Sunday, February 8, 2009

Update on Philip Rizk

I just came back from AUC where I spoke with a friend who was at the High Court yesterday where the director of our program and, later, another faculty member were trying to assist in Philip's release. While there, they were made to stand inside a pen surrounded by riot police.
While one report said that he was being held at police headquarters downtown, another said Philip was at Lazoghli Prison. Apparently, the German Embassy had initially been notified that he was out of police custody (he had been "officially" released and then subsequently was adbucted), but is now up to speed and acting on his behalf. Complicating matters was AUC's grand (late) inauguration attended by the First Lady, Suzane Mubarak and many other high profile dignitaries. Because of this, cell phones were prohibited leaving the German ambassador out of contact.
Following are more articles and updates including the description of Philip's abduction by a blogger who was present:

"The Kidnapping of Philip Rizk"
"Christian blogger held in Egypt" from Christianity Today
Rizk’s family file case against Banha police, faculty to demand AUC intervention" from the AUC student publication, The Caravan

I cannot begin to understand the logic behind jailing a non-violent activist. If anything, the government is going to motivate other pro-Palestinian supporters to more vigorous activism. I wish there were something I could do, but I'm not sure another naïve Westerner in a keffiyah would be of much use at this point. Phil, a legitimate activist acquainted with the complexities of the Palestinian situation has a network of family members, journalists, bloggers, and other activists and friends going to bat for him. Insha'Allah, all will pan out in the end.
Though it seems selfish to catalog the rest of my day when this poor kid's in prison, I need to keep up the blog. The weather is gorgeous, in the 70s. I went out to mail a thank you letter to my friend in Paris, to get correspondence that had been waiting for me in the Migration & Refugee Studies office for weeks, and to get koshary. I also ended up being useful to at least two people today: On my way back from koshary, passing a shop in which Valentine's Day anticipation had exploded all over everything in the form of fuzzy red hearts, fake flowers, and the cheesiest tokens and signs of "love", I saw a Western woman peering puzzledly at a guidebook. Initially I walked passed without a second thought; this is, at least for this year, my neighborhood and running up to chat with other non-Egyptians here simply because they're non-Egyptians has absolutely no appeal. This poor woman looked quite lost, though, so I went and asked where she'd hoped to go. She turned out to be Brazilian but lives in Houston, Texas and was visiting while her husband, an oil company employee, was in meetings. She'd gotten far off course, so I walked her to a road that went straight north to the square she was looking for. I figured with no turns, it was more than likely she'd arrive eventually. I felt good being able to help someone and having a sense enough of Cairo to be able to accurately direct her.
I came back to my apartment in hopes of cleaning up my living room in preparation for having people over to watch Walz with Bashir, but got a call from Erin who was at her AUC office and need computer help. Luckily, I was able to figure out how to be of assistance. It was there that she filled me in on the goings-on with Philip Rizk. It's really disconcerting that the Egyptian government is holding an AUC graduate student, activist, blogger without charge. Egyptian prisons are notorious for mistreatment and I hope and pray Philip isn't subjected to that. He was supposed to be our CMRS lecturer during the Wednesday night lecture series; despite not knowing him firsthand, it hits close to home.

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