Because so many people visit this site, I want to draw attention to someone - just a young man who wanted to express himself. This story illustrates the dangers that people online face in certain countries.
I want to tell the story of Kareem Amer, a young student from Egypt. But before I do I'd just like to put the story into some context, that of International Law, human rights and an agreement signed by the majority of developed countries across the planet.
Egypt was one of the founding members of the United Nations set up in the aftermath of the 2nd World War in 1945. They were also signatories to arguably one of the UN's most important (but often disregarded) pieces of legislation - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a wonderful document arguably the most universal and global document we have, it stipulates 30 fundamental rights which all citizens of the world should be entitled.
It starts off by stating that all human beings are born free and equal and then continues to stipulate the 30 rights in a series of articles or statements. To be honest you could pick quite a few of these as a background to the story of Kareem Amer, but I'll just stick to two of probably the most relevant and probably the most abused in the modern world.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman who writes under the name Kareem Amer, is a young man who was studying at the Al Azhar University in Cairo. He used his blog from Internet cafes to express himself, to voice his opinion like many others do all over the world. His writings are fairly controversial particularly for his own country, he criticises the religion, President Mubarak and the treatment of women amongst other topics.
There is no doubt he's fairly outspoken but his views wouldn't be particularly shocking in most countries. You'd easily hear much more militant and outspoken stuff in the average bar or pub in the UK for instance, although probably not expressed quite as eloquently. However Egypt is a very conservative country with a fairly poor record on human rights. I'm afraid his words and opinions have earned him the dubious honour of being the first Egyptian blogger to receive a prison sentence for his words. The actual charges were related to religious contempt and insulting the president.
Anyway of course these opinions are subjective so it's best to read them for yourself, follow the link to the Free Kareem Amer page below and you'll find English translations of the offending blog posts. Fortunately as the Egyptian Government don't have control of the internet we are allowed to read them, although you'll find the page blocked in certain countries with similar problems with free speech.
Kareem Amer is now approaching the end of his ridiculous four year sentence, he has spent his imprisonment in the Borg Al-Arab jail near Alexandria. Some of that time has been spent in solitary confinement and he has reportedly been beaten and bullied by the prison staff throughout his sentence. I urge you to read the blog and see the words that have led to his imprisonment of this young man.
The decision to imprison Kareem Amer has been criticized by many major free speech organisations and governments across the world. The United Nations Working group on Arbitrary detention has also called for his release and released these findings - WGAD Report on Kareem Amer, the US Government has expressed concern and MPs in UK, Italy have raised his plight.
All have called for his release and been ignored by the Egyptian Government, where obviously the articles concerning freedom of expression are deemed not to apply to Egyptian citizens.
So I urge you to go and visit the Free Kareem Amer website, a site set up by predominately Muslim defenders of Free Speech. It is their religion that Kareem was supposed to have insulted, yet they are calling for his release. They do more, far more for their faith than the Egyptian Government who hide behind religious defamation laws in order suppress the basic human rights of freedom of speech that they pretend to support.