White House invites Arab bloggers to Obama’s Middle East speech

By Joby Warrick, The Washington Post

Of the dozens of journalists covering the speech live from the State Department, few had a greater personal stake in President Obama’s words on the Middle East than Ammar Abdulhamid.

The 44-year-old Marylander is a Syrian exile and democratic activist who contributes to several blogs closely followed by his former countrymen in Syria, where a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters has left hundreds dead. From the minute Obama began his much-anticipated speech on Thursday, Abdulhamid’s cell phone buzzed with emails and texts from readers anxious to learn details. Continue reading

Syrians have broken the fear barrier

February’s ‘day of anger’ fizzled out, but protests in Deraa show Syria’s revolutionary spirit is now gathering pace.

, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 22 March 2011 11.36 GMT

What a difference six weeks make. Back in early February I was asked whether Syria would be next on the growing list of countries to witness a popular revolution. My answer, which came in the form of an article published on Comment is free, was, in essence, “not yet”. Continue reading

Protests in Egypt continue despite government shut down of Internet

Quoted in Deutsche-Welle:

The ramifications outside of Egypt are troubling as activists and journalists struggled to understand the situation there, as Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident and human rights activist in the United States, told Deutsche Welle.

“The Internet, and the Tunisian precedent made the world take notice of events in Egypt from day one, whereas it took months for them to notice the importance of developments in Tunisia, but even there, the Internet played a crucial factor,” he said. Continue reading

Activists Join Senators in Call for State Department Action on Internet Freedom

Senator Brownback promises a hold on nominations until State Department acts on appropriations

Washington, D.C. — Surrounded by front-line activists from Iran, China, Cuba, Syria, Tibet, and the Uyghur Region of East Turkestan, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) promised to put State Department nominations on hold until the Department follows Secretary Clinton’s January 21st Internet freedom speech with decisive action. “Those who have gathered here agree on one incredible fact:  That we have it within our power to tear down the firewalls of oppression, right now, by supporting technology that shatters the censorship apparatus of regimes worldwide,” Senator Brownback said at a March 18 press conference in the Capitol Visitors Center. Continue reading

Simple Facebook question raises problems around the world

Quoted in CNN

Facebook recently changed its listing for the Golan Heights — which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 — so users there could choose to say whether they live in Israel or Syria.

It was responding to pressure from a pro-Israel group called HonestReporting — and from Facebook users who set up a group on the site itself called “Facebook, Golan Residents Live in Israel, not Syria.” Continue reading

Only Attention Will Keep Imprisoned Bloggers Alive

Quoted in Mideast Youth

At the Committee to Protect Bloggers, we have occasionally been contacted by people who knew they were going to have to go in for interrogation and possible arrest. One of them was the Syrian poet and novelist, Ammar Abdulhamid, who has since left Syria to take up a position in Washington, D.C. as a non-resident fellow at the Saban Institute of the Brookings Institution.

“In times of trouble, activists and their families are often told to shy away from publicizing their ordeal,” said Abdulhamid. “They are advised that this is indeed the best way to make it short and to navigate back to safety. In my case, however, international attention eased my way to freedom. Without it, I might not even be alive today. Still, there are no hard-fast rules here, and the best thing that international supporters and sympathizers can do is to follow the wishes of the (effected person), when they can be reached, or the wishes of their family members and/or friends.“