'Flood the jail with mail'

Online activist groups the Free Kareem Coalition and the Committee to Protect Bloggers (CPB) are launching a joint snail mail campaign in support of the imprisoned Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for insulting Islam and President Mubarak.
Kareem Rally in New York Feb 22 2008.jpg
A rally for Kareem in New York City on February 22, 2008, the first anniversary of his sentencing. R.R.

BEIRUT, March 19, 2008 (MENASSAT) – The initiative, entitled "Flood the Jail with Mail," calls on activists and supporters of free speech around the world to send letters to Kareem Amer during one week in April. The campaign also seeks to increase public awareness about the case of the 23-year old cyber-dissident, who is the first blogger to be sent to jail in Egypt.

"We decided it was time to organize a campaign that focuses on Kareem in a personal way. So far, we've organized demonstrations and public outreach events all over the world but nothing that targets Kareem directly," Esra'a Al-Shafei, the 21-year-old director of the Free Kareem Coalition told MENASSAT.

Al-Shafei said she and her colleague Curt Hopkins who leads the Committee to Protect Bloggers (CPB), got the idea when they were told by one of Kareem's friends how much Amer enjoys to receive letters from supporters.

"CPB spearheaded the idea and now we are asking as many people as possible to send Kareem letters to show that they haven't forgotten him. Letters really make a difference to him," said Al-Shafei.

Egyptian blogger Wa7damasrya (Egyptian Girl) told MENASSAT that Amer was in rather good spirits when she visited him at Burj-Al Arab prison outside Alexandria two weeks ago. 

"We went a group of us. We told the prison officers that we were his cousins and gave one of the guards a few pounds so that they would let us in.  Kareem was very happy to see us."

According to Wa7damasrya, Amer has received some 1,500 letters from supporters around the globe since his sentencing in February last year. She stressed the importance of letters to Amer, saying that they "give him hope."

"He’s waiting to receive more letters. It’s important that people keep writing to him. You can send books as well. But only through recognized carriers like Fedex," she added.

Infidel or not?

According to Al-Shafei most of the letters come from outside the Arab world, especially from Europe and the United States. She relates that development partly to the controversial nature of Amer's writings.

"We've distanced our campaign from the Arab world and concentrated on support from Europe and the States considering what Kareem wrote about Islam. Many in the Arab world seem confused whether they should support him. They maintain sort of an 'Is he an infidel or not?' type of perspective," continued al-Shafei.

Despite his harsh living conditions, Amer reportedly told his visitors that he has been receiving better treatment from the prison personnel recently – a big difference from a few months ago when he was in agony.

In November 2007, Amer's lawyers from the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor claiming that their client had been subjected to torture and abuse by a fellow inmate and a prison guard.

They said Amer had contacted them claiming he had been assaulted and then transferred to solitary confinement where he was placed in shackles and repeatedly beaten for two days. The alleged battery resulted in a broken tooth.

HRInfo reported that the incident was supervised by an investigation officer employed at the prison. The General Prosecutor has yet to investigate the matter.

According to Wa7damasrya, the large attention Amer's case has attracted from mass media and activist groups since have made a difference in his life in prison.

"They’re treating him better in the prison because they know they're being watched. But the minute we forget about Kareem he will be in danger again," said Wa7damasrya.

Al-Shafei urged everyone to get involved.

"Send him letters, books, and postcards," she said.

Also read:

From Menassat.com:

'Until you change your mind'
Posted on 11/13/2007 - 16:19
On the first anniversary of his imprisonment, when fellow bloggers all over the world held demonstrations for his release, Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer was allegedly tortured for having exposed corruption inside the prison. Egypt, Kareem Amer 

Blogging all the way to jail
Posted on 10/29/2007 - 09:45
In Egypt, bloggers are talking about issues that the traditional media fail to report on. And they are going to jail for it. Egyptian blogger Abdul Karim Suleiman, a.k.a Karim Amer, after being sentenced to four years in prison. (AFP)

The Internet as a global village for Arab activists
Esra'a Al Shafei, director of the Mideast Youth website and the Free Kareem campaign, argues that the Internet has provided Arab activists with the means to bring about real change in the region.

From The Guardian:

- Jailhouse Blog: Khaled Diab on Kareem Amer


- The Free Kareem Campaign
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo)