Sunday, 21 October 2012

Writing More Letters: Help Alber Saber!

Alber Saber on the left and John Baird on the right.
Last month I was shocked to find an actual response from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in my mailbox!

He didn't really commit to denouncing the blatant human rights violation of Atheist Alexander Aan by the the Indonesian government.  But the whole exercise did open my eyes to the power of good old-fashioned paper letters.

One thing I vowed to do is write a follow-up letter that includes a call for the Minister to publicly denounce the horrendous violation of human rights in Egypt lately.  Here I'm talking about the cruel arrest, brutal beating, near murder and incarceration of 27-year-old Alber Saber.  His crime: saying things on Facebook that hurt some people's feelings.

Well I finally got around to writing two letters and I'll pop them in the post tomorrow as soon as their printed.   Like the letter for Alexander Aan, I've set my expectations low.  But I feel like it's a worthy endeavour - even more so if hundreds or thousands of us were to each write a letter.  Oh, to dream!

Here's what I wrote to John Baird:
I know it looks short.  I could have written pages, but
like a resume cover letter, I don't think politicians will
read anything longer.

Dear Mr. Baird MP,

Firstly, thank you for responding to my previous letter to you concerning Atheist Alexander Aan.

Alber Saber is a 27-year-old Egyptian Atheist blogger who was arrested in September for ridiculing religious beliefs and rituals.  Word spread he was critical of religion on Facebook and a violent mob gathered at his house.  Police arrested him and beat him brutally during his interrogation.  Even his jailor encouraged other inmates to violence whereby his throat was slit.
A report by Ezzat claims, “[at] Al-Marg police station [he] was taken to a room that had about five other inmates. Then a young officer entered the room and told the five inmates that Alber is the one who distributed the video defaming the prophet and that he burnt the Quran and insulted all religions and ordered them to attack him,” it read. 
“They beat him, four of them tied him up and totally paralyzed him while the fifth took out a razor and hit him with it in the neck resulting in a cut wound [sic]. Then he was taken to another room that had more than 20 people who beat him up and then forced him to stand by the toilet door until morning preventing him from sitting down,” it went on.
(Egyptian Daily News, October 17th, 2012)

None of Saber’s assailants are facing any criminal charges.  Saber is being charged with causing “emotional injury” when in truth he was peacefully expressing his own views on religion.

I urge you to make a public statement condemning this treatment and to express support for Mr. Saber’s right to free expression.  Canada must go on record against such gross violence against freedom of conscience and the free exchange of ideas.

A second letter for Foreign Affairs critic
Paul Dewar.
I really believe it's important to keep it short and to the point.  Maybe I'll get another non-committal response back like last time.  Perhaps not.  But I feel it's the best I can do at the moment to get my point across.

After finishing off the letter to Baird, it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile trying to get someone over there at Parliament to kick his butt on my behalf.

So I found the shadow cabinet's Foreign Affairs critic within the official opposition party.  It's Paul Dewar of the New Democratic Party.

The NDP lean pretty heavily to the left and rumour has it their caucus just may be full of Humanists and Atheists - at the very least they stand a hell of a lot more chance of being pro-secular than the Conservatives!

So I modified my letter somewhat for Dewar and sent it out along with Baird's.

On a related note, while searching for photos of Saber, I came across the Free Alber Saber Facebook Page.

The page has something beautiful going on.  There are pictures of people holding up signs with messages all to the effect of Free Alber Saber.  This is wonderful!  I hope it will help.

I've been thinking more about starting a letter-writing campaign for Saber and Aan.  People would send photos of themselves holding up the letters and perhaps I would post them on my blog in thanks.

I really think that paper letters are the key and that they have a greater impact on politicians than websites.  And by posting a picture of the letter you are about to send, you can make it serve double duty as a placard/sign like those at this Facebook site.

Finally, if you've proven to your Internet pals you've gotten off your butt and sent in a paper letter then perhaps they can get guilted into doing the same?

But maybe they wouldn't be as readable?  Perhaps a box where the letters could be pasted in?  As you can see, I'm still thinking about it.

Free Alber Saber t-shirts maybe?

More news on this is on its way in the next week or so (unless someone else beats me to it) - I only hope it can make a difference.  I mean, we have to try, right?

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