FREEDOM FOR RAZAN GHAZZAWI: Statement by human rights activists and defenders

Link to statement in Arabic

Authorities in Syria arrested Syrian blogger, feminist, and activist for free expression Razan Ghazzawi on December 4, 2011. She was at the Jordanian border, traveling  to attend a conference on media freedom in the Arab world. She was representing the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), where she works as a coordinator.

Razan, a poet and critic as well as an activist, studied English literature at Damascus University and comparative  literature at Balamand University in Lebanon. Since 2009, she has blogged on human rights, international solidarity, and Syrian politics at http://www.razanghazzawi.com. She is one of very few bloggers in Syria who writes under her own name; and she has consistently spoken out for women, for ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, and for all victims of discrimination or abuse.

For many of us in Egypt, in the region, and around the world, Razan is a mentor, an ally, and a personal friend.  Her principled commitment to human rights has been an example to us. Her courage and her willingness to face danger head-on have been an inspiration.

In one of her last blog posts before she was arrested, Razan wrote: “I do not believe in a ‘national consciousness,’ I don’t believe in nationality …Once we drop hyphenations, we become as one.” In that spirit, we say: Razan’s struggle is our struggle. The Syrian people’s battle for freedom is our battle. Now we ask you for your solidarity and support.

What can you do?

1) Contact Syrian diplomatic representatives in your countries immediately.  In faxes or phone calls, urge:

  • that Razan Ghazzawi be released unconditionally;
  • that she be protected from torture or ill-treatment  while she remains in detention;
  • that all political prisoners in Syria be released;
  • that Syria end  arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and  violence  against protesters and opposition members.

A list of addresses and phone numbers for Syrian embassies and consulates can be found here, or here.

2) Organize peaceful vigils or demonstrations at Syrian embassies or consulates calling for the release of Razan Ghazzawi and all political prisoners in Syria.

Below you will find statements (translated from the Arabic) a) by Syrian bloggers and friends of Razan, and b) by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression.

Additional resources:

This statement is signed by:

  • Ahmad Ragheb – Human rights activist-Executive   director (Hisham Mubarak Law Center)
  • Dalia Abd El Hameed – Human rights activist – Gender officer (Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights)
  • Mona Seif – Human rights activist  (No to Military Trials)
  • Mozn Hassan – Feminist, human rights activist- Executive  director (Nazra for Feminist Studies)
  • Scott Long – Human rights activist  (Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School)
  • Tarek Moustafa – Feminist, human rights activist  (Nazra for Feminist Studies)
  • Yara Sallam – Feminist, human rights activist   (Nazra for Feminist Studies)

A. STATEMENT BY RAZAN’S FELLOW SYRIAN BLOGGERS AND FRIENDS: “FREE RAZAN GHAZZAWI”

We hardly had time to breathe a sigh of relief after our friend Hussein Ghreir was set free, before the choke of rage and sadness reminded our hearts once more of our reality: oppression, suppression, and worshipping the silence that we live within. This took place when we learned that our friend Razan Ghazzawi was arrested. Razan is a devoted Syrian blogger. She is a Syrian by her passionate work for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian refugees in social media in both Arabic and English.  Razan is a Syrian by her commitment to the causes of progress, social justice, and equality. She is a Syrian by standing for all free souls in their struggles for freedom and dignity.

Razan’s is a voice that only the enemies of rights, dignity, justice,  and freedom want to silence.

We demand that the Syrian authorities set Razan free immediately, along with all prisoners of conscience and dignity. We also hold them responsible for any harm to which she may be exposed. We also demand that the Syrian authorities stop the policy of terrorist oppression that they are practicing against the Syrian people.

We ask all those who support justice and freedom to show solidarity with Razan Ghazzawi, with us, and with Syria.

We hope that all our friends will help publishing this statement on blogs, pages and social media platforms. #FreeRazan

B. STATEMENT OF THE SYRIAN CENTER FOR MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: DETENTION OF THE SYRIAN BLOGGER RAZAN GHAZZAWI

Syrian blogger and activist  Razan Ghazzawi has been arrested this afternoon at the Syrian-Jordanian border, where she was heading to Amman to attend a conference for defenders of media freedom in the Arab world. There, Razan was scheduled to represent our organization.

Razan works as a media coordinator in the Center: she is a graduate of the English literature department of Damascus University, and also holds a Master’s degree in comparative  literature  from Lebanon. Razan’s Master’s thesis focused on the short stories of Shamoun Ballas, an author living in Paris and Palestine; she discussed how colonial occupation affects the process of creating an identity in the post-independence modern state. Razan has published many articles on literature .She also started her own blog. Razaniyat, in 2009 .

Razan was a member of the cultural committee  “A Place for Everyone,” 2005-2007. She also won second prize in a poetry contest at a Lebanese university.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression gravely denounces the detention of our friend, blogger Razan Ghazzawi. Arresting her is another way to restrict and eliminate  civil society in Syria—and a desperate attempt to stifle freedom of expression in Syria.

The Center also urges Syrian authorities to stop the systematic crackdown on Syrian bloggers and journalists, and to free Razan unconditionally— along with  all other dissidents detained and arrested in Syria. Syria should respect its international commitments,  based on the international agreements Syria has signed. The Center also warns the Syrian authorities  that they will be held responsible for any physical or psychological harm that the blogger Razan Ghazzawi may endure.

Maikel Nabil Sanad, still in prison, to face new trial

An Egyptian military court today overturned the verdict in the case of Maikel Nabil Sanad, the blogger earlier sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the army.”   They ordered a retrial without setting a date for it. The court did not set him free or order his transfer to a hospital, though he has been on hunger strike for 50 days.

Maikel Nabil is a Copt, a fact which perhaps assumes additional significance in view of the weekend’s violence.

Maikel’s mother, Nagwa Nashed, was in tears when she heard the appellate court’s decision, having expected to return home with her boy. The worried mother, who lives with Maikel’s father in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, said she had packed her suitcase and was preparing to travel to Cairo to bring her son home.  “I’m afraid that when my son hears the verdict he will die,” she said as she attempted to keep from crying.

“I would like the officials to imagine this is their son and not mine,” she added. “When Muslims fast during Ramadan and when Christians fast, don’t they get tired and feel weak? Well Maikel’s been fasting for 50 days.”

“What has Maikel done? He said something they don’t like?” she asked between sobs and sniffles. “Why did they keep only Maikel? Is it because his name is Maikel?” she said in reference to recent Maspero clashes between Coptic protesters and army forces.

Once again: you can write to Egyptian authorities urging them to free him:

Director of Military Judiciary
Major-General Ahmed Abd Allah
Military Judicial Department
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +(20)2 2 402 4468 / +(20)2 2 411 3452 (ask for fax)

Military Prosecutor General
Major-General Medhat Radwan
Military Judicial Department
Cairo, Egypt
+(20) 2 2 412 0980 (ask for fax)

Minister of Defence
His Excellency Muhammad Tantawi
Ministry of Defence
Cairo, Egypt
mmc@afmic.gov.eg ; mod@afmic.gov.eg
Fax: +(20) 2 2 5748 822  (+20) 22 291 6227

A sample letter is here, on a blog that also carries updates on Maikel’s health (Arabic and English).

You can also write letters of support to Maikel Nabil at:

Maikel Nabil Sanad
El-Marg prison
El-Kalag
El-Khanka
Qalyubeya
Egypt

Maikel Nabil’s appeal postponed: “a death sentence”

The appeal in the case of Maikel Nabil Sanad, the Egyptian blogger who has been on hunger strike since August 23, was postponed for a week yesterday — allegedly because the case file never reached the judge.   It’s tempting to call Egyptian justice Kafkaesque; but Kafka, after all, had a sense of humor.

With the trial postponed to 11 October, Maikel’s family and supporters now fear the young activist may not make it.  “They didn’t postpone his trial, they sentenced him to death,” [his younger brother] Mark, on the verge of tears, said. “Do they want to kill him?”

Maikel is serving a three-year term for “insulting the army,” after publishing a blog post titled “The people and the army were never one hand.”  The military keeps on proving this is true:

Upon hearing the news, the small crowd of protesters outside the courthouse began chanting slogans against the SCAF and its leaders, Field-Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Anan.

During the demonstration, in which activists held banners aloft calling for freedom of expression, soldiers arrested Sahar Maher, an active member of the “Free Maikel Nabil” campaign, for taking photos and video of the protest on her mobile phone. A foreign journalist, who was also taking videos, was arrested along with Maher.

Authorities also confiscated a video camera belonging to a reporter with Iran’s Press TV and forced a journalist from the US-based Christian Science Monitor to delete all her photos.

Maher is expected to stand before a military court on Tuesday on charges of photographing military installations without official permission.

Once again: you can write to Egyptian authorities urging them to free him:

Director of Military Judiciary
Major-General Ahmed Abd Allah
Military Judicial Department
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: +(20)2 2 402 4468 / +(20)2 2 411 3452 (ask for fax)

Military Prosecutor General
Major-General Medhat Radwan
Military Judicial Department
Cairo, Egypt
+(20) 2 2 412 0980 (ask for fax)

Minister of Defence
His Excellency Muhammad Tantawi
Ministry of Defence
Cairo, Egypt
mmc@afmic.gov.eg ; mod@afmic.gov.eg
Fax: +(20) 2 2 5748 822  (+20) 22 291 6227

A sample letter is here, on a blog that also carries updates on Maikel’s health (Arabic and English).

You can also write letters of support to Maikel Nabil at:

Maikel Nabil Sanad
El-Marg prison
El-Kalag
El-Khanka
Qalyubeya
Egypt