Monday, January 8, 2007

Kareem FAQ

Who is Kareem?

Abdelkareem Soliman Amer is a 22-year-old native of Alexandria, Egypt. He grew up in a very religious family and attended the Al-Azhar religious school system his entire life. He began to rebel against the religious extremism he perceived in his school and began to express his opinions on a blog. When the Al-Azhar administration discovered his blog in late 2005, he was kicked out of school and his case was referred to state prosecutors.

What did Kareem post on his blog?
Though soft-spoken in person, Kareem lets his passions flow on his blog. He has written about political repression, religious extremism, and discrimination against women. Kareem often expressed “secular” views and called for equality for women in all aspects of Egyptian society. He also denounced violent attacks on Christians in Alexandria.

Why was he expelled from University?
The administration of Al-Azhar University first learned about Kareem’s blog when he posted writing about extremist teachers on campus. Those posts – and others on religious tolerance, women’s rights, and human rights restrictions – became grounds for Kareem’s expulsion.

What did the Egyptian government accuse him of?
According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Kareem stands charged with the following alleged crimes: (1) Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security; (2) Defaming the President of Egypt; (3) Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt; (4) Incitement to hate "Islam" and breach of the public peace standards; (5) Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public.

On what grounds is he being held?
Kareem was called into the prosecutor’s office in early November. Despite the presence of a human rights attorney representing him, he was interrogated about his personal religious practice and his opinion on current political issues. When he refused to recant his blog writings, he was detained for a few days. That detention has since been extended on several occasions, and over two months later Kareem is still in jail without trial.

Why is Kareem in danger?

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Kareem is now being denied access to his attorney. His family is not allowed to visit him in prison. They have stated that Kareem’s “life is in danger.” The fear is that an “accident” in the crowded Alexandria prison could cause Kareem substantial harm.

What comment has the Egyptian government made?
We are not aware of any official comment by the government in response to concern expressed by various human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, and coverage in major Egyptian and international media outlets. It appears the government believes there is no significant pressure or demand for explanation for why a young blogger would be detained for expressing his opinions online.

Is the U.S. government doing anything about this?

We are not aware of any official comment by the US government. There is a US consulate in Alexandria, Egypt, which could investigate the case further. The US government has called for enhancing democratic culture in Egypt, but rarely has matched the rhetoric of reform with specific demands.

What can I do?

Without outside attention and pressure, the Egyptian government can effectively detain Kareem indefinitely. Only international pressure will force the government to account for their detaining a young blogger without trial for over two months. Only international pressure will help secure Kareem’s release. At the very least, news of international support provides moral encouragement to Kareem and his attorneys. One simple thing you can do right now is to send an email to the Egyptian government and US State Department. You can do that right here:

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