A group of protesters gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv, Thursday, to decry the ongoing detention of Egyptian blogger Abdul Kareem Nabil, imprisoned two years ago in the neighboring country for the so-called crime of voicing dissent.
The November 6 protest in the Israeli metropolis was one of many on this date at Egyptian embassies around the world, all part of a concerted effort to free the 24-year-old Nabil, better known as Kareem Amer , from a four-year jail sentence.
Cars on the small Tel Aviv street slowed down to read colorful signs that bore slogans such as: “Free Kareem,” “Let My Bloggers Go!” and “Blogging is Not a Crime.” Protesters, many of them students at Israeli universities, cried out “Shame on Egypt” and read out loud – both in Arabic and English – letters written by Kareem in prison.
The protest in Israel was organized by David Keyes, Coordinator of Democracy Programs under Natan Sharanksy at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies. He stressed the protest’s significance, asserting that “certain basic freedoms are universal and timeless, including freedom of speech and press. It is incumbent for the West to stand up for the oppressed masses in the Middle East.”
Although the protest was not officially affiliated with the Adelson Institute, Sharansky - a former deputy prime minister under Ariel Sharon – released a statement in support of the rally.
“We fully support these efforts and affirm that freedom of speech is an inalienable right. Suppressing that right contravenes human decency and makes a mockery of the democratic ideal,” read the statement by Sharansky, who himself spent almost a decade in the Gulag for political activism in the former USSR.
“We strongly condemn Egypt’s brazen assault on human liberty. Repression and autocracy must be castigated in no uncertain terms. Aid to a regime which denies its citizens basic rights is both counter-productive and immoral,” the statement continued.
“This situation is disturbing to me in general and as an American, in particular,” said one protester, a recent immigrant to Israel from the United States, following a reading of Sharansky’s words.
“How can the US government condone this type of behavior by funding this type of regime? How are we financially supporting such a suppression of free speech, when it’s so antithetical to American values? Would we send money to a government that was practicing slavery?”
Claiming IgnoranceAbout an hour into the protest , the assistant Egyptian consul came out to speak with the protesters and claimed he had no knowledge of Kareem’s imprisonment.
“It’s pretty ridiculous if it’s true,” remarked Keyes. “How do you not know that something like this is going on in your own country?”
When asked about the incident’s impact on Israel, Keyes responded: “In the long term, democratic states are more peaceful and prosperous than autocratic ones. It is therefore a vital Israeli interest to support democracy throughout the Arab world. Tyranny only breeds radicalism, poverty and terror.”
“Are you leftists?” one bystander inquired. “No,” a female protester answered him, “merely champions of democracy and basic rights.”
For more information, visit www.freekareem.org