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Resisting oblivion: Prisoners of conscience across the Arab world

Prisoner of the month of September 2015: Muawiyah al-Rawahi

Policemen sit in front of empty bars during a verdict hearing in Egypt (11 April 2015)
Policemen sit in front of empty bars during a verdict hearing in Egypt (11 April 2015)

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The imprisonment of citizens for expressing their opinions is a common and widespread matter in the Arab world; it goes hand in hand with the absence of the rule of law, the values of justice and a minimum level of democracy.

It is quite difficult to find a dissident or activist under any regime in the Arab world who hasn't at one time had his address listed as Tora prison, or AlHayir, Saidnaya, Jaw prison, Abu Ghraib, Abu Salim or any other prisons across the region.

But it is not imprisonment that a prisoner finds hardest in such an ordeal, rather it is the risk of being forgotten, of becoming just a number.

This campaign, being launched by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in Egypt and Maharat Foundation in Lebanon in association with IFEX, aims to spotlight Arab prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for expressing their opinions peacefully whether by writing articles, posting on Facebook, taking pictures, peacefully protesting, or tweeting.

An Arab citizen's right to free expression is not a grant, it is a right, and it is our duty to defend it whether we agree with it or disagree. Words must not be brought in front of a court. An opinion is not something to be punished for.

This campaign will shed light on one Arab prisoner of conscience every month.

Freedom is our main demand for all prisoners of opinion, but maybe a more pressing demand at the moment could be just protecting the prisoner of opinion from torture, supporting his/her right to a fair trial, improving his/her prison conditions, protecting them from abuse, or providing medical care for them, because, if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would all acknowledge how trying prison conditions across the Arab world can be.

Join this campaign, support the prisoners of conscience, support their right to freedom, and their right to defend their opinions.

How you can participate:

• Post a comment on Facebook or Tweet on Twitter using hashtag #TheirFreedomIsTheirRight -#حريتهم _حقهم
• Suggest the name of a prisoner that might not be known.
• Post the photo of the prisoner of the month on your accounts, blogs or websites.
• Write to the public prosecutor in your country, the minister of interior or the president, or the ruler of your country.
• Encourage the press in your country to write about the case of the prisoner of the month.
• Send a letter or a post card to the prisoner showing your support.

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