Alaa Abd El Fateh is an Egyptian blogger, open source advocate and democracy activist. Along with his wife, Manal, he maintains “Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket”, a site hosts their blogs and the blogs of several Egyptian free speech and pro-democracy organizations. They also maintain an Egyptian blog aggregator.
Alaa has been active in the Kifaya movement – an alliance of student, human rights and other groups – which is demanding democracy in Egypt, but protesting against recent moves by Hosni Mubarak for multiparty elections, on the grounds that the elections won’t be sufficiently open to opposition candidates. (The word “kifaya” means “enough” in Arabic.) On May 25th, the day of a referendum on constitutional changes, members of the Kifaya movement staged a demostration in Cairo. They were attacked and beaten by Mubarak supporters. Several female journalists and activists reported being groped, or having clothing torn off by Mubarak loyalists and security forces.
Alaa, Manal and Alaa’s mother, Dr. Laila Soueif, were part of the Kifaya demonstration on May 25th, and were attacked by pro-government forces. Alaa talks about his experiences at the hands of the protesters, about the history of Kifaya, the relationship between Kifaya and other opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and about prospects for democracy in Egypt. We also talk a bit about human rights blogging in Egypt and the importance of online media, like the radio station from opposition political group El Ghad.
It’s a long interview – about 45 minutes – but really worth hearing. If I get a chance this weekend, I’ll try to post a digested version for those short on time. But it’s really worth a full listen (mp3, 45 minutes, 21MB)
Some links Alaa and I mention in the interview:
never forget – a collection of links and accounts of the May 25th protest violence and the “Black Wednesday” movement.
El Ghad online radio feed. (Has been down a great deal due to heavy demand.
Image: Lighting candles at a vigil in Cairo, June 8th, to remember the violence that occurred two weeks earlier on May 25th. From Manal at manalaa.net.
Great interview! The May 25th attacks and their aftermath are a fascinating case of the interplay of two new media – blogs, but also Arabic satellite stations. Reports on stations like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya made the event a big story across the region, and domestically in Egypt. Blogs have provided a platform for longer-term attention to what has happened since, and for Kefaya to respond to the attacks and to build support locally afterwards.
Incidentally, Alaa is part of a rather amazing family – have a look at Adhaf Soueif’s Mezzaterra excellent new collection of essays on Egypt and Arabic culture and politics.
Darius – thanks so much for the link regarding Alaa’s family. I’d been looking for background information on Soueif’s political writing, but had a hard time finding that information online. It was a useful reminder that there are certain parts of the world are more accessible via Google et al than others…
We’re going to try to pay close attention on Global Voices to the Black Wednesday protests in Egypt over the next weeks and months.