[LINK] Egypt and Facebook

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Jan 26 01:44:55 AEDT 2009

Good if the Brotherhood and Obama became Facebook pals ..

Revolution, Facebook-Style 
By SAMANTHA M. SHAPIRO www.nytimes.com Published: January 22, 2009 

Only a few hours after Israel’s first air strike against Hamas positions 
in the Gaza Strip late last month, more than 2,000 protesters marched 
through the streets of downtown Cairo, carrying Palestinian flags. This 
began what would become weeks of protests ..

As the street protests went on, young Egyptians also were mobilizing and 
venting their anger over Gaza on what would, until recently, have seemed 
an unlikely venue: Facebook, the social-networking site. 

In most countries in the Arab world, Facebook is now one of the 10 most-
visited Web sites, and, in Egypt it ranks third, after Google and Yahoo. 

About one in nine Egyptians has Internet access, and around 9 percent of 
that group are on Facebook — a total of almost 800,000 members. 

This month, hundreds of Egyptian Facebook members, in private homes and 
at Internet cafes, have set up Gaza-related “groups.” 

Most expressed hatred for Israel and the United States, but each one had 
its own focus. 

Some sought to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza, some criticized the 
Egyptian government, some criticized other Arab countries for blaming 
Egypt for the conflict and still others railed against Hamas .. Another 
group implored God to “destroy and burn the hearts of the Zionists.”

Freedom of speech and the right to assemble are limited.. a permanent 
state-of-emergency law .. An estimated 18,000 Egyptians are imprisoned 
under the law, which allows the police to arrest people without charges, 
allows the government to ban political organizations and makes it illegal 
for more than 5 people to gather without a license from the government. 
Newspapers are monitored by the Ministry of Information ..

And so for young people in Egypt, Facebook, which allows users to speak 
freely to one another and encourages them to form groups, is irresistible 
as a platform not only for social interaction but also for dissent.

Although there are countless political Facebook groups in Egypt .. the 
one with the most dynamic debates is that of the April 6 Youth Movement, 
a group of 70,000 mostly young and educated Egyptians, most of whom had 
never been involved with politics before joining the group. 

Members coalesce around a few issues — free speech, economic stagnation 
and government nepotism — and they share their ideas for improving Egypt. 

But they do more than just chat: they have tried to organize street 
protests to free jailed journalists, and this month, hundreds of young 
people from the April 6 group participated in demonstrations about Gaza, 
some of which were coordinated on Facebook, and at least eight members of 
the group were detained by police. 

As with any group on Facebook, members can post comments or share news 
articles, videos or notes on the group’s communal “wall.” The wall of the 
April 6 group is constantly being updated with new posts, and the talk is 
often heated and intense. 

On a recent afternoon, members were discussing photographs that had just 
been posted on the Muslim Brotherhood Web site of a mass protest in 
Alexandria against Israel’s actions in Gaza, in which thousands of 
members of the brotherhood took to the streets.

“They are real men!” posted a young woman using the alias Mona Liza.. 
Another member dissented: “We need strong actions, not protests like the 
brotherhood’s where they sing religious songs and go home.” 


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