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Egyptian human rights defender Mona Seif short listed for 2012 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
Mona Seif captured the world’s attention with her social media coverage of events in Cairo on January 25th and during the subsequent police crackdown. In response to the arrests of protesters by the military, she started her own movement taking on the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and their use of military trials and detention against civilians.
The No Military Trials for Civilians movement has been a galvanizing force among Egyptian revolutionaries, and has taken on the challenge of exposing the SCAF regime’s crimes against detainees. Through written and video testimonies, Mona's Tahrir Diaries blog seeks to reveal the military’s abuses against the revolution they once claimed to be saving.
Human rights defenders in Egypt were at the forefront of the movement for democracy and human rights in Egypt and have suffered persecution for many years including threats, harassment, arbitrary arrests, fabricated prosecutions, stigmatisation, ill-treatment, torture and violent attacks. The legal framework for the registration of organisations working on human rights has been very restrictive. Peaceful demonstrations in defence of human rights have been violently dispersed by members of the police.
An Egyptian cancer research lab worker, Mona Seif is more widely known as a blogger and human rights activist. She grew up in a family of activists and she has continued their legacy.
Mona was detained and beaten on 16 December 2011 following protests outside the cabinet office. She was released on the same day and immediately relayed to the world incidents of torture, beating and ill-treatment including of women and children as she saw while in detention.
Mona had first organised a worldwide online campaign to free her brother Alaa Abd El Fattah when he was arrested at a demonstration in 2006 and imprisoned for 45 days. During the revolution, between January 25 and February 5, Mona's entire family was together in the square.
In an effort to intimidate and silence Mona and her colleagues, she has been summoned by the public prosecutor to appear on 2 June on suspicion of an arson attack against the headquarters building of presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq.
"I've always known I'll be politically active. It's sort of, I don't know, part of my heritage I guess," she said. "But I needed to find my own space," a way to make her own mark. "Using Twitter, using social networks, and with my phone, working on cases of military detentions, tribunals and torture - this has become my own space. I've found my own way of being part of all of this now."
Mona Seif's main focus is on individuals who have been detained by the military and are denied due process or fair representation. She has also spoken out in what is still a deeply conservative society about the different abuses suffered by men and women.
"For the guys, they said the officer told them that they won't stop beating them up until they say 'Long live Mubarak.' And for the girls, they line them up and ask them who is a virgin and who is not, and whoever says she's a virgin, they got someone, an officer wearing a white coat, so they assume he's a doctor, to check whether they are virgins or not, with the threat that those who lied about their virginity would probably face prostitution charges. You could see it was just to break their spirit. Because in Egypt, in this culture, nothing would break their spirits far more than this."
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