EGYPT: Cyberspace conference blasts Mubarak government
As President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party is holding its annual convention to lay the blueprint of future policies, young activists took to cyberspace, launching a parallel conference to condemn and satirize the nation's government.
After failing to get a security permit to hold their own conference in a public venue, a group of 50 activists between 18 and 28 decided to voice their opposition — electronically.
“We want to convey a certain message to the people that the [National Democratic Party] has been lying to them for 28 years,” Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the group’s spokesman told The Times in a phone interview. “The party raises the slogan ‘A New Thinking for the Future,’ and we raise the slogan ‘Do not believe them.’ ”
With limited resources, the group has launched a blog that carries video recordings of statements by different opposition leaders bashing Mubarak’s policies.
“We relied on very simple tools; we recorded these videos with our mobile cameras and then posted them on YouTube,” added Abdel Aziz. In a recorded video posted on the dissident blog, a 22-year-old graduate of aviation engineering school appears while reading the group’s inaugural statement.
“The [ruling] party holds its fifth annual convention to impress us with new lies. We will raise legitimate questions: Where is the nuclear project that the party talked about before? Who was punished for the sinking of the ferry of death? Who was punished for the catastrophe of Douaiqa? Who was punished for the burning of the Shura Council? For 28 years, the party has been having the same talk; we have been listening to nonsense; we keep hearing about a development that we cannot see. We only see contradictions; we see palaces and villas in Marina [Egypt’s North Coast resort] on the one hand and huts in Douaiqa on the other. We see businessmen who monopolize most of the national wealth on one hand and a lay civil servant with no income.... This is the real image of Egypt under the rule of the National Party, which calls itself democratic.”
In recent years, cyberspace has become the main platform for political expression in a country where legitimate channels of political activism are usually blocked. Earlier this year, the same young activists called for a national strike in protest to skyrocketing inflation and the 80-year-old president's rule.
While the ruling party’s leaders were reviewing their achievements, including economic growth and improved foreign investment, the organizers of the virtual conference decided to shed light on corruption, inflation and a regime that frequently arrests and imprisons activists and political opponents.
— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo
Photos: President Mubarak gives the convention's inaugural speech Saturday (Nasser Nasser / Associated Press); the logo of the opposition group as it appears on the group's blog.
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