Wael Ghonim released from prison

It was terrible to see how upset people were when Wael Ghonim was arrested 12 days ago. At some point I realized he was not just a dude who worked for Google, he was also the person who dared put his name on the line on the We are all Khaleed Said page on Facebook. It has been a huge group for political discussion and organizing. Facebook won’t take pseudonyms, someone had to be the admin – and he seems to have done a ton of admin work.

The We Are All Khaled Said site hosted discussions and ran polls asking its thousands of members what actions to take. It started to come out that Wael was the admin (not something anyone wanted to say in public at first, because what if that got him into worse trouble – if it weren’t already known?) Wael is out of police detention now, just barely out, and here is a subtitled interview with him. It’s incredibly moving to watch. I understand what he says about not being a hero. That’s out of his hands now, though.

Here is the interviewer, Mona El-Shazly, telling the back story of getting to know Wael, checking up on him on the phone, and realizing he was arrested:

Dream TV interview with Wael Ghonim Part 1

Video Subtitles courtesy Alive in Egypt

Here is the next bit where Wael talks about his thoughts about what’s happening. Keep in mind he barely knows what happened yet since he’s been in jail with no news. This is the heart of the interview. If the embedded link isn’t working, please click through to watch and read it what Wael has to say. It’s important!

Dream TV interview with Wael Ghonim – Part 2 – With English subtitles

Video Subtitles courtesy Alive in Egypt

There is more to the interview ( not subtitled yet) but it consists of Wael crying a lot and then a slide show of some of the people who died in the protests accompanied by sappy music while Wael cries some more. I felt outraged. I suspect the interviewer did too. Holy fuck, the man just got out of 12 days of jail and interrogation. It’s a bit terrible to realize that for him this is just another interrogation in a contiuum. He’s responding like a person so deeply traumatized. At the end of the video clip, Wael sobs, gets up, and runs offstage.

Zeinobia from Egyptian Chronicles, who has been twittering and blogging throughout the protests, summarizes the interviews and gives her perspective: Breaking news: Wael Ghonim is free.

I understand he doesn’t feel like a hero. The protesters had non violent ideas, and yet over 300 people died. Probably many more – that count is from Human Rights Watch’s poll of 8 hospitals. There are a lot more hospitals in Egypt. But just like no one made him or influenced him and the people on Khaled Said page think what they thought or engage in protest, their leadership or their example didn’t make the other hundreds of thousands or millions of people go out in the street, they did it because they believed in the ideals too and because of oppression.

I wonder if he is right that he convinced the police, secret police, interrogators, high up people in the intelligence system or NDP, that the protesters aren’t traitors and aren’t being controlled by some foreign power. I hope that’s true. It seems possible that it isn’t, and that they had their own reasons for playing good cop and co-opting him as best they could, knowing he’s too influential and well connected (though he doesn’t seem to realize it) for them to just disappear. But it also seems just possible that it’s true. I’m sure he explained very well. He’s eloquent and he’s right.

For days he explained the Internet and “youth” activism and spoke for the political ideals of the people he knows, to a lot of secret police and government oldsters, in the power of people known to torture and kill its citizens for just writing or saying something, while utterly helpless and in jail with no contact with the outside world. That’s huge, and that makes him heroic whether he wants to think of himself as a hero or not. Along with many many others whose goal isn’t to lead but to empower everyone. He put himself on the front lines of the “heroes of the keyboard” and he went to the country and to the protests. I think knowing he was one of the people privileged enough to have a chance when inevitably arrested. He could have stayed home and continued organizing from there. But, it’s unreasonable to expect him to act the part of a hero and leader right on the way out the door before even having a nap! It’s not like he had 20 years in jail to think about it!

I’m only watching from a distance, have nothing to do with Egypt, but have been following this through all the protests pretty closely. I feel like a different person now and like all of it is making me assess myself, my politics, my actions… I don’t mean that it’s all about me. It’s what a revolution does… it makes everyone question themselves.

Feminism, Assange rape charges, free speech, and Wikileaks

Today’s arrest of Julian Assange on rape charges is being framed by many people as a conflict between feminism and free speech. I won’t link to them all, but here is a sample: Kirk Murphy from Firedoglake apparently thinks anyone gets to rape Known Feminists with impunity. That article made me especially angry.

I support Wikileaks and ALL the people who worked to create and maintain it, because it’s important political work. I’m very concerned that once Assange enters the court system he will not be treated fairly.

At the same time, I think it’s extremely important for anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted to report that crime and for perpetrators to be called to account for it. I would never advise someone to hold back from charging their rapist with a crime just because the rapist is in a position of importance.

I think we can see, though, that Assange is not being treated in proportion with the crime.

I agree with Lindsay Beyerstein and Jill Filipovic that the media story of the charges against Assange and much of the public discussion of them have been shoddy and sensationalist. I actually find myself agreeing with Jezebel bloggers . This excellent post by Leigh Honeywell sums up my feelings on sex and consent very well..

I’m fine with Assange going to trial. I just want him to be treated with justice and to face only what other people accused with rape would face.

Does that seem likely to you?

We need to be watchdogs on this case – yes, for what happens to Assange. Not because he faces rape charges. I don’t care what charges he is facing, actually. It could be murder, or a lot of parking tickets. He is in an especially vulnerable position as a free speech advocate that many governments including my government in the U.S. have openly said they want to destroy. They don’t want to destroy him because of rape charges, they want to destroy him because he is riding point as the PR contact of a collective effort to make secret government information public. The Wikileaks crew worked intelligently to publish information in as robust a way as they could imagine.

We need to call bullshit very strongly for what has already happened in the media to his accusers, who have had their identities outed and who are being attacked by shamers and rape apologists.

But as feminists we also need to defend, not rapists or men’s right to rape with impunity, but free speech and the laws and political climate that help it flourish. That is also an important part of feminism. It’s crucial. It’s THE MOST IMPORTANT part of feminism. We need free speech, the laws that protect it, and the tools that make public free speech possible, as women who have fought hard to have a public voice.

About Wikileaks itself, I understand why it hasn’t been more transparent. But I disagree with that decision.

As a feminist, I believe strongly in collective action. As a riot grrrl I got behind the idea that we should “Kill Rock Stars”. Not literally kill a rock star, duh. We need to kill the idea that we need rock stars, or Great Men, or figureheads, because important political action doesn’t happen because of a lone hero. It really doesn’t. Political solidarity and collective action, and collective statements, have always been a key part of feminist and womanist politics. Wikileaks and Assange have this to learn, I think. They should stand together. And we should stand behind them at the same time as we stand behind Assange’s accusers.

I need to be able to report rape to the “justice” system with some amount of trust. Can any of us say that that’s true? I haven’t found it to be true. Instead, reporting rape or sexual assault becomes simultaneously political fuel if the people in power want to use it that way, and a path to attack and discredit the rape survivor, which will happen no matter what.

Extradite all the rapists you can find, Interpol. Do it right now. Go for it. Great. Enforce the laws against rape. Please! Extradite some war criminals from the U.S. while you’re at it.

Meanwhile, here is an article by Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

He was refused bail.

Continuing coverage is at The Guardian.

Sen. Joe Lieberman is agitating to push a bill through that will make what Wikileaks did illegal so that Assange can be extradited for THAT: the Espionage Act amendments.

Here’s a petition against that from DemandProgress.

Do you think the U.S. will succeed in extraditing Assange from the UK or from Sweden? What do you think will happen to him then? I think we can care about *that* whether he is a douchey rapist or not. Frankly, as a feminist, I would fight to the death to defend the basic human rights of my own rapists. As we all should.