I published my first blog post on 21 June 2015, exactly five years ago. Now five years and 60 blog post later, I want to look back on the themes and topics over the past five years. I hope you will enjoy this retrospect.
1. Visitors and views
Let’s start with some statistics.
This is a map which shows in different shades of pink from which countries the visitors to my blog came over the past five years:
My blog had in the past five years 15,487 visitors with 26,148 views (because many visitors look at more than one page at their visit to my blog). Most of my visitors were from the USA with 7,039 views, this is followed by visitors from the UK (5,901 views), Germany (2,011 views), France (1,434 views) and Canada (898 views). Visitors to my blog came from 141 different countries, including countries like American Samoa, Kenya, South Korea, Panama and Zimbabwe to name a few countries from which I had recent visitors.
2. Themes and Categories
In my first blog post, I wrote that
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.
That is exactly what I have done over the past five years. The 60 blog posts I wrote are in six categories (some posts are in two categories): Human Rights, Poetry, Twitter, Classical Music, General and Art.
I wrote 40 blog posts about human rights topics, eight of these posts are in the category human rights and the category poetry, because they share poetry and are human rights related, most of the time, because the poet is in prison and was punished for his or her poetry. Eight of the human rights topics are also in the category Twitter. Sometimes these were blog posts about tweet storms, at other times, they included or reported a campaign on Twitter like the “Sky For Shawkan” campaign for the Egyptian photographer Shawkan or the translations project of a phrase of support for Raif Badawi.
The second most important category in my blog was “Classical Music“. I wrote 14 blog posts about classical music topics. Most of these posts were about the programme of concerts with one of my choirs, Highgate Choral Society. I have been writing the programme notes for our concerts for almost five years and I usually put the programme note for the main work (or the work I find particularly interesting) on my blog.
In addition to the human rights posts and the ones about classical music, I wrote one blog post about art and five blog posts in the “General” category – usually a post at the beginning of the year with some thoughts about the previous year.
3. My most popular posts
There are six of my post which got more than 500 views since their publication. I want to give you a short overview over these posts.
a) On 25 June 2016 Highgate Choral Society sung in our summer concert J.S. Bach’s massive choral work B Minor Mass – in a sense the culmination of his choral writing. I published on 2 June 2016 the post “Bach: Mass in B Minor – a “Great Catholic Mass”?“. This post got since his publication four years ago 1,059 views and is the most popular one in my blog.
b) The second most popular one is a human rights post about Saudi women rights defenders which I published on 13 August 2018. It is called “Where are the Saudi reforms? Saudi women rights defenders Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef in prison“. Between May 2018 and end of July 2018 Saudi Arabia arrested 13 women rights defenders. My blog post is about five of them: Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef were arrested between the 15 and 18 May 2018. Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah were arrested on 30 July 2018. Eman al Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef were both temporarily released on 27 March 2019, but their trial is still ongoing and they could still face years in prison. Loujain al-Hathoul, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah are still in prison and on trial. There are allegations of torture, sexual abuse and long periods of solitary confinement.
This post got since his publication less then two years ago 692 views. Given that the women are still on trial and some of them are still in prison, I hope that this post will continue be viewed by many people.
c) Almost the same number of views (686 views) got my third most popular post: “Brahms: A German Requiem – a Requiem for Humankind“. I published it on 1 November 2016 and it is about a concert of Highgate Choral Society on 12 November 2016.
d) The fourth most popular post is about the Egyptian photographer Mahmoud Abu Zeid, also called “Shawkan”. On 11 August 2016 I published the post “Three years of injustice – Freedom for Mahmoud Abu Zeid “Shawkan”“. Shawkan had been arrested on 14 August 2013 and my post marked the third anniversary of his arrest. It was viewed 637 times.
I wrote over the years five blog posts about Shawkan. We started in September 2016 the photo campaign “Sky for Shawkan” where we asked people to share photos of the sky with the hashtag #SkyForShawkan, because Shawkan said in a letter from prison that he missed the sky, In my posts in September 2016, December 2017, October 2018 and the final post in March 2019 I gave updates of his situation and shared in each post photos of the sky which activists from all over the world had posted on Twitter in support of Shakwan. My final post “After 5 years 6 months 18 days: Shawkan released from prison!” had the good news that Shawkan was released on 4 March 2019. However, it was not an unconditional release and he was still required to report at the police station at 6 pm every day and potentially sleep there. Shawkan described this as “half free”. This obligation was meant to be in place for five years, however I am not sure how the situation is at the moment. In any case you can follow Shawkan on Twitter or on Instagram and see his amazing photos.
e) My fifths most popular post is again one about classical music. Highgate Choral Society sung in our concert on 11 March 2017 Edgar Elgar’s The Music Makers. I published on 21 February 2017 “Elgar: The Music Makers – a musical autobiography?“. This blog post got 590 views over time.
f) The last post which was viewed more than 500 times is the post “Poetry behind bars: The Poems“. It got 515 views and it is one of two post about five women in Evin Prison, Iran and the poems they wrote. The five women are Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Narges Mohammadi, Nasim Bagheri and Mahvash Sabet Shariari. The post shared the poems by these women. When I published my post on 15 November 2017 four of the women were still in prison. Mahvash Sabet Shariari had been released 18 September 2017 after having served almost 10 years in prison. On 29 March 2018 Nasim Bagheri was released after having completed her sentence of four years in prison. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee and Narges Mohammadi are still in prison. Please continue to support them.
4. Countries and prisoners
a) The country about which I wrote the most posts is Iran. 13 of my 40 human rights posts are (also) about a human rights defender and / or prisoner in Iran.
I mentioned in my first post five years ago two prisoners from Iran for whom I was campaigning at that time: Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki and Saeed Malekpour.
aa) I wrote three posts about Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki all of them in 2016.
In January 2016 we organised a Tweet Storm for him. On 17 June 2015 he had been given furlough on medical grounds.
On 11 January 2016 the authorities called him back to prison. We could not do much about that, we could at least show him that we stand with him and support him. On a Twitter Day on 18 January 2016 people from all over the world tweeted in support of Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki.
He returned to prison on 19 January 2016. I shared a few days later the last blog post he published before returning to prison (in an English translation by his friend Laleh).
In May 2016 there was finally good news, because he was again temporarily released on 4 May after 105 nights in prison and 38 days of hunger strike.
This was an uncertain freedom for a quite a long time, but one year ago on 24 June 2019 he posted that his 15 year sentences had been suspended and that he was finally unconditionally free, almost 10 years after his initial arrest.
bb) There was also fantastic news last year about Saeed Malekpour.
Over the years I tweeted regularly for Saeed Malekpour. In June 2016 I wrote a post for Saeed Malekpour’s birthday.
Saeed Malekpour is a Canadian resident. In autumn 2008 he went to Iran to see his dying father. He was arrested on 4 October 2008. He was initially sentenced to death, but then his sentences was commuted to life in prison.
After almost 11 years in prison he was able to use a temporary release last year to flee Iran and returned to Canada on 3 August 2019.
He is now finally reunited with his sister Maryam Malekpour who has been campaigning for him tirelessly over all the years. There is a fascinating article about his escape from Iran which I highly recommend you to read.
cc) The third Iranian prisoner about whom I wrote several times is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Nazanin was arrested on 3 April 2016 when she went with her daughter Gabriella to the airport in Tehran to travel back from a family visit in Iran.
I wrote three posts about her. The last one was last year, one months after her hunger strike and the hunger strike of her husband Richard.
Because of Covid-19 Nazanin was temporarily released on 17 March 2020. She is under house arrest at her parents home and her movements are restricted to 300 m from her parents home. She also has to wear an ankle tag. The furlough was extended several times and she is currently still free. She and her husband hope for a pardon, but there is still no decision made by Iran and at the moment she has to call the prosecutors office twice a week on Saturdays and on Wednesdays.
Please continue to support the campaign for her release. I hope that there will soon be a positive decision for her and she can return to her family in London.
b) I wrote over the years eleven posts about prisoners in Saudi Arabia and also eleven posts about prisoners in the United Arab Emirates. I mentioned in my first post Raif Badawi and Waleed Abukhair from Saudi Arabia and Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken from the United Arab Emirates.
aa) Raif Badawi is the reason I started using social media and he was in a sense also the reason why I started writing this blog. I wrote over time four blogs post about him. The first one was my first proper post in this blog on 27 June 2015: “Why I do care about Raif Badawi“. Others post were about two boooks (one biography by Ensaf Haidar, Raif’s wife and a book of texts by Raif Badawi), another one was about the translation project for him.
There is sadly no news about him. There was some information that he had been on hunger strike a few times, but I find it always difficult to assess how reliable the information is. Even so his wife campaigns for him and seems to have regular contact with him, there is often conflicting information.
Just a few days ago, on 17 June, was the eighth anniversary of his arrest. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine. After the first public flogging on 9 January 2015 (50 lashes) there were further threats that Saudi Arabia would continue to flog him, but it seems that this has not happened. I still hope for a Royal Pardon and his release, but there are sadly no indications that this would happen anytime soon.
bb) The situation of Waleed Abulkhair, a human rights lawyer, is very similar. I wrote one blog post about him. He worked among others also for Raif Badawi. He was arrested on 15 April 2014 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Also he has been on hunger strike a couple of times and there is no new information about him available.
cc) When I started writing my blog, human rights in the United Arab Emirates was not a major focus for me. I included in my first post Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken. I wrote also one blog post about him and have been campaigning for him ever since. As Waleed Abulkhair also Dr. Al-Roken is a human rights lawyer, and I assume being a lawyer myself, I am particularly drawn to campaigning for him. However, ten of my eleven posts about the United Arab Emirates are not about Dr. Al-Roken, but rather about Ahmed Mansoor. There is no human rights activist and prisoners of conscience about whom I have written more blog posts than about Ahmed Mansoor.
Ahmed Mansoor is blogger and human rights activist. He is an engineer and a member of several human rights organisations. He is poet and he is also a husband and father of four boys.
Ahmed Mansoor was arrested on 20 March 2017. I wrote my first blog post about him in May 2017 and as mentioned I have written in the meantime ten blog posts about him, the last two were in March this year to mark the third anniversary of his arrest and to share his poetry. As always there is only limited news available about him. Gulf Centre for Human Rights published the last article about him at the beginning of June. Because of the Covid-19 crisis there are currently no visits allowed to the prisons in the United Arab Emirates. Therefore Ahmed Mansoor and his family have not seen each other since January 2020. They are theoretically allowed to have phone calls, but the last one was in April 2020. There was no contact between him and his family since then. Also his situation in prison has not improved. He still has no bed and no access to books, no access to a shower and cleaning products and is not allowed to leave his cell, except for rare family visits. There is more worrying news from Human Rights Watch. They published on 10 June an article about reported Covid-19 outbreaks in several prisons in UAE, including Al-Sadr prison in which Ahmed Mansoor is detained. There is no specific information about him in this article, but Human Rights Watch quotes family members of other prisoners in Al-Sadr prison:
“He [my relative] told me it’s filthy,” …. “There are cockroaches everywhere. There are no blankets or pillows. It’s so overcrowded, they’re kept like cattle. And there’s no sunlight.”
One family member of a prisoner told Human Rights Watch at the end of May that seven prisoners were tested positively for Covid-19. They were transferred to a hospital and others were quarantined in solitary confinement cells. The relative of the prisoner said:
“He is so scared to go into that dark hole,” … “He has a heart condition too.”
I am really worried about Ahmed Mansoor’s situation and I would like to ask you to continue to support the campaign for him. I am sure more blog posts about him will follow, if he is not released soon.
c) I mentioned in my first post three other prisoners / human rights activists: Shawkan (Egypt), Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain) and Hussain Jawad (Bahrain). I wrote eight posts about prisoners and human rights defenders in Bahrain, seven about prisoners in Egypt, two posts in which I mentioned a prisoner from Qatar (Mohammed Al-Ajami) and two in which I mentioned a prisoner from Turkey (Nedim Türfent).
aa) I already wrote in the previous chapter about the photographer Shawkan who was in prison in Egypt and my five blog posts about him.
bb) Nabeel Rajab was released a few days ago after almost four years in prison. I hope that he will stay free.
I wrote over the years five blog post about Hussain Jawad (including two about his father Mohammed Hassan Jawad, also called Parweez Jawad). Hussain fled Bahrain and currently lives in France, but his father is still in prison in Bahrain. Hussain wrote over the last weeks quite often about him on social media. His father is over 70 years old and not in good health anyway. In particular because of the Covid-19 crisis Hussain fears for his father’s health and even his life. You can read more about Parweez Jawad in my blog post from March 2017. Please support the campaign for Parweez Jawad’s freedom.
Please support also Ali Mushaima and his campaign for his father’s freedom. Ali Mushaima went on a hunger strike for some basic demands for his father in summer 2018. I wrote two blogs about him. Hassan Mushaima is about the same age as Parweez Jawad and has also several health conditions.
Both belong to the so-called Bahrain 13, a group of human rights activist and opposition leaders who were arrested during the Arab Spring in March 2011. Hassan Mushaima was sentenced to life in prison, Parweez Jawad to 15 years in prison. Both are prisoners of conscience and should be free.
5. What will come next?
We will see what will come next. I really enjoy writing in my blog and I will therefore certainly continue writing blog posts. I also assume that the topics will not change much, therefore you will be able to read more blog posts about human rights, mainly in the Middle East, and about classical music. I enjoy doing research about these topics and share my results and thoughts with my readers. I would like to write more posts about art, but we will see how things will go.
I do not think I can be more specific about future posts. Some of my posts are planned for some time, e.g. the mark the birthday of a prisoner or the anniversary of his or her arrest or the judgement against him or her. I also wrote posts for World Poetry Day, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer and in particular Human Rights Day. However, very often posts react to something which happens, like the arrest of someone, a hunger strike or also a happy event like the release of someone. These are posts which I obviously cannot plan in advance, but I certainly plan to give updates on the prisoners about whom I have written before. I usually write about classical music in the context of the Highgate Choral Society concerts, but with Covid-19 it is uncertain when these will resume.
If you are curious about my future posts, the please consider following this blog. You only need an email address to do so. If you follow the blog, you will get an email whenever I publish a new post. I usually also share my posts on social media. If you have the impression that there is a human rights defender or a prisoner or conscience about whom I should write, then please leave a comment and I will see what I can do.
Let me end this post with saying thank you to everyone who read and shared my posts and in particular thank you to everyone who supported the prisoners I am writing about. Please continue to support human rights and prisoners of conscience.