2017 in Review: #SaveArash, Ahmed Mansoor and Bahrain

The old year is over and the new one has just started. This is the time of the year to look back to the previous year and think about the year to come. As twice before I want to do exactly that in this post. I want to give an overview over my blog in 2017 and want to share ideas and topics I would like to cover in 2018.

1. Writing a blog would not be much fun, if no one read my blog posts and shared them.

Therefore, I want to start this post again with saying thank you – to all who visited my blog, left a comment, liked my blog posts or even decided to reblog one of my posts on your own blog. I also want to thank you for retweeting my tweets in which I shared my blog posts and for sharing my posts on Twitter and Facebook.

I am really grateful for all these signs of your appreciation for my posts. It shows me that you share my passion for the topics I cover and makes what I am doing worthwhile.

It is great that many of you followed the links in my posts, in particular the links to Amnesty International petitions and urgent actions. Please continue to do so and take action for the prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders. I am also grateful to everyone who continued to contribute photos to the “Sky for Shawkan” campaign and to the many people who joined the Tweet Storm for Ahmed Mansoor in September.

2. I wrote last year 14 blog post. Most of my blog posts were about “Human Rights” (ten posts) – three posts were about prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, three about Iran, two about the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one about Egypt and one about Saudi Arabia. Four of these posts belong to two categories (two to “Human Rights” and “Twitter” and two to “Human Rights” and “Poetry“). In addition I wrote three blog posts about “Classical Music” and one post in the “General” category.

I like all my blog post, but some are just a little bit more special and closer to my heart than others. It is always a particular joy for me, if these blog posts are also the most popular ones. This was certainly true this year.

a) IMG_3541The most popular post in 2017 was my article about Arash Sadeghi and Golrokh Iraee: “A love story in Iran – #SaveArash” with 341 views. Sadly Arash Sadeghi and Golrokh Iraee are both still in prison and the situation is worse than it was in February, because Arash and Golrokh are not any longer in the same prison. On the 18 October 2017 Arash was transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison. Golrokh is still in Evin Prison. You might have read the background for this transfer in my post “Poetry behind bars: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow prisoners“. A few days ago Arash and Golrokh were allowed to visit each other briefly after a separation of two months. I fear that also in the coming months their situation will not improve and it would be great, if you could continue to share their story and raise awareness about their situation.

b) Another topic in 2017 which was very important for me was to arise awareness about the human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor (UAE) who was arrested on 20 March 2017.

9B9EB703-BE88-4E97-97C5-48329CD50417I am therefore delighted that my blogs posts about him received so many views. I wrote in May a post with the title “Arrested, sentenced, not released – human rights in the United Arab Emirates” about Ahmed Mansoor, Dr. Nasser bin-Ghaith and Osama al-Najjar. This post received 253 views on my blog and was therefore the second most popular post on my blog. The article was also included in Issue #10 of The Wolfian. I am very grateful to the editor Jay Wolfe for asking me for a contribution to this magazine and for accepting this article. In addition my article was published on the websites of two human rights organisations which both focus on the UAE: International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) and Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR). The article had on each website more than 500 views (597 views on the ICFUAE website and 540 views on the ECHR website).

To mark the day six months after Ahmed Mansoor’s arrest, I organised a Tweet Storm for him in September. I am extremely grateful to organisations like Amnesty International (Middle East and North Africa Programme), English PEN, ICFUAE and ECHR, but also individuals like Jonathan Emmett, Nicholas McGeehan, Joe Odell, Sina Watling and Drewery Dyke for supporting my idea and joining the tweet storm. I am obviously also grateful that many other Twitter users joined the tweet storm and showed their support for Ahmed Mansoor. My article “Tweet Storm for Ahmed Mansoor” received 195 views which makes it the fourth most popular article in 2017.

Sadly, Ahmed Mansoor’s situation is unchanged. He has spent in the meantime more than nine months in prison, in solitary confinement. He was only allowed two very short family visits and there is generally very little information available about him.

There is a fear that UAE will try to break Ahmed Mansoor or perhaps already has. Drewery Dyke’s statement about him is extremely worrying:

“He had lost a considerable amount of weight to the extent that he was looking gaunt, quite gaunt, that he was in a disorientated confused state. Repeatedly expressing his regret about the situation and seeking an end to it.”

Therefore, please do not forget Ahmed Mansoor, but continue to support him and make sure that people know about him and his situation.

c) If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I wrote several articles about the Bahraini human rights defender and Chairman of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) Hussain Jawad.

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Hussain lives now with his wife Asma and their children Parweez and Maryam in France and they are safe. However Hussain’s father Mohammed Hassan Jawad who is called “Parweez Jawad” is in prison in Bahrain. I had planned for a long time to write about him. In January 2017 I met with Hussain in France and asked him a lot of questions about his father. In March 2017 I published two posts about Parweez Jawad: “Do you know Bahrain’s eldest prisoner of conscience?” and “Support EBOHR’s campaign to #Free_Parweez Jawad”. The first article who tells Parweez Jawad’s story was my third most popular article in 2017 (with 231 views).

Also Parweez Jawad is still in prison. His health has deteriorated further and he asked for a special meeting with his family in October. He informed his family about his last will and added that expects to die.

Again, the only thing I can do, is to ask you to share Parweez Jawad’s story and campaign for him. Please also join EBOHR’s campaign #Free_Parweez.

d) After so much devastating updates some good news about 2017 at the end of this section:

  • I wrote in 2016 several articles about the Iranian human rights defender Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki. Hossein was released in May 2016. Maybe you remember my article about his release. Hossein was only given furlough for a limited period of time. It seems that this was extended several times. I do not know what the current legal status is, but luckily he is still free in January 2018 and together with his family.
  • I wrote in November 2016 about the Iranian film maker Keywan Karimi. Originally he had been sentenced to six years in prison and 223 lashes. After the appeal the sentence was reduced to a one-year prison term, 223 lashes and a five-year suspended prison sentence. He was summoned on 23 November 2016 to start his prison sentence. After nearly five month in prison he was released on 19 April 2017. It is only a conditional release. This means that he was on probation until October 2017, that the flogging sentence could still be enforced and that the suspended prison sentence stayed in place, but at least he is not any longer in prison.
  • Finally many of you read my article about the Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh. She was released on 22 October 2017. However, the charges were not dropped and there is the risk that she can be rearrested or might face an unfair trial on unjustified terrorism charges.

3. As in previous years I am delighted and amazed by the numbers of visitors to my blog in 2017. 3213 people visited my blog and it got 5262 views. The visitors came from 98 countries. The most views came from the United Kingdom with 1421 views, followed by the USA with 1117 views. There are almost the same number of views from Germany (317 views) and from France (315 views). I hope for many visitors in 2018.

4. I want to close this post with some ideas for 2018:

a) I mentioned in my review article about 2016 that I would like to write about art and human rights. I did not have time for that last year, but I hope that I will be able to do so in 2018. I use very often on Twitter drawings and pictures of prisoners of conscience by several artists and more than once I asked one of them to support a particular cause and make a drawing for a particular prisoner. I would love to introduce you to some of the artists who use their art for human rights activism.

b) Another long time plan is to write a blog post about the Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. Nabeel is currently on trial for his tweets about the war in Yemen and about torture in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison. There are also other charges in the context of newspaper articles he wrote. He could face up to 15 years in prison, if he is convicted. The next hearing is on 15 January 2018. I thought it is better to wait until the end of the trial and write an article when the verdict is rendered.

c) I also would like to write further articles about Egypt. Azza Soliman is a prominent women’s right lawyer who is harassed by the Egyptian state. I would love to write about her. I am sure there will also be many more articles about human rights in Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE in 2018.

d) Also in 2018 I plan to write about classical music. Highgate Choral Society has an exciting programme for 2018, which includes Handel: Israel in Egypt, Bernstein: Chicester Psalms and Britten: Saint Nicolas. I will therefore very likely write about these and other works. Another idea is to write about Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice. Some of you might remember my post about Monteverdi’s Orfeo. I mentioned at the end of that post that I would love to write about other opera versions of the myth. I did not manage to do so in 2015, but I will see Gluck’s opera twice in 2018 in different version and I am tempted to publish a blog post about it.

I hope you find my ideas interesting. If you do so, please visit my blog from time to time or follow my blog; you only need an e-mail address and you will get an e-mail each time I publish a new article.

I close this article with my best wishes to all of you for 2018. Again, I hope that the year 2018 will bring freedom to many prisoners of conscience, justice and peace.

 

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2016 in review: Iran, Shawkan and Poetry

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote an article in which I looked back at the previous year. I thought it would be nice to start 2017 in a similar way. In the following post I will share my thoughts about 2016 and give you an idea about my plans for my blog in 2017. 

1. As last year I want to start this blog post with saying thank you to everyone who read and shared my blog posts. I also want to thank in particular those who participated in the campaigns. I saw that many of you clicked on the links to Amnesty International petitions and urgent actions and also actions by other human rights organisations. Thank you for joining the tweet storm for Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki in January 2016 and for joining the “Sky for Shawkan”-campaign from September 2016 onwards.

2. 2016 was my first full year of blogging. I wrote 16 blog posts during the year. The articles are in six different categories:

  • 11 posts about human rights in countries in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). Eight posts are about prisoners and activists in Iran, four about Saudi Arabia, two about Egypt and one each about a prisoner in Qatar and in the United Arab Emirates.
  • two posts about poetry (they are both in two categories “human rights” and “poetry”)
  • two posts about Twitter (again both posts are in two categories “human rights” and “Twitter”)
  • three posts about classical music
  • one post about art and
  • one post in the General category.

a) The most popular post in 2016 was Three years of injustice – Freedom for Mahmoud Abu Zeid “Shawkan” with 457 views. I would like to thank in particular the Australian comedian Wil Anderson who shared my post on Twitter and Facebook which resulted in a large number of visitors to this post, in particular from Australia. Also thanks to Melody Sundberg who shared this post on her website “Untold Stories of the Silenced” in English and in a translation into Swedish. Shawkan is sadly still in prison. Further hearings took place on 8 October, 1 November, 19 November, 10 December and 27 December 2016. The next hearing will be on 17 January 2017. Please continue to share his story and ask for his release.

b) The second most popular post was Tweet Storm for Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki with 298 views. The tweet storm for Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki took place on 18 January 2016, because after a furlough of about 6 months, he was ordered back to prison. Many visited my blog on the day of the tweet storm and it was great that so many of you participated in it. On 19 January 2016 Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki returned to prison. After 105 nights in prison and 38 days of hunger strike, he was again given furlough on 4 May 2016. Hossein is currently free, but can be called back to prison at any time.

c) I also want to mention the articles which were my third and fourth most popular ones: Sky for Shawkan with 171 views and Forbidden Poetry: Ashraf Fayadh, Fatemeh Ekhtesari, Mohammed al-Ajami with 166 views.

“Sky for Shawkan” is a Twitter campaign for Shawkan. He mentioned in a letter that he misses the sky in prison and therefore we decided to take photos of the sky and tweeted them with the hashtag #SkyforShakwan to raise awareness for him. My blog post shares a selection of 60 photos which were tweeted by people from all over the world within the first week of the campaign. I am delighted that so many of you participated in it and still tweet photos for him. Please keep doing so. I hope Shawkan will soon be free and I wish he would be able to see the photos from all over the world.

“Forbidden Poetry” was the first of two posts about poets who are punished for their poetry. It tells the stories of Ashraf Fayadh (Saudi Arabia), Fatemeh Ekhtesari (Iran) and Mohammed al-Ajami (Qatar). The second post shares one poem of each of the three poets. I would like to thank the editor of “The Wolfian” for publishing this article in Issue 8 of this magazine.

3. I was amazed last year about the number of visitors to my blog and the variety of countries they came from and I am amazed again this year.

During 2016 2,333 people visited my blog and it got 4,522 views. The visitors were from 79 different countries. Most views came from the following three countries: (1) United States (1,063 views), (2) United Kingdom (785 views) and (3) Germany (579 views). I hope for many visitors in 2017.

4. Enough about 2016, I want to share some of my ideas for 2017:

a) Raif Badawi is sadly still in prison and I will certainly again write about him in 2017. I wrote some time ago an article about my Raif Badawi translation project which I mentioned in my post Twitter is great in 2015. I have in the meantime even more languages and I want to republish this article in an amended form in the next days to mark the anniversary of the day on which Raif Badawi was lashed (9 January 2015) and his birthday (13 January 1984). I hope that he will be released soon, but I am afraid that can only happen if he receives a Royal Pardon.

b) I tweeted during 2016 a lot about Bahrain, but I did not write an article about it. Therefore I definitely plan to write articles about Bahrain in 2017. I still want to write about Hussain Jawad’s father Mohammed Hassan Jawad, also known as Parweez. Furthermore I am very impressed by Nabeel Rajab. Nabeel Rajab is currently in prison in Bahrain. He was arrested on 13 June 2016 on several fabricated charges. The trial is still ongoing. In the last hearing on 28 December 2016 the court ordered his release and adjourned the hearing to 23 January 2017. However, the public prosecution refused to release him and decide to keep him in prison on other charges. He is the only activist I mentioned in my first post about whom I have not yet written a blog post.

c) Another topic about which I would like to write this year is art and human rights. During the past year I came across a number of artists who use their art to highlight the fate of prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders. The prime example of an artist-cum-human rights activist is of course Ai Weiwei, but there are also lesser known artists who paint or make drawings to highlight specific human rights cases. I want to write about some of these artists and want to see what motivates them to use their art in their human rights activism.

d) There will be again blog posts about classical music. I will certainly write about the programmes of our concerts with Highgate Choral Society, but maybe also about other concerts or opera performances I visit.

e) Finally I would like to continue writing about art and exhibitions and also about poetry. We will see what the next year brings.

I hope you like my ideas. There will certainly be many more as the year progresses. If you like them, then please keep an eye on my blog or follow my blog. If you decide to follow my blog, you only need an e-mail address and you will get an e-mail each time I publish a new article.

Let me close this post with my best wishes for 2017 and the hope that 2017 will be a good year for justice, peace and human rights all around the world.

2015 in review: Human rights and Social Media

I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about 2015 in review from my personal perspective and say thank you to everyone who read and shared my blog posts. WordPress.com sent me some interesting statistics and I want to share with you some personal thoughts about 2015 and my plans for 2016.

2015 was an exciting year for me and I would like to start with saying thank you:

  • Thank you to everyone who followed me on Twitter and even retweeted and liked my tweets.
  • Thank you to everyone who shared and signed petitions about people and topics which are important to me.
  • Thank you to everyone who read my blog or at least visited my blog. Thank you for sharing my blog posts and thank you for your comments and for even following my blog.

One year ago, I had not heard the name Raif Badawi. I did not know anything about the human rights situation in Bahrain and to be honest, I did not know  a lot about Bahrain at all. I had only a very vague knowledge about Saudi Arabia and Iran. I was certainly interested in human rights, but I did not do anything to raise awareness for specific cases and – I did not use social media at all.

If you had told me that a year later I would use Twitter regularly and I write a blog, I probably would have just laughed about this idea.

I started using Twitter in February 2015 and I started writing my blog in June 2015. I wrote about my reasons why I started to use Twitter and why I like it so much in my post “Twitter is great”. Just have a look at this post, in case you have not yet read it. I started writing a blog, because I wanted to have a “little bit” more space than just 140 characters and I am sorry that most of my blog posts are quite long.

During the last year I wrote eight blog posts: four of them are about human rights, three about classical music and one is a general introduction. The three most popular posts were:

  1. A Story in Tweets
  2. Twitter is great!
  3. Why I do care about Raif Badawi

It is really fascinating to see how many people visited my blog over the last year. It was visited by 698 people and it was viewed 2,450 times. WordPress tells me the following:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Most people found my posts via Twitter, but also via Facebook, because some of you were kind enough to share my posts on Facebook.

I find it really exciting that these 698 people / 2,450 views for my blog come from 60 different countries. Most views came from the United Kingdom (677 views). The United States are not far behind (608 view), followed by Bahrain (250 views) and France (220 views).

I do not want to bore you with more details about the last year. If you really want to know more then click here to see the complete report.

However, I would like to share with you some of my ideas for 2016:

  1. I will certainly continue to write about Raif Badawi. His wife published a book about him in German (“Freiheit für Raif Badawi, die  Liebe meines Lebens” – Freedom for Raif Badawi the love of my life). I would like to write about this book and also about the publication of his own essays.
  2. There will also be more about Bahrain. 2016 is the fifth anniversary of the Bahrain Uprising and the arrest of the members of Bahrain 13. I would like to write about them. In particular I would love to write about Mohammed Hassan Jawad, also known as Parweez. He belongs to Bahrain 13 and is Hussain Jawad‘s father.
  3. I love poetry and I heard last year about a number of poets who are in prison because of their poems. These poets include Mohammed al-Ajami a poet from Qatar, Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet who lives in Saudi Arabia and Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi who are two Iranian poets. I would like to write about these poets, but I am also interested in the relationship of poetry and politics in a more general sense and would like to write a post about this topic.
  4. There will be more about classical music, in particular about concerts and operas which I visit and about the programme in concerts by Highgate Choral Society.
  5. I also want to write about art and exhibitions. I saw during a visit in Rome and Sicily in October a number of paintings by Caravaggio which I find fascinating and which would be worth a blog post.

These are only some ideas and I hope there will be much more. If you find any of the ideas interesting than please keep an eye on my blog or decide to follow my blog. You only need an e-mail address to do so and you will receive an e-mail whenever I publish a new post.

I want to close with wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Let us hope that it is a year which brings more justice, freedom and peace to everyone.

My first post at my new blog

I think this is all very exciting! This is my first post in my new blog.

Maybe I should give you some ideas about which topics I want to write. I will basically write about all topics I am passionate about. Currently these are mainly two which are very different, the one topic is human rights, the other one is the arts. I have been interested in human rights for a long time, but I was never very active. I signed a couple of petitions, but I did not really do any more than that. This dramatically changed earlier this year when I read about the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi. I have explained in same detail why his case caught my attention so much and I will repost my article here. I started tweeting for and about him under the name @CiLuna27 and I really enjoy the possibility to get into contact with people everywhere in the world and share and campaign for a common cause. I soon took up other cases as well. Apart from Raif Badawi I support currently the following human rights defenders & prisoners of conscience:

I will certainly write about all of them over time.

My second passion are the Arts. This includes classical music, opera, poetry, literature and art. I love going to concerts, museums and exhibitions. I want to write about the events I particularly enjoyed or which I find worth mentioning. I hope there will be many readers of this blog and I am looking forward to comments and questions.