One week for Fouad

February 9, 2008

February 10 marks the end of Fouad Al-Farhan’s ((alfarhan.org)) second month in prison. Therefore, his friends call for “Fouad’s week” to fulfill his only wish before he was arrested: Not to be forgotten in jail. But before, a rally in Washington D.C. reminds of the locked up Saudi.

Today, on February 9, Fouad’s supporters from the HAMSA ((HAMSA)) will hold a vigil in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. to protest for Fouad’s release ((Free Fouad » Free Fouad Al-Farhan)). But that’s just the prequel to “Fouad’s week” initiated by his friends of the Free Fouad campaign ((Free Fouad » Fouad’s week)). Under the motto “We are all Fouads”, the initiators call the supporting bloggers to post a text by Fouad in memory of his detention. From February 9 on, the participants shall copy one of Fouad’s blog postings – either daily for a week’s time or just one single post. This is to keep the arrested in the focus of the bloggers, so that Fouad’s only wish – not to be forgotten in jail – gets fulfilled.

What can I do?

Demonstrate: Saturday, February 9, 2008 form 13:00-14:45 / in front of the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC (601 New Hampshire Ave NW Washington, DC 20037)

Participate: Copy one of Fouad’s postings – either from his old blog or the new one. Don’t forget to trackback this post of Free Fouad, so they can count the number of participants.


More on arrested Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt

January 31, 2008

Blog4BurmaYesterday, Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt was arrested at a Rangoon internet cafe ((Blogger for Freedom » Burmese blogger arrested)). Now some of the supposed reasons behind the detention were reported by the media.

As news magazine The Irrawady reports, the blogger Nay Phone Latt is a young businessman named Nay Myo Latt. He is, according to The Irrawady, the owner of three internet cafes in different suburbs of Rangoon ((The Irrawady » Burmese Regime Strikes at Bloggers)). As friends of Latt told the media, he had been observed by the police for at least one year – and knew about the risk he lived at.

But though Nay Phone Latt published mostly novel-style posts about arts and youth culture in Burma on his blog, political statements on nayphonelatt.net seem to have been his undoing. However, Latt is also a member of the leading oppositional party, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which reported Latt and a fellow party member being charged with serious crimes against internet restriction. Having said that, Latt’s detention seems to be more a threat to the opposition than the critical bloggers – though the junta may not care much about differentiations like this.

Despite their is no doubt of the serious repressions against internet users, there seems to be no special trend to go underground after Nay Phone Latt’s detention among the Burmese bloggers. The news about bloggers fleeing or going into hiding had been spread yesterday ((Mizzima News » Burmese bloggers hide from police)), but was contradicted for instance by a comment of Burmese blogger BarNyar on our last article dealing with Latt’s case ((Blogger for Freedom » Comments on “Burmese blogger arrested”)). Also, media could not tell any concrete informations about the bloggers gone underground. But that the ones who still dare to openly criticize the regime take a high risk on them is an undeniable truth.

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Blog4BurmaBlogger for Freedom is a member of the Blog4Burma Coalition, a group of European bloggers and a native Burmese who joined forces to connect their further writing and support one another in the common goal to keep the topic in the focus of the blogosphere.
Every BLOG4BURMA member sports a unique point of view of the Burma matter. Read their thoughts on their respective blogs
or subscribe to our common feed. Anybody who wants to join the coalition feel free to apply at blog4burma [at] gmail [dot] com


January 30th, Solidarity of Bloggers with the Imprisoned Iranian Students

January 30, 2008

Arash Paknejad
Saeid Habibi
Anoshe Azadbar
Elinaz Jamshidi
Mehdi Gerilo
Nader Ahseni
Behroz karimizade
Nasim Soltan-beigi
Ali Sa`lem
Mohsen Qanim
Rozbeh Saf-Shekan
Yaser (Sadra) Pirhaiaty
Saeid Aqam-Ali
Ali Kolaee`
Amir Mehrzad
Hadi Salary
Farshid Ahangaran
Amir Aqai
Milad Omrani
Keivan Amir Eliasy
Soroush Hashem-poor
Farshad Doosti-poor
Sohrab Karimi
Javad Alizade
Mohammad Salleh Auman
Mehdi al-lahyari
Rozbehan Amiri
Bahram Shojaee
Saied Aqakhani
Majid Ashraf Nejad
Peiman Piran
Aabed Tavanche
Soroosh Dastestany
Amin Qazaei
Bijan Sabaq
Anahita hosini
Morteza Khedmatlo
Mohamad Pour Abdol-lah
Bita Samimi-zad
Behzad Baqery
Soroosh Sabet
Morteza Eslahchi
Mostafa Shirvani

 

… and more


Burmese blogger arrested

January 29, 2008

Blog4BurmaOver the last weeks, the indications for a rising monitoring of the internet by the Burmese government have grown stronger. Now, for the first time since the bloody crackdown on the Saffron Revolution a blogger got arrested.

Even before the failed uprising against the junta, in which they played a significant role by spreading news about the demonstrations, Burmese bloggers lived at risk. But since then, posting articles has gotten even harder for them – and in the last weeks, signs of a real chase on the bloggers had grown stronger and stronger. For instance, on January 20 popular blogger Niknayman ((Niknayman)) warned against a crackdown of the junta on the about 2000 bloggers of the southeast Asian dictatorship ((Committee to Protect Bloggers » Urgent message from Burmese blogger)). He informed us about the junta’s attempts to crack critical blogs or set up bogus blogs named nearly the same like popular critics. These fake blogs would, as he reported, lead to porn sites in order to discredit the original authors – the latter had happened with Niknayman’s own blog.
On the other site it has been reported that the junta has stepped up surveillance and monitoring of internet cafes, threatening the owners to maintain strict records of the users. Because many bloggers use internet cafes to publish their posts, this is very dangerous for the Burmese citizen journalists.

Now, Nay Phone Latt ((Nay Phone Latt)) was the first blogger in months to be taken into custody ((Mizzima News » Burmese bloggers hide from police)). He got arrested from an internet cafe in Burma’s former capital Rangoon. Meanwhile, two houses, were he used to live, got raided – as well as his aunt’s residence ((Burmanet News » Blogger arrested by police: friends)). The reasons for the blogger’s detention, who described himself as a “youth who is crazy about the arts” and blogged mainly about the expression of the Burmese youth, remain unclear. However, there is zero tolerance over any critical writings in Burma, victimizing some of the countries best known authors. Having said that, the detailed reasons for Nay Phone Latt’s arresting may not be known, but one can see it symbolicly for the situation of a couple of threatened bloggers.

No wonder it has been reported that parts of the Burmese blogosphere have gone underground. One blogger, who wanted to remain anonymous, has been cited with the words ((Mizzima News » Burmese bloggers hide from police)): “At the moment we [bloggers] are fleeing in the wake of the arrest of Ko Nay Phone Latt.” Angst spreads among the Burmese bloggers, who now fear a crackdown by the government, as the media’s attention has faded months after the days of the revolution. An awe, based on the fact that mainstream media does not report on the suffering country anymore. It’s time for the alternative media the keep an eye on this constant crisis.

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Blog4BurmaBlogger for Freedom is a member of the Blog4Burma Coalition, a group of European bloggers and a native Burmese who joined forces to connect their further writing and support one another in the common goal to keep the topic in the focus of the blogosphere.
Every BLOG4BURMA member sports a unique point of view of the Burma matter. Read their thoughts on their respective blogs
or subscribe to our common feed. Anybody who wants to join the coalition feel free to apply at blog4burma [at] gmail [dot] com


Freedom for Burma? “long overdue.”

January 26, 2008

Blog4BurmaThe foreign ministers of France, Great Britain and the U.S.A. – Bernard Kouchner, David Miliband and Condoleezza Rice – have issued a joint statement on Burmese politics. In an open letter to their colleagues attending the World Economic Forum at Davos they state ((Jotman » UK, US, and French foreign ministers’ joint statement on Burma at Davos)):

The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos is a unique
event. No other occasion brings together so many of the world’s leaders
from all fields. For over three decades now, these meetings have
provided a global platform for collaboration and action to address
international priorities of concern to us all.

One such priority is the urgent need for progress towards a transition to
democracy and improved human rights in Burma. The fact that we have
chosen to write about this issue, with so many competing priorities,
should underline the strength of our governments’ determination to
support the people of Burma in their pursuit of a peaceful, prosperous
and democratic future. We have repeatedly made clear that the situation
in Burma cannot continue, and that we remain committed to helping the
people of Burma.

It is now more than four months since the world was horrified by the
violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Burma. The dramatic
pictures seen around the world of the brutality directed against peaceful
protestors, including monks and nuns, were truly shocking. We cannot
afford to forget. We must convince the Burmese regime to meet the
demands of the international community and respect the basic rights of
Burma’s people.

The UN Security Council in October spelled out its expectations and
reiterated those expectations on January 17. First, the early release of
all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the creation of
conditions for a genuine dialogue between the Government and the
opposition. Second, full co-operation and constructive engagement with
the UN. Third, the need for the regime to address the economic,
humanitarian and human rights concerns of the Burmese people.
Several months on, however, we find the regime has met none of these
demands.

The regime claims to be moving ahead with its roadmap to civilian rule.
However the process, already 14 years old, is open-ended, and many
key political actors, not least Aung San Suu Kyi, are excluded. There
can be little doubt that only genuine and inclusive dialogue can deliver
national reconciliation and stability for Burma and its neighbours.
We call on all those attending the World Economic Forum to
demonstrate that, while the regime may be indifferent to the suffering of
the Burmese people, the world is not.

We ask you to support the return to Burma by UN Special Adviser
Gambari as soon as possible, and to urge the regime to cooperate fully
with him and the UN. We call on the regime to act on the
recommendations of UN Human Rights Envoy Pinheiro; to release all
political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; and to launch a
substantive, time-bound dialogue with democratic leaders and ethnic
minority representatives, as called for in Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement
of November 8.

A unified call for genuine and peaceful political reconciliation and reform
will be heard in Burma. We would not live up to our values if we ignored
Burma’s plight.

DAVID MILIBAND CONDOLEEZZA RICE BERNARD KOUCHNER

Really? Would a unified call of the world’s leaders really be heard in Burma? Kyaw Zwa Moe of the news magazine The Irrawady draws another image in his last comment ((The Irrawady » Who can rescue Nilar Thein?)). Writing about the polical activist Nilar Thein having gone underground, he concludes that only “Rambo” could rescue the young mother.

Meanwhile, Kyaw Zwa Moe points out how powerless UN Special Envoy Gambari is in his Burmese mission:

The UN Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, said in a recent interview with Newsweek magazine, “I don’t have the instruments to change the regime.”

Yes, true regime change is hard to imagine. “The UN is not in the business of changing regimes,” Gambari said. Yes that’s true.

So what about one, single issue: the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi?

Gambari attempted that, but again, with no success.

“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the other political prisoners is long overdue,” the envoy said in the interview.

But the junta hasn’t budged, sticking closely to its “seven-step road map,” which is intended to install the military institution legally as the legitimate government of Burma.

Can you imagine political reconciliation? “It’s long overdue,” said Gambari. Opposition groups and the international community have called for reconciliation since the junta took power 20 years ago, especially after Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the 1990 election by a landslide.

Gambari again seems helpless – one of the highest ranking diplomats of the world, but rarely vested with powers and even less with political or economical threats to the junta. The U.S.A. as the world’s only superpower are one of the loudest critics of the Burmese regime, just lately the sanctions were again tightened. But these steps do not have any real importance.

The boastful call of Rice, Kouchner and Miliband with the orotund promise of a change in Burma in case the world’s leaders would unify for harsh words against the Burmese regime is nothing but a small light in the darkness of the Burmese people’s situation. It is fine to see that even the mighty leaders of the world sometimes show a feeling for injustice, but these words will result in nothing.
As long as the Burmese junta can count on the hunger of Russians, Indians and Chinese for gas, they wont have to fear the mighty giant U.S.A.; which would rather go to hell than create another focal point beneath the Middle East. In fact, the last decade’s politics show the opposite: It has gotten silent with Libya and North Korea, at least the last one a country where the people suffer even more than in Burma.
On the other site, Burma’s neighbors have a huge economical interest in the country, which works against a change of the situation: China, for example, profits from Burma’s isolation, exploiting its position as the Junta’s nearly sole trading partner to build itself a strong hold at the business with Burmese gas. An overthrow in Burmese politics would be a blow for them: With the opposition not being a friend of the junta’s partners, trade relations would suffer. All the more, as the U.S. or Europe would like to take the place of the People’s Republic…

Its natural gas inventories and the political charisma of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will preserve Burma from disappearing off the international community’s eyes. On the one hand, the western countries are waiting for a revolution to make an economical profit from it; on the other hand, solidarity with arrested Aung San Suu Kyi makes always good on the media. Great words against an enemy do not cost much, if sentences form nothing but a Potemkin village – fine for the media, but meaningless on a political level.

A change in Burmese politics has to come from the country itself. Twice, the Burmese ventured the revolution, twice they failed. Maybe the end of October’s uprising cannot be compared in its brutality with the massacres of the year 1988, when more than 3000 dissidents were murdered by the junta. But this time, again the protests ended up in blood – and failed.

Two generations have failed at overthrowing the junta – and it will need a third, the current has worn out its powers. Especially, as one cannot expect the junta to demolish itself. Maybe the leadership is old now – General Than Shwe will be 75 by next weeks time – but that does not make it shaky. However, a change of generations in the junta could lead to conflicts, destabilizing the government. But even if Than Shwe would be brought down or simply die, just another dictator would take his place.

Having said that, the Burmese people are in duty to fight for their freedom themselves. Freedom, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, can never be bestowed, but has to be achieved. The Burmese people can neither hope to be freed through foreign efforts nor will the dictatorship vanish voluntarily. In fact, there may be better and worse times for a revolution, but the decision will be made through the efforts of the Burmese people themselves. To achieve the freedom costs – and that has definitely been shown in the past uprisings – great powers. It is just a question of time, that the Burmese people will stand up against their oppressors again – when they have built up their strength again. But if this third try will be successful and also, if Aung San Suu Kyi will live to see this, is more than doubtful.

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Blog4BurmaBlogger for Freedom is a member of the Blog4Burma Coalition, a group of European bloggers and a native Burmese who joined forces to connect their further writing and support one another in the common goal to keep the topic in the focus of the blogosphere.
Every BLOG4BURMA member sports a unique point of view of the Burma matter. Read their thoughts on their respective blogs or subscribe to our common feed. Anybody who wants to join the coalition feel free to apply at blog4burma [at] gmail [dot] com


Bloggers in solidarity with imprisoned Iranian students

January 23, 2008

Solidarity with Iranian studentsA group of Iranian bloggers calls for participation in a blog action to support their imprisoned compatriots on January 30. By changing their blogs’ names to “Solidarity of Bloggers with the Imprisoned Iranian Students”, the participants will protest against Iran’s oppression of freedom of expression.

Iran is home to one of the biggest and most influential blogospheres in the world, with Farsi being one of the five most used languages in blogs at all. Back in 2005, about 100.000 bloggers were counted there, nearly as much as today in Germany – with far less inhabitants connected to the internet.

From the beginning, blogs were the media of the oppressed anti-governmental youth. A great influence on popularizing blogs came from Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-born journalist living in Canada ((Wikipedia | Hossein Derakhshan)), who teached his compatriots to use this medium. In an interview with the German “Electrical Reporter” ((Elektrischer Reporter | Hossein Derakhshan über Blogkultur im Iran)), Derakhshan spoke about the Iranian blog culture, which does not just include young students. The religious elite uses blogs as well – with special blogging courses for clerics being invented in 2005. Even many politicians have and write their own blogs, like president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ((Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Personal memos)).

Though young, anti-governmental students keep being the majority in “Blogistan”, the Iranian blogosphere. Many of them are also members of oppositional student organizations, which are frequently organizing rallies against the political elite and are a serious threat to the conservative government. They are regularly attacked and arrested by the Iranian security forces, with many of them getting tortured in prison.

In the last few month, there was a crackdown on Iranian students after the celebrations of the National Day for Students on November 7. On December 17, when the Iranian government shut down two dozen cyber cafes in a large-scale operation, even more people got arrested ((Committee to Protect Bloggers | Iran shuts down two dozen cyber cafes)). Some of the dozens of students who are still imprisoned are bloggers. Nothing unusual in Iran, which is, together with China and Egypt, one of the most dangerous countries for bloggers, having arrested dozens of cyber dissidents since blogs have been widespread in the last five years – and there is no end in sight.

Reasoned by the above mentioned detention of dozens of their fellow students and bloggers, Iranian bloggers are calling for a protest action on January 30 ((Mideast Youth | January 30, Solidarity of Bloggers with the Imprisoned Iranian Students)). On this day, all participants are urged to rename their blogs for 24 hours. A kind of protest which is not new to the Iranian blogosphere: This action is a remake of former campaigns which also tried to shed a light on the situation of political prisoners in Iran. A large participation in the highly political Iranian blogosphere can be foreseen…

What can I do?

  • Rename your blog for 24 hours on January 30 in “Solidarity of Bloggers with the Imprisoned Iranian Students”.
  • Write an article about this campaign to inform your readers about it.

Free Fouad!

January 6, 2008

Free Fouad!