Saturday, June 27, 2009

March 18 Movement Video

Watch this amazing video created by Mideast Youth about violating freedom of expression in the Middle East. The video is inspired by the death of Iranian blogger Omid Reza Mir Sayafi last March in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. This video is also meant to be an announcement of the March 18 movement. For more information or to join the movement, please visit:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran: Islamic Revolution 1979 Vs. Freedom Revolution 2009

A lot of things have happened since yesterday. The most shocking of which was the sudden death of Pop Star Michael Jackson. This was the only thing that could distract me from watching closely the aftermath of Iran presidential elections.

This afternoon, I could not believe my ears while listening to Ahmed Khatami (a chief cleric) calling for executing opposition members for leading protests against the so-called sacred regime! The honored clerics did not fulfill their thirst by the blood of the twenty some innocent people killed during protests. They still want to execute some more. What in the world is this savage bloody regime which wants to kill people for merely practicing their democratic rights?

If I were an Iranian, those words would not scare me. On the contrary, I will be more motivated to continue protesting relentlessly, but nonviolently, until I won my freedom back from such a selfish extremist regime of theocratic dictators hiding behind the glorified name of Allah.

According to Iran's Constitution, protesting election results is a constitutional right. It is also a basic human right stated by international conventions and cannot be denied by Iranian regime, which is a signatory on these conventions. Moreover, the same charts hold the regime accountable for attacking civilians and label them as committing crimes against humanity.

I am also very disappointed by the apparent retreat of opposition leaders. Mousavi kept silent for long before he finally made a couple of weak statements yesterday and today on his FaceBook page. Karoubi canceled a planned rally because he failed to get a legal permission! I do not know on what ground he expected that the regime will give him a permission. People are also so scared after violent clashes between armed Basij and armless protesters on Wednesday Jun 24th. And most importantly, the regime is getting wilder physically and verbally!

Unfortunately, I can see that the Iranian regime is gradually quelling people's rise for freedom. Islamic Revolution 1979 with its hateful misuse of Islam is still much stronger than Freedom Revolution 2009 with its praised enthusiasm and dedication. Yet, I still see a thin thread of hope that Mousavi, other opposition leaders, or even ordinary Persians will surprise us soon by a new nonviolent technique that will help the protests to go on until Iran is free. If they did, the international community must give up its passiveness and interfere for the good of the people.

Likewise, if the Iranian Freedom Revolution 2009 failed, no one should be blamed except the international community which did not had the courage to lay proper pressure on the Iranian dictators and theocrats in support of Iranians' right to freedom and democracy. The Iranian people are not only fighting for their own freedom, but for the long awaited peace and stability in our Middle East and the whole world.

For all dear Iranian heroes, I dedicate the R.I.P Michael Jackson's song above.

For the International Community, CLICK HERE for a list of the sanctions you can apply on Iran to protect Iranian people against their savage regime.


Update: Here is the thread of hope I told you about. It just came out from CNN iDesk two hours after I posted this blogpost: Our CNN producer in Tehran tells us the cries of "Allah-o-Akbar" could be heard again clearly on Friday night in Iran. #iranelection

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Boycott Nokia for Iran Crackdown!

Here is an action that we can take to support and help the Iranian heroes in their struggle for freedom and democracy:

My organization (the American Islamic Congress) is launching a new campaign calling for holding Nokia company responsible for targeting Iranian dissidents by Iranian government. As you may know, Nokia sold a hi-tech spy system to Iran government in April. This enabled the government to track internet users, read their emails, and identify them.

We only want Nokia to end its contract with the Iranian government and save the lives of activists and dissidents there by telling them how to circumvent the monitoring.

More information visit:
- CRIME Report
- Washington Times
- Wall Street Journal

Sign the petition to Nokia here:

We must do something!

We MUST do something!
We must help the young protesters killed and beaten like animals with knives hidden in batons in Iran.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let's push our governments to support Iranian protesters

The crisis in Iran has reached a tipping point. Ayatollah Khamenei has warned millions of democracy protesters to be silent or face the consequences, and last night 19 more protesters were killed. Experts warn a massive bloody crackdown is imminent.

World leaders have been cautious about taking sides -- but everyone should agree that the murder and violent intimidation of peaceful protesters is never acceptable. At this crucial moment, we need to press all our governments to take a united stand, condemn the crackdown, and withhold recognition of any new Iranian government until the people are permitted to peacefully address their election concerns.

Every day counts -- Top Iranian leaders are split down the middle over whether to support a crackdown, so every bit of pressure matters. Sign the petition below, and forward this email to friends and family -- let's build a massive global outcry of 1 million voices against the crackdown:

Some western countries have reason to be careful, but Iranian activists say a united international community is exactly what's needed. Our best hope is to show Iran's leaders that the entire world will reject the verdict of a violent crackdown.

We'll publicize the number of petition signatures in each country, and also deliver our petition directly to the leaders of the EU, Turkey, and Iraq -- Iran's largest trading partners, as well as the UN.

Today the hearts and hopes of people around the world are with the protesters facing awful risks on the streets of Iran. Their struggle for democracy and basic rights is our struggle; it's time for us to stand with them.

For more information, please refer to my previous posts

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama Statement on Iran Turmoil!

Please, note: This video is horrible graphic for a girl killed by Iranian Basij.

From the BNO Newsroom, as released by the White House.

NEW YORK CITY (BNO NEWS) -- "The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."

Iran: Time for Change! No more corruption!

I am writing now, while hundreds, if not thousands of young people in Iran are expecting death in today's rally from Enqlab square at 4:00 pm. Mousavi disappeared since yesterday. All those close to him, including his wife, are making statements on behalf of him. But where is he? Where is Mousavi? I received many emails and tweets from Iranian fellows expecting to be killed today in the rally! Yet, they have the guts to go and participate in changing the future of their country. The internet access at rally venue went down and almost all media outlets are blocked. This foretells a huge bloodshed today that the government does not want to be broadcast by media. The situation has become much bigger than Mousavi or even the Supreme Leader. Iranian young people, who resemble 3/5 the population in Iran are fighting for their freedom. God be with them! "God is Great!"

Follow me on Twitter for more up-to-the minute updates:

It is time for change!

Friday, June 19, 2009

More profound perspective on @Revolution in Iran

@Revolution: Taking a Page from Khomeini's Playbook
Nasser Wedday and Jesse Sage

Thirty years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini mastered the art of nonviolent confrontation to mobilize grassroots support and respond strategically to repression by the shah's regime. Can today’s opposition learn from his feat?

Ayatollah Khomeini is best known as the stern face of the Islamic Revolution that took over Iran in 1979. But the founding icon of the Islamic republic is rarely recognized as… wait for it… a pioneer of nonviolent strategic activism in the Middle East. At least in his route to gaining power—and certainly not in exercising power—Khomeini and his movement mastered the art of nonviolent confrontation to mobilize grassroots support and respond strategically to repression by the shah’s regime.

Today, 30 years after Khomeini’s revolution, Iranians are unexpectedly taking to the streets again and reviving many of the ayatollah’s own techniques—only this time to protest the actions of the regime he founded. A huge segment of Iran’s population—estimated at 70 percent—never experienced the bearded cleric’s skillful rise to power. But the masses of protesters in the streets of Tehran are proving themselves devoted children of Khomeini’s revolution, in tactics if not objectives.

In 1979, chants of “Allahu akbar” resonated at night from rooftops across Tehran and other major cities. Today, those chants have re-emerged, only with a different message, protesting a perceived election rigged at the hands of the Guardian Council installed by Khomeini himself. The private domestic sphere has again been transformed into an outlet of public protest, with nighttime chants at times swelling to a roar, according to some reports.

Khomeini’s followers also capitalized on their weakness—a lack of weaponry—to become sympathetic victims in the face of crackdowns by the Savak security forces. Today’s students gunned down at rallies or clubbed by Basij security forces have similarly become symbolic underdogs, risking physical harm to take a stand for justice. Weakness, Khomeini realized, can be a source of strength when correctly deployed against repressive thuggery—particularly with an international audience watching every development.

The ayatollah also realized an alternative means of communication was needed to circumvent government censorship. Capitalizing on the spread of cutting-edge technology—cassette tapes—Khomeini’s sermons were spread to followers from home to home via a clandestine tape-swapping network. Today, the spread is global and nearly instantaneous. Updates from random citizens and anonymous eyewitnesses zip from the streets via cellphones and Twitter feeds to a global audience beyond the censors’ reach. The authorities have tried blocking Facebook, turning off text-messaging, and interfering with mobile Internet access, but the flow continues.

The sudden emergence of massive grassroots protests in Iran caught the outside world as much by surprise as it did Iran’s Guardian Council—and those on the outside have largely remained passive observers. A flurry of rallies—almost entirely ignored by the media—sprouted up in major cities (as chronicled at Human-rights groups and diplomats have released statements of concern. And a few hackers have targeted regime Web sites. But aside from following the latest bursts of information from Iranian streets, energy is primarily devoted to debating whether or not outsiders should even get involved.

As Khomeini himself demonstrated during 15 years in forced exile, outsiders have a critical role to play in encouraging burgeoning social-change movements. Indeed, his now-legendary return to Iran, care of Air France, capped months of grassroots protests he assisted from another continent.

Today, effective solidarity actions are definitely in order, and not simply from politicians and diplomats. Social entrepreneurs are ideally positioned now to step up, with individuals and grassroots networks able to move more nimbly than governments. Activists can, for instance, provide proxies to help Iranians circumvent the censors’ blocking of sites.

Outsiders can also pressure and hinder the regime’s censors. On Twitter, for instance, activists launched a worldwide call for people to change their Twitter location and time zone to Tehran. Not simply an act of solidarity, the move makes it much harder for Iranian censors to search for genuine local “tweets” as part of their crackdown.

Some observers worry that offering solidarity simply means empowering Mousavi or Rafsanjani. But the ruling clerical establishment that has ruled Iran for decades is clearly fractured as never before. There exists enough momentum and dissident to potentially open up Iran and help Iranians from within undo the repressive apparatus Khomeini installed.

Unlike in Khomeini’s revolution, not one leader and one clear political ideology is championed. This is a feature, not a bug, increasing the chances of a freer outcome rather than simply replacing one dogmatic system for another.

For the first time in decades, the very people who fueled a popular uprising and understand its power are facing a mass of semi-organized outrage and defiance. The real question is whether a popular pro-Iran movement will emerge in the West to support protesters, pressure the regime, and compel Western leaders to act. In the meantime, Khomeini’s own techniques have been revived to confront the regime he founded—and the world is watching, if not yet acting.


Nasser Weddady and Jesse Sage direct the Hamsa civil-rights initiative of the American Islamic Congress. They have organized numerous training seminars on civil-rights reform and nonviolent direct activism for young Middle Easterners. Weddady's coverage of the Iran protests can be found on Twitter via @weddady.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

@Revolution: A Page from Khomeini's Playbook

Ayatollah Khomeini is best known as the stern face of the Islamic Revolution that took over Iran in 1979. But the founding icon of Iran’s Islamic Republic is rarely recognized as… a pioneer of nonviolent strategic activism in the Middle East. At least in route to gaining power – and certainly not in exercising power – Khomeini and his movement mastered the art of nonviolent confrontation to mobilize grassroots support and respond strategically to repression by the Shah’s regime. Now, thirty years after Khomeini’s revolution, Iranians are again taking to the streets and reviving many of the Ayatollah’s own techniques - only this time to protest the actions of the regime he founded.

In 1979, chants of “Allahu akbar” resonated at night from rooftops across Tehran and other major cities. Today, those chants have re-emerged, only with a different message. Khomeini’s followers also capitalized on their weakness - their lack of weaponry - to become a sympathetic victim in the face of crackdowns by the Savak security forces. Today’s students gunned down at rallies or clubbed by Basij security forces have similarly become symbolic underdogs, risking physical harm to take a stand for justice. And while Khomeini’s sermons were spread to followers via the new technology of underground cassette tapes, passed from home to home via a clandestine network, today’s updates from the streets are shared via cell phones and twitter feeds, reaching a global audience beyond the censor’s reach.

The sudden emergence of massive grassroots protests over the past four days has out of nowhere injected new energy into the Mideast’s movement for nonviolent reform. The challenge remains, however, whether the grassroots protests will be able to effectively maintain momentum, turn setbacks into opportunities, and create dilemma actions that force the repressive regime to turn its military dominance into a detriment. It also remains to be seen whether and how activists outside Iran will step up to provide effective solidarity. In the meantime, Khomeini’s own techniques have been revived to confront the regime he founded – and the world is watching, if not yet acting.

More stories from CRIME #51

- Watching Obama in Cairo
- WANTED by Kuwaitis...Finally: Rola Dashti Profile
- Dangerous Music: Singing Senator's CDs Seized


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iranians Upheaval against Theocratic Regime

Iranians Upheaval against Theocratic Regime:
rallying for freedom and individual rights!

By: Dalia Ziada*

The scene in Iran today foretells the potential rise of a grassroots revolution against the thirty years of theocratic leadership. Last Friday, the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second presidency term over the moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi disappointed not only Iranians, but also reformists all over the world. Yet, the nonviolent protests which followed the announcement of voting results came with bigger disappointment to Ahmadinejad, and his patron Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "sacred" Supreme Leader of Iran.

For three days, the Ministry of Internal Security and the Revolutionary Guards are trying, in vain, to control the nationwide rallies of millions of protesters. They killed tens of young people, arrested hundreds of dissidents, kept Mousavi in custody in his house, locked up text messaging services, restricted Internet and overseas telephone access, and threatened citizens via phone voice messages not to join demonstrations. Yet, millions of highly motivated Iranians are still there – in streets and on-line – standing up for their freedom; seeking a quick end to the thirty years of theocratic control over their lives.

The persistence of protesters, despite the rigid fist of the Iranian regime has become a threat to Khamenei himself. In the first hours after announcing Ahmadinejad victory with 25% margin, Khamenei told defeated candidates and their supporters to avoid "provocative behavior" and urged Iranians to respect the victory of Ahmadinejad the "chosen and respected president." However, unexpectedly, people did not "obey" him. After two days of fast-growing rallies, Khamenei changed his mind! The Supreme Leader who is supposed to be blindly obeyed by his people had to surrender to people's will and ordered investigating possible fraud of Friday elections. It is highly expected that with the continuity of protests, Khamenei might fear risking his own seat and subsequently give more space for Mousavi.

The current historic free-will upheaval of millions of Iranians is far beyond a mere support for Mousavi or a mere protest against Ahmadinejad. It is a nationwide rebel against the taboos of the sacred theocratic authority and the unbearable restrictions of the so-called Islamic state. Iranians are seeking their individual freedoms, which were stolen from them under the extremist president and the theocratic supreme leader, during the past years.

Ahmadinejad's government committed unlimited number of violations to Iranians' civil and individual rights. Dozens of Iranian journalists, cyber activists, and human rights advocates were arrested and assaulted for criticizing the extremist practices of the government. The most recent is that of journalist Roxana Saberi, who was arrested last February and accused of espionage while reporting from Tehran. Also, Iranian feminist Internet writer Jelveh Javaheri was arrested, in December 2007, for her online campaign "We-Change" in support of Iranian women rights. The veteran lawyer and Noble Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, among other human rights activists, suffered numerous forms of crackdown by the government for advocating civil rights in Iran.

Not only opposition members, but also a large number of ordinary citizens and young people tasted the sour of extremist leaders' suppression. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women and young people were arrested by "fashion police" for wearing "un-Islamic" clothes or cutting their hair in a "satanic" western style. The way people celebrate feasts and national holidays is decided by the government. According to 1979 Constitution of the Islamic revolution, The Supreme Leader is given control over every thing in the state. Apparently, this included the lifestyle of each citizen, too!

On another level, the confrontational foreign policy of Ahmadinejad added to the misery of the internal oppression. Under a president who does not care for establishing good relationships with key states in the Middle East and the world, people could not feel safe. The funds spent on feeding wars in the region and fulfilling the disgraced aspirations of illegitimate expansion should have been spent on internal social development projects.

In absolute contrast to his post-election statements, Iranians are fed up with the policies of Ahmadinejad. He cared for every thing the Supreme Leader wished and never paid attention for what his people really wanted. Iranians are now rebelling against the ugly face of dictatorship uncovered by the fall of the nice mask of religion. Iranians are supporting the reformist Mousavi in hope to lighten the heavy burden of unjustified restrictions imposed on their shoulders by the extremist supreme leadership. Mousavi is the choice of people not the Supreme Leader. Iranians see Mousavi as the key for change; for a bright future; for gaining back control over their own individual freedoms. Therefore, they will not go back to their normal life until their dream come true. It has become a matter of life or death; not only for the Iranian people, but also for their theocratic regime.

* Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian human rights activist, blogger, and North Africa director of the American Islamic Congress.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Join Obama Call for Stopping Settlements in Palestine

Guys, I have just signed this Avaaz petition.
Join me and let's support Obama call for stopping the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories.

The petition along with your signature will be published in international newspapers and sent to decision makers in US and Israel:

President Obama just made a remarkable speech in Egypt, committing personally to building peace in the Middle East. Unexpectedly, his first move is to directly challenge the new right-wing government of America's ally Israel -- pressing them to stop their self-destructive policy of settlements (illegal colonies set up on territory recognised by the US and the world as Palestinian).

This is a moment of rare crisis and opportunity. Obama’s bold strategy is facing powerful opposition, so he’s going to need help around the world in the coming days and weeks to strengthen his resolve. Let’s start right now -- by raising a massive global chorus behind Obama’s statement that the settlements in occupied territory must stop.

We’ll advertise the number of signatures in key newspapers in Israel, as well as in Washington DC (where some are trying to undermine Obama in the US Congress). Read Obama’s words now and add your signature to them at the link below, then forward this email to friends and family so they can do the same:

There is broad agreement that the settlements are a significant barrier to peace, a view also shared by a silent majority of the Israeli public. Combined with a network of roadblocks and barriers, these colonies now blanket the West Bank, seizing territory and forcing Palestinians to live effectively as prisoners in smaller and smaller pockets (see map at right).

Until this problem is tackled, it seems impossible to build a viable Palestinian state or any kind of lasting peace. For Arab states deciding what more they themselves can do for peace, stopping the settlements has become a crucial test of Israel’s seriousness.

We’ll need to urge the other parties to take bold steps too. If we can help Obama to stay the course on settlements, shift Israeli policy and encourage the Palestinians and key Arab states also to stretch out their hands, a new beginning for the Middle East is possible.

But none of this will happen without a growing global movement of citizens taking action to support it. Read Obama’s words, add your signature and spread the word today:

For further information on the settlements issue, click the following:

President Obama's speech (full text)

"Israeli Settlement Growth Must Stop," Says Clinton

Agence France Presse reports on Israeli and Palestinian responses to the speech

Al-Jazeera: Obama Seeks New Start with Muslims

Yediot Aharonot: Ministers Split Over Obama's Cairo Speech

God bless you Obama!

Monday, June 08, 2009

A lecture on Online Campaigning by Dalia Ziada

On Wednesday, June 3rd; I had the pleasure to lecture on "Online Campaigning: Virtual Activities to Change Real Life" for a group of media workers from all over the Middle East. The event was hosted by the regional office of Frame Work Convention Alliance. The venue of the event was the luxurious residential suites of City Stars. My audience were journalists for traditional newspapers, TV producers, radio presenters, and media assistants. I enjoyed my time with them a lot. We discussed various topics related to online campaigning: campaign planning, writing press release, blogging, Youtube channels, online radio stations, twitter, Facebook, etc.

I am publishing the power point presentation of my lecture (in Arabic) above. You are most welcome to drop me your questions in the comment section here or on my email.

كان لي شرف تقديم تلك المحاضرة يوم الأربعاء 3 يونيو لمجموعة من الإعلامين من جميع أنحاء الشرق الأوسط، ضمن فعاليات مؤتمر نظمه المكتب الأقليمي لمنظمة تحالف الإتفاقية الإطارية لمنع التبغ في فندق سيتي ستارز بالقاهرة. ناقشنا في المحاضرة كيفية التخطيط للحملة الإليكترونية والوسائل والأدوات التكنولوجية الحديثة التي يمكن أن يستغلها الإعلاميون لتوصيل رسالتهم للعالم، ومنها على سبيل المثال لا الحصر التدوين، تويتر، يوتيوب، محطات الإذاعة الإليكترونية، بودكاست، وغيرها

ورأيت أن أنشر هذه المحاضرة هنا لتعم الفائدة على الجميع، وأرحب بأسئلتكم ومشاركتكم

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dalia Ziada, AIC Egypt Office Director Meets with Senior Advisor after Obama Cairo Speech

American Islamic Congress Attends President Obama’s Talk in Cairo, Praises His Elegant Call for Respect, Reform, and Individual Freedom

Organization’s Egypt Office Director Meets Privately with Senior Advisor

June 4th, 2009

Washington, DC – The American Islamic Congress (AIC) today attended President Barack Obama’s Cairo address and praised his call for respect, reform, and individual freedom. AIC’s Egypt office director Dalia Ziada attended the speech at the Administration’s invitation and met privately after the speech with the President’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. Zainab Al-Suwaij, the organization’s Executive Director, issued the following statement:

“President Obama’s Cairo speech outlined an agenda Muslim-Americans can adopt and share with pride. As the director of a Muslim-American civil rights group, I was delighted that the President’s speech reflected our organization’s core values and validated our responsible leadership philosophy.

“The President’s speech echoed AIC’s key themes of unequivocal rejection of terrorism, the importance of women’s equality, and a respect for intellectual freedom. We were also encouraged to hear Mr. Obama insist on reform via nonviolent activism and respect individual rights, values we are advancing through training workshops and advocacy campaigns on the ground in the Muslim world.

CNN Interview“President Obama’s vision also resonated because he cited Muslim-Americans’ contributions to America and the world – made possible by the opportunities America offers. As the Administration’s meeting with our own Egypt office director, Dalia Ziada, indicates, the President’s agenda needs the active participation of Muslim-American organizations to succeed.

“Dalia’s presence was also a reminder of the challenges young Muslim reformers face, as she has helped drive the campaign for fellow Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, an Al-Azhar student jailed for expressing his opinions. Protecting liberty on the individual level – and on a societal level, as in the case of Darfur – must be an action priority.

“The President’s remarks about internal Muslim divisions – in cases like Darfur – points to the success story of the Muslim-American community, itself a unique melting pot of the multiple and complex Muslim cultural identities. As the US continues to reach out to Muslims worldwide, we cannot not forget our internal diversity, which should be a source of strength rather than division.”

As the only Muslim-American organization with offices in the Middle East, the American Islamic Congress is a civil-rights organization promoting tolerance and the exchange of ideas among Muslims and between other peoples.

See CNN interview with Dalia Ziada.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dalia Ziada reacts to Obama's Mideast speech from the youth perspective.

June 4, 2009
Muslim activist: Obama brought us together
Posted: 09:29 AM ET
Carol Costello - Contributor, CNN's American Morning
Filed under: Middle East

Dalia Ziada reacts to Obama's Mideast speech from the youth perspective.

President Obama reached out to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims this morning from Cairo, addressing relations with the west along with a good portion devoted to women’s rights.

“Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons…”

Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian human rights activist and blogger, who attended President Obama’s speech in Cairo. She spoke to Carol Costello on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.

Carol Costello: First of all, I want to know what it was like to sit in the audience. What was the mood like?

Dalia Ziada: The hall was full of people from different walks of life. Mostly Egyptians, Muslim Brotherhood, mixed with liberals, mixed with socialists, capitalists, people from different backgrounds, religious backgrounds like Muslims, Christians, Coptics, Baha’is. Obama succeeded to do what we always fail to do, which is bringing all of us together in one whole and agreeing on certain things and certain points.

Costello: Dalia, while he was talking about women’s rights, did most of the audience clap? Did just some? Did just women?

Ziada: No, all the audience clapped because he took it from a traditional point of view. You know, people will believe you more – and believed Obama, and Obama was credible more for them because he spoke, first, about tradition, about Islam. And from this, he speaks about women’s rights. He refused extremism. He rejected extremism, which we all reject, but he did not reject Islam. So everyone clapped, including men who are against women’s rights or consider women’s rights not something good to speak about. Everyone clapped.

Costello: I know by your note to us you were happy about that. I want to talk about the students and how this went over with them. Barack Obama is trying to win the hearts and minds of young people. You talk about Cairo University and that student political groups are prohibited. The policy on artistic and cultural events is to “protect students from corrupt thoughts.” So how did President Obama go over with a student body that has to get their education with these rules in place?

Ziada: Education is the biggest problem in the whole Muslim world, particularly for women. And, you know, always an enemy for any society is ignorance. And once you remove ignorance, anything can happen. Once you…have educated a generation, this generation will know their rights and they will fight for it in a [non-violent] way and that is what we want.

Costello: Will this spur young people to fight against the government restrictions in place right now against them? Against the freedoms that they want?

Ziada: Yes, of course. Obama said he believes in young people and he believes that young people can [remake] the whole world. He said let’s forget about the past, let’s forget yesterday and focus on tomorrow. And I totally agree with him on that.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dalia Ziada interview in Daily News about Obama Speech from Cairo

American Islamic Congress will benefit from Obama’s visit, says director

By Safaa Abdoun
First Published: June 2, 2009
Click HERE for the original article

CAIRO: As the Arab and Muslim world pricks up its ears for US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech on June 4, Dalia Ziada, North Africa director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC), has expectations of her own.

For Ziada, Obama’s attempt to improve the relationship between the US and the Muslim world will make for a smoother ride for the AIC — an organization falsely perceived as promoting “imported ideologies from the West,” she says.

“The objectives of the center which include promoting democracy, human rights and women’s rights have been labeled as ‘imported ideologies’ which people here in the Arab World look at as against our religion, morals and beliefs,” explained Ziada.

“This is because that’s their perception of the West, so when they find America is taking steps towards us and even taking action to end things like the war in Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict this perception will change,” she said.

Ziada notes that images such as that of Obama holding the Palestinian president’s hand tells the Arab World that he is with us, “that we are not enemies but friends.”

“Therefore improving the relationship with America will make everything easier for us, as we are no longer promoting something against the society, but something the society looks up to and believes in,” she said.

Obama’s visit

Ziada lauded Obama’s visit and the fact that he is reaching out to the Muslim world and turning a new page.

She also praised his choice of Egypt as a venue, calling it a “smart move.”

“Egypt is known for its key role in the region, he chose a location that holds a special place in [Arab] hearts,” she said.

“In addition, Egypt is a moderate Islamic nation, with Sunnis and Shia and other sects, so he is speaking to all Muslims from here,” she added.

While Ziada said it is difficult to predict what Obama’s speech will include, she said it is likely to have positive reverberations.

She expects him to criticize the former administration and its relationship with the Arab world. She also expects that the speech will include promises of future cooperation between the US and the Muslim world.

Ziada, however, admits to initially opposing Obama during the elections.

“He reminded me of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the young charismatic leader who is a great speaker and after he gives a speech you are inspired, but all goes down to nothing as nothing is ever accomplished … I always refer to Abdel Nasser as the man of words and not action,” she said.

But Obama proved her wrong after five months in office by decisions such as closing down Guantanamo Bay prison, a plan to withdraw from Iraq and a dialogue with the Muslim world.

“He is someone who wasn’t just talking when he said ‘change has come to America’. I say that change has come to the world, thanks to him,” she added.

The American Islamic Congress is born

AIC was founded after Sept. 11 by Zeinab El Swaij, the current chair, with the objective of improving the image of Muslims in America. It then developed to improving the image of the Middle East as a whole.

The activities of AIC expanded to the Middle East with offices in Iraq, Kuwait and Cairo, in addition to its headquarters in Boston.

When AIC’s North Africa office first opened in Cairo in mid-2007 many people were against it, and Ziada, a blogger and human rights activist at the time, was strongly criticized by fellow bloggers and activists.

“It was shocking to see people accusing me of working with an American organization that is actually an NGO working for our benefit,” said Ziada.

But AIC in Cairo worked against the odds; it was widely acclaimed last year for holding the first Cairo Festival for Human Rights Films, which, despite the many challenges they faced, received wide media coverage and was adopted by other countries in the region.

Obama in the blogs

Ziada has been a blogger since 2006, authoring the “Dalia Ziada: Human Life from a Daliatic Approach” blog.

She has been following the reaction to Obama’s visit on the blogosphere.

There have been American bloggers who are very critical of Obama for working on improving the relationship with “the terrorists.”

“There is even a blog entry with Obama’s picture as Osama Bin Laden,” said Ziada.

On the other hand, the majority of bloggers approve of Obama’s move, she said.

“They [Americans] are fed up of focusing mainly on foreign policy, so they want to patch things up with the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world, so they would guarantee that no new enemies or terrorists arise so they would start working on domestic policy,” explained Ziada.

In addition, bloggers in the Muslim and Arab world are optimistic about Obama’s visit, she noted.

She explains that Arab bloggers are hopeful yet skeptical of the visit at the same time, “Some are saying there is a conspiracy theory behind it because at the end of the day, he is an American president.”

“Even if he is an American president working for his own benefit he is different than any other president and we have to see that his interests lay in our interests too so we should be happy,” she said.

“It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

Click HERE for original article.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Young Egyptian Activists and the Obama effect!

Young Egyptian Activists and the Obama effect!
By: Dalia Ziada*

Egyptian grassroots, who have no interest in politics at all, as well as high profile politicians, intellectuals, and state officials, including the President of the state are looking forward with hope, pride, and limited suspicion to the prospected visit of the American president Barack Obama to Cairo on June 4th.

Cairo University, the largest and oldest governmental university in Egypt, which is said to be the venue for Obama's anticipated speech to the Arab world next month, is shinning due to renovation and cleaning works, which the university was deprived of for years.

On Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, where most of Egyptian young people spend their day, there are tens of posts and notes addressing Obama and calling upon him to adopt certain strategies towards domestic and regional problems with absolute confidence that he can really eliminate the historical chaos of the most disturbed region in the world.

Local and international media is stuffed with stories, opinion editorials, and talk shows discussing the privileges and feasibility of Obama speech from Cairo. Some commenters build their analysis on the rotten "conspiracy theory" which appeals to large number of Arab audience. However, this did not affect the positive perspective the majority of Egyptians have towards Obama.

The strong positive passion of Egyptians towards Obama is as old as his first day of running for elections. When Obama won the president seat few months ago, almost all Egyptians stayed up as late as 3:00 am to see Obama delivering his speech to the world. This has never happened with any previous president! One of the weirdest unforgettable comments I heard from one of the Egyptian young activists on that night was: "I doubt that this Obama is a human like us!"

From the beginning, I chose to be more cautious regarding believing the smart promises of the new American president towards my country, region, and the world. I tried to avoid the trap of deification of the charismatic young leader which Egyptians fenced in, 45 years ago, under the charismatic eloquent president Gamal Abdul Nasser, whose rosy words blinded people from seeing the painful thorns of his destructive failure in transforming his inspiring words into on-ground action. However, after nearly five months in his new post, I could not help but falling in love with the Obama model.

In a very short period of time, Obama proved that he is the man of real action not only elegant words. He made a plan to withdraw from Iraq after trying to fix what his forebear messed there. He even called for forming a committee to investigate the war crimes committed under Bush in Iraq. He signed a treaty to end torture and close Guantanamo prison forever. And most importantly, he is exerting a tangible effort to establish good relationship with the Middle East and the Muslim world based on mutual respect, partnership, and compatibility.

The question why young Egyptians, who resemble more than 65% of the Egyptian population, believe in Obama may have dozens of answers. The most intuitive that might pop up to a non-Egyptian reader could be related to Obama's Muslim origins. However, as an insider, I can assert that in a country of citizens with different religions, political affiliations, and social backgrounds, like Egypt, the answer would be far more complicated.

For Egyptian youth who suffer unemployment and the lack of equal opportunities in the business market, Obama is the embodiment of the possibility of the impossible dream. His Muslim origins and the color of his skin should have forced him to spend his whole life marginalized and ignored. But as an ambitious young man, he broke the stereotype and became the first black American president in such a relatively young age.

Obama, the young ambitious open-minded leader, whose electoral campaign used the latest information technology tools to communicate with youth all over the globe, is the symbol of the change aspired by young political activists, who have lost their voices struggling tirelessly with the "unchangeable" 28 years-old Egyptian regime.

Moreover, the fact that Obama was a human rights activist who adopted many noble causes for love of humanity before he becomes the president of the United States, added to his grades in the eyes of young Egyptians. The mere fact that Obama is interested in human rights has, even, contributed – indirectly, though – in changing some of the politically motivated crackdown on Egyptian rights activists and political dissidents. One major example was the dropping of 80% of the charges filed by members of the ruling National Democratic Party and independent regime affiliates against the famous Egyptian dissident and sociologist, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who is living in exile since 2007. Another example was the unexpected pardoning of Dr. Ayman Nour, who spent four years in prison on the background of running to presidential elections in 2005 in a way that threatened Gamal Mubarak plans to inherit the position of his father, President Mubarak.

For the first time, in tens of years, Egyptians can see an American president who is not eager to establish a relationship with the Egyptian regime regardless of its black record of practices against democracy and human rights. This forced the Egyptian regime to show more tolerance and flexibility towards human rights activists and groups.

Yet, the inevitable question, while waiting impatiently for Obama's visit to Cairo within few days, would be: is Obama willing to live up to the high expectations of young Egyptian activists through supporting them in their struggle for domestic reform and making their dream of change, inspired by him, true?

* Dalia Ziada is a young Egyptian human rights activist, blogger, and North Africa director of the American Islamic Congress.