Constructive Activism

Two weeks ago, Alaa Ahmed Seif Al Islam– an activist, blogger, Cairene, Drupal developer, Egyptian, and fairly good husband to his wife Manal (in alphabetical order)– was beaten and arrested, along with ten other demonstrators, as part of ongoing protests in Egypt in support of an independent judiciary. What followed was a smattering of global protests, online and offline to free Alaa and other hundreds of jailed protestors. These helped in part to generate media stories, and even the U.S. State Department has called the actions of the Egyptian government were a “mistake.”

Still, it remains difficult to judge the effectiveness of some of the new online activism tactics, particularly as they are ongoing and have had yet to achieve the ultimate goals, but in some quarters they’ve already been celebrated without qualification.

That’s what brings me to this story. From my safe seat in the cradle of liberty, Boston USA, I’m not near any of the physical protests, but I do have a keen eye about what’s happened online. And in my capacity as an occasional journal activist, I’ve pitched a hand as well. Now I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

This past weekend Alaa’s detention was extended another 15 days. Tomorrow there will be protests at the Egyptian Embassies and Consulates in major cities. I hope what I provide here will help ongoing online activism efforts.

[Update, May 26th: To get a full grasp of the background to this story, read Mark Glaser’s excellent 2,700-word article about Alaa and the movement.]

[Update, June 20th: Alaa has been freed. Also, note that in other accounts his name is given as Alaa Abd el Fatah. My analysis to come.]

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