجبنا الآن هو أن نقف وقفة صادقة مع من فتح الباب لنا وضحى بوقته وجهده وماله ونفسه من أجل توسيع نطاق الحرية لنا كمدونين سعوديين بأن نبدأ بالمطالبة بإطلاق سراحه وأن نكون نحن مدوني السعودية أول من يطالب بذلك فلنا في فؤاد الكثير فهو ينتمي لنا وننتمي له… ومن حقه علينا أن لا نخذله بأي شكل من الأشكال… فلنبدأ بالمطالبة اليوم قبل أن نندم على تأخرنا…
I believe that blogging is becoming a powerful tool in Saudi Arabia.. and Fouad Al Farhan was forced previously to stop his blog and also to stop his project to promote blogging by setting up the Saudi Bloggers Association.. Fouad wasn't able to remain away from blogging for long, and returned in new spirits and stronger than before.. and now we read about his arrest ..We still don't know why he was arrested and our duty now is to stand by the person who had sacrificed his efforts and money in order to expand the ceiling of our freedom as Saudi bloggers. We have to start by calling for his release and we as Saudi bloggers should be the first to seek that..There is a lot Fouad wants to give us and there is a lot we hope for him.. He has the right that we don't let him down in anyway. So let's start by demanding his release today before we start regretting it.

Ftat Al Amal (The Girl of Hope) admits that she doesn't blog all that comes to her mind because she does not want to end up where Al Farhan is today. She explains:

أصبح التدوين هو المتنفس الوحيد تقريباً .. الذي يعبر فيه الشباب عن آراهم انتقاداتهم وأحلامهم ..
عندما يصبح هذا المتنفس مراقباً ..هنا نضع يدنا على قلوبنا ..عندما اعتقل فؤاد الفرحان ..تخيلت نفسي مكانه ..فسجن المدونين لم يعد يقتصر الآن على الدول العربية كمصر مثلاً الذي اعتقل فيها عدد لا بأس من المدونين .. أما أن يصل الأمر إلى الدول الخليجية التي حرية التعبير فيها تكاد مسموحة للجميع خيرهم وشرهم ..فهي رسالة للمدونين بأن أفكاركم مراقبة ..
الكثير من المدونين لا يريدون شراً باوطانهم .. بل جل ما يعبرون عنه هي نقاط يجب أن تقرأ بعناية من المسؤولين لأنها تصدر من أناس أغلبهم يحملون درجات عليا من العلم والمعرفة .. ولا يعيبهم أنهم شباب وصغار في السن ..
انا عن نفسي لا أخفيكم لدي الكثير من الآراء التي لا تروق للجميع ..وأراء سياسية ..ولا أخفيكم لا اتطرق للسياسة في مدونتي خوفاً من المصير الذي آل له فؤاد الفرحان ..
قد يتهمني البعض بالجبن ..ولكن أنا لا أفكر بنفسي بقدر ما أفكر في عائلتي ..ولا أقول هنا أن فؤاد لا يفكر بعائلته ..بل بالعكس..لأنه يفكر بعائلته يريد لوطنه الأفضل..
Blogging has almost become our only outlet.. which enables youth to express their opinions, criticisms and dreams. When this outlet becomes monitored, we put our hands on our hearts. When Fouad Al Farhan was arrested, I imagined myself in his place. Jailing bloggers isn't restricted to Arab countries like Egypt, for instance, which has jailed a sizable number of bloggers. For an Arab Gulf country, where expressing one's idea is possible for the good and the bad, is a message for bloggers that their ideas are being watched. Many bloggers don't want to harm their countries. In fact, most of them express opinions which should be considered by officials because they are suggested by educated people. It isn't their fault that they are youthful and young in age. I personally have a lot of ideas which I don't think would be accepted by everyone. I have political ideas and I won't deny that I don't blog about politics because I don't want to face Fouad Al Farhan's destiny. Some of you may accuse me of being a coward…but I don't think of myself as much as I think of my family. I am not saying here that Fouad did not consider his family. On the contrary, because he thinks of his family, he wanted the best for his nation.

Talal, a Saudi blogger who lives in the US, warns us about how vulnerable societies built on hypocrisy are, saying Al Farhan's arrest was a mistake. He further adds:

فجعت كما غيري بخبر اعتقال المدون فؤاد الفرحان -عجل الله فرجه-.
وأرى أن للقضية بعدين أو وجهين مترابطين، فالأول هو البعد الإنساني والمتمثل في إعتقال رجل وإبعاده عن زوجته وأبناءه وما يترتب على ذلك من أحزان ومآسي. أما البعد الآخر وهو الأشد مرارة أن سبب الاعتقال كان ضد حرية رأي لم يمس فيها دين أو عرض أو يصرح فيها بعصيان أمني!
هل تريد السلطات من الشعب أن يكون منافقا يظهر عكس ما يبطن، ويهز رأسه مبتسما وقلبه حانق غضبان؟ إن هذا لهو عين الخطأ وبعدٌ عن الفقه والكياسة.
إن المجتمعات المنافقة هي مجتمعات هشّة قد نخرها الدود، فهي إذا معرضة للسقوط أمام أي هزة خارجية كانت أو داخلية. وإن في قصص باقي الدول لعبرة. لعل آخرها وليس أخيرها ما حدث لدولة العراق وكيف أنها انهارت في زمن قياسي بسبب كبت حريات شعبها وقمعهم.
Like others, I was shocked when I heard that Al Farhan was arrested. I see that his case has two dimensions, which are inter-related. The first is the humane angle which is represented in arresting a man and separating him from his wife and children and all the feelings of sadness and misery attached with that. The other dimension, which is more difficult, is that he was arrested for expressing his freedom of speech. He did not write against religion, or other people or call for civil disobedience! Do the authorities want people to become hypocrites and show the opposite of how they feel? Do they want them to smile outwardly when they are boiling of anger inside? This is a grave mistake. Societies built on hypocrisy are weak and would not be able to withstand the slightest rattle, whether it be from the inside or abroad. There is a moral in the stories of other countries for us, the most recent thought not the last is what happened to Iraq, which collapsed in a record time because its people's freedom was repressed and they were oppressed.

Jordan:

banner for Fouad Al Farhan Silence Day

To protest Al Farhan's arrest hundreds of bloggers around the world posted the above banner on their sites. Jordanian Naseem Al Tarawnah writes about how the jailed blogger's ordeal is all about breaking the silence.

Blogger's Times:

Meanwhile, Blogger's Times calls for support for other jailed bloggers, including Egyptian Ahmad Mohsin, whose arrest they say “wasn't covered enough.”

دعت المدونة ماري جوس اعتبار يوم السادس من يناير القادم يوم التدوينة الصامتة ودعت للاحتجاب عن التدوين احتجاجا علي اعتقال المدون السعودي فؤاد أحمد الفرحان كما أطلق عدد من المدونين حملة دولية للمطالبة بالإفراج عنه
كما أدعوكم اعتبار اليوم احتجاجا علي اعتقال المدون أحمد محسن أيضا والذي لم يبدي عدد كبير من المدونين الإهتمام بقضيته رغم أن اعتقاله يأتي بسبب نشاطه التدويني اضافة أنه استطاع كشف جريمة تعذيب محمد جمعة الدهشوري قتيل الفيوم الأخير وقام بالاتصال بوسائل الإعلام المختلفة لتغطية الحدث كما استطاع من خلال علاقته مشاركة حركة مصريون ضد التعذيب تنظيم مؤتمر صحفي لأسرة الضحي في نقابة المحامين بالقاهرة لتكشف عن المساومات التي تعرضت لها الأسرة للتنازل عن القضي
Blogger Mary Joyce called for a Silent blog day on January 6, where bloggers would stop blogging in protest against the arrest of Saudi blogger Fouad Ahmed Al Farhan. Other bloggers have also launched an international petition calling for his release. I call upon you to consider the day as being in protest against the arrest of blogger Ahmed Mohsin too, whose arrest did not grab the attention of many bloggers even though he was arrested because of his blogging activities. He was also the one who exposed the torture of Mohammad Gomaa adDahshouri, Al Fayoum's latest victim, and it was he who called the media and asked them to cover the case. He was also able, through his relationship with the Egyptians Against Torture Movement, to organise a Press conference at the lawyer's union headquarters in Cairo, for the victim's family which exposed the blackmail the family has been through to drop the case.

Egypt:

Egyptian blogger Abdulmonem Mahmood, who wrote the previous article, also commented on Farhan's arrest here. He writes:

يشكل القمع والاضطهاد الذي يعانيه المواطن العربي في بلادنا صورة نمطية نراها في هذا الوطن من أقصاه إلي أقصاه , فالاستبداد عملة واحدة وسوط الجلاد لا تختلف وطأته علي الضحية إن كان من مصر أو السعودية أو تونس أو ليبيا أو سورياومحاولات النظم المستبدة لتكبيل الحريات العامة والخاصة لا تقف عند حد معين بل ويتفنن كل مستبد وطاغية في كبته بطريقته الخاصةولم تعد هذه النظم المستبدة تقف أمام الصحافة المستقلة التي تكشف استبدادها فحسب بل صارت تتبع كل مواطن يستطيع أن يعبر بطريقته الخاصة عما يعانيه من ظلم في بلاده وهو ما حدث مؤخرا باعتقال المدون السعودي فؤاد أحمد الفرحان وسبقه من مصر المدون أحمد محسن ومحاولات تشويه المدون وائل عباس واستدعاء مدونين مصريين بشكل دوري لمقارات أمن لمباحث أمن الدولة أو خطفهم من بيوتهم لممارسة أخس أنواع التهديد حتي يتوقفوا عن هذا البعبع الذي يفضحهم ليل نهار وهو التدوين والنشاط الإلكتروني علي مواقع مجانية مثل اليوتيوب والفيس بوك أيضا هذا خلافا لممارسات نظم مثل سوريا وتونس من حجب لمدونات النشطاء علي الإنترنت وحرمان شعوبهم من استخدام محركات البحث وذلك من أجل حصار المعلومة وتضييق مساحة نشرها
The image of oppression suffered by Arabs is repeating itself across the Arab world. Oppression and the whip of the tormentor are faces of the same coin and their impact is not different on victims, whether in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya or Syria. The attempts of tyrants to control general and personal freedoms do not stop at a certain limit and every tyrant develops his own techniques to stifle freedoms. Such regimes are no longer limited to controlling independent newspapers which expose their suppression but are now chasing after every citizen who is able to express himself in his own way and speak out against this injustices he is suffering from. This is what has recently happened to blogger Fouad Al Farhan, who has been arrested. Egypt too arrested Ahmed Mohsin before that and attempted to tarnish the reputation of blogger Wael Abbas. It also routinely summons bloggers to the criminal investigations headquarters or kidnaps them from their home to threaten them to stop this monster which is exposing them day and night – blogging and online activism on free hosting services such as YouTube and Facebook. In addition some regimes like in Syria and Tunisia ban the websites of activists and deny their people the use of search engines, in their bid to decrease their access to information and lessen the chances of having it republished.

Mahmood, a Muslim Brotherhood blogger, was himself jailed for his blogging last year!

Supporters have set up a Free Fouad site here and they are appealing to bloggers to show support to Al Farhan by linking the following badge to their blogs.

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