As I daily check my facebook messages and notifications, I also check Ali Abdelemam’s profile. Everyday I wonder if there are any posts from him. Everyday I check his wall to see his family’s posts, and photos hoping that I could at least know something about him. I ask my friends and colleagues in Bahrain about Ali, and no one knows anything about him. I wonder where is Ali now. Ali, a father of three, disappeared and left us wondering about his destiny. Why did Ali disappear?
I never knew Ali (due to my ignorance). He was a hidden freedom fighter who would work hard without making noise. One day, I received a facebook friend request from Ali. I accepted his request, and started following his posts. I was not aware of his extensive work on human rights and social justice in Bahrain. He sent me the request on August 2010. On September 4, 2010, I was shocked to know that Ali was arrested.
Why Ali was arrested?
Just like any other authoritarian regime, the Bahraini monarchy aims to silence all opposing voices including online bloggers whose only crime is conveying the reality as it is. I am not going to write about the work of Ali, as many of Global Voices readers already know him through his writings. He is the founder of “Bahrain Forum” or “Multaqa Al Bahrain.” He is also a Bahraini blogger. For me, blogging in a place like Bahrain is like fighting in a war in which you know that you would be defeated. For a brave warrior what matters the most is the influence he or she leaves behind, and not winning the war itself.
Being in a cell in a prison in Bahrain did not silence Ali. No one can hinder writers and bloggers from saying the truth in the Internet era. If Ali is arrested, then we would write about him, and thus his case will never die. However, it is very brutal to be arrested for solely writing about the situation of one’s country. For a writer, confiscating the right to freedom of expression is like taking away his or her life.
On February 14, 2011 I wished Ali was there. I was thinking what would Ali write on his facebook wall. I even created in my imagination Ali’s post about the Bahraini revolution. Less than one week after the first spark of protests, Ali was released on February 23 after the Bahraini King’s ordered to release a number of activists including him.
I was thrilled. I thought that I could finally read Ali’s posts. I was certain that Ali would have a lot to say about the protests and the brutal crackdown on the innocent civilians. I thought that Ali had a rich material for his blog knowing that people in the Middle East are fighting for their rights.
My happiness was killed again. Shortly after his release, Ali disappeared. No one knows Ali’s place now, not even his family or his close friends. The only thing that we know about Ali is that the Bahraini military court sentenced him in absentia to 15 years in prison. Why Ali disappeared? Why Ali is facing a harsh sentence? The only answer I have is: his words make a difference and his online activism threatens the legitimacy of a regime that violates human rights.
If Ali is reading my post now, I want to let him know that his voice will never be silenced. If he can’t share his writings now, his previous blog posts and writings still echo in the world of online activism. He is in deed the Godfather of Arab blogging.