Henry Ellis once said:
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on”.
These few words have really helped me match my present and my future. Allowing me to move on and let go of the fears of any consequences, since at the end of the day deep inside I believe in what I do.
Before I continue you should all know that this article has been written and edited since I first wrote it in March but my editor at the Jerusalem Post advised me to take it easy until I pull myself together and things with my government become clearer, for my own safety before anything else. I considered this logical, so I will not go into explicit details of my arrest as I had initially intended to do. Instead, I will first take you through my past to help you understand why I have chosen this path of peace and only then will I discuss a few details and the aftermath of my arrest.
For the past four months I was in a frozen state. I was very inactive and only watched the world from the sidelines. After long therapy sessions my true friends and I believe that I am now ready and more determined than ever.
You have to keep in mind that once you get arrested for the first time it is painfully hard but if you move past it then you begin to believe that the next time won''t be such a big deal and your fears of getting arrested again subside. This is why I am now more dedicated to what I believe in - peace. So for the first time, I have started reaching out to peace organizations all over the world and I want to take my activism to the next level, Insha''Allah.
Besides my social networking and blogging, I am applying for courses about conflict resolution and I am finally taking my work to the ground. I have come face to face with those who share my views about peace and those who need to know how peace can possibly be right around the corner. Our number one mission as activists is to show people around this corner and take them by the hand, step by step.
The details of my arrest and detention aren''t the right questions to ask just yet. As I previously said, I have been advised by everyone around me, including my editor and my therapist that revealing the details could cause more trouble, which I don''t need right now. So instead I will focus on what I have in hand.
The right question to ask is: why a low profile blogger would get arrested for blogging for Israeli media and for making friends with Israelis without crossing any lines or breaking the law in anyway whatsoever?
There is an important aspect and very crucial piece of information you must know before jumping to conclusions or any judgments - especially for those who think they know what''s going on in the Middle East and especially in my Egypt.
For those who think that our law and order is messed up but not to the point that some young internet activists would be imprisoned, tortured and murdered under the name of this law and order. To explain my point please read these 2 articles published by well known trusted Egyptian newspapers:
I think after reading these 2 articles you now get a clear idea that people like me can be used as scapegoats and become easy targets because of our advocacy for peace with the Israelis.
Before I continue I must first take you with me on a flash back to when I was a kid so you can understand the reasons why I became a peace activist and gave up so much that most of you wouldn''t believe.
Plato (c.427 - 347 BC) said that “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught in falsehoods school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool”.
Falsehoods of Ignorance:
First you have to understand that there is a very dangerously important factor to this conflict: the two way propaganda that our governments sponsor. We grow up with this propaganda in our hearts and minds to the point it makes us all look at each others as monsters and demons. Each government has it is own gains and benefits from this ongoing hatred between both sides.
The Israeli governments keeps on selling this propaganda against the Arabs showing me and my people as barbaric terrorists who like to blow themselves up for pleasure in order to get their 70 virgins. By selling this image the Israeli government can convince the Israeli people that its very over rated security budget is legitimate and it is more important than housing and even medical care budgets - it of course has its new name: "The war on terror."
As for the Arab governments and their dictators, they do the same as the Israeli government but with some modifications which suit their personal gains. They used the propaganda against Israel to put the fear of God into my people, convincing them that we are all protected from this super magnified monster by our beloved regimes'' readiness and devotion to protect us if this monster decided to attack us anytime. Add to this the movies and TV dramas that portray a story about the old historical conflict between Israeli spies trying to destroy Egypt while our beloved regime stands and fights them off.
Back in the early 90s we had no source for information and truth except from our state media which was feeding us whatever the government wanted. Every year our TV drama gives us an adventure story of how we beat the Israeli Mossad. They literally planted the idea that Israel is nothing but an army and a Mossad whose only purpose in life is to recruit Arabs to work as spies for them. So it is very natural and understandable that everyone I meet here in my Egypt gets a very scared and angry face when I just mention the name Israel to him\her. They keep warning me that I am being recruited and that I will end up working as a spy without even realizing it. Honestly, I can''t blame any of them; even those who call me a traitor to my beloved Egypt and other nasty names.
Falsehoods of Education and History:
When I was young, due to this ongoing propaganda, I thought of Hitler as a hero, to the point that I wrote his name along with a swastika sign on a banner I made for my small business “Hetlar Records” of mixing music cassettes and selling them to my fellow students. I glued these banners everywhere in my school with the misspelled name of the man and I never received any complaints at all by any of the teachers. Actually they saw it as a cool thing that I was trying to make a living while studying, having absolutely no problem with the name or the signs on the banners.
I found some copies of this banner by chance a few days ago so I decided to show it to you so that you can fully understand that Plato wasn''t joking about the falsehoods of schools.
Every time I used to hear about a suicide bombing in a bus station I used to get excited and look for the count number of the civilian casualties hoping it will be more next time.
This is what the falsehood teachings was making of me and naturally one day I would be a parent and would pass this ideology of ignorance and hate to my children.
In order for this propaganda to be efficient, the Israeli and Arab governments managed to separate both peoples from ever meeting because this will destroy their credibility. But AlHamduLellah thanks to the internet and the social networks people from all sides kept their government''s propaganda aside and started to reach out to one another and see the truth. I wrote an article last year about the magnificent effect of social networks on our conflict and political scenes: We are lucky.
After reading this I am sure you all are wondering how the hell did I change from this ignorant racist to what I have become today?
I am a very curious guy by nature and what interested me the most through my teenage times was reading all about human history, especially about wars and conflicts.
In the early 2000s I started questioning myself. How could I consider myself a fair and decent man while at the same time feeling excited about suicide bombings? I couldn''t figure it out - not until the internet started to spread here in my Egypt. I finally was able to look for unbiased sources of history away from the government propaganda and lies.
I started to read and watch documentaries about WW II which made me even more curious to dig deeper into reading about the Holocaust and everything related to it. After reading about the holocaust, I knew for a fact that what happened to the Jews in WWII was inhumane and cannot be accepted under any circumstances or be justified no matter what. Knowing this made me question everything that had been fed to my brain all these years, which made me want to reach out to Israelis and learn the other side of the story. I couldn''t dare do that during Mubarak''s regime.
Thankfully when the Arab Spring started and we ousted Mubarak, my fears of the police state vanished and for the first time I felt that I belong to my Egypt and that I am a free man who can be friends with anyone I want. The feeling itself alone started to give me some peace of mind that I finally would feed this curiosity of mine about Israel and the whole conflict.
So I started to check out Facebook pages that had Israeli members, and day by day I started to make Israeli friends and Arab friends too who shared my curiosity. I was extremely lucky to be part of the creation of the most successful peace movement in the region, YaLa, that has exceeded 360,000 members including 100,000 Egyptians - which makes me proudly the very first Egyptian of these 100,000 Egyptians.
Ten years ago who would ever think or even dream that this could happen between the two sides? As I always say YaLa changed my life and here is my article about my YaLa experience.
When I started to realize that we are all human beings and we share so much in common as normal loving people who can easily coexist and even make a better Middle East.
After learning all of this I felt very angry and very deceived by my own government who made a big ignorant racist out of me since my childhood.
With this new knowledge and the experiences I have learned with my YaLa family, I took an oath to do whatever I could to show the truth to both our people: that we are no barbaric monsters and that we can be more than friends.
This was the very main reason that made me to decide to drop everything, even my bachelor degree in Accounting and my previous successful career in medical sales and become a peace activist.
So when my activism was noticed by so many people in the region the Jerusalem Post believed in me and my sincerity about revealing the truths about the hopes and the possibilities of peace between us. They gave me a voice here which backed up my credibility and made my activism hope more tangible.
I must say in all honesty with no shred of a doubt that the Jerusalem Post never dictated on me what to write. They gave me absolute freedom with only one condition, no fabrications or inaccurate news or insults to others, which makes it a fair deal to me.
I tell you proudly as I answered my interrogator I never got paid a penny from Yala or the Jerusalem Post and that my activism is done free of charge because in my opinion the opportunity itself is priceless and nothing can match that.
Falsehoods of police prosecution:
When I chose this path I knew from day one, for a fact, that one day I would get arrested. That this day would come and I would be investigated no matter how much I would show my good will.
Nevertheless the aftermath and consequences of my arrest were beyond mine and any of your imaginations.
I will just to mention four of them:
1. I was having illusions and hallucinations that I was still in jail and that the officers are all around me asking me questions. Then once I start answering those questions I suddenly begin to realize that I am home and it is all in my head. You have absolutely no idea what that can do to someone who thinks that he is literally losing his mind.
2. All of my family hates me now to the point they are begging me to leave my Egypt because they are scared that their children''s future would be affected by having a relative who "sleeps with the enemy." This can be a huge obstacle for them to apply to the police academy, the military, or even to become a politician, because their security background checks will reveal a family relative who "works" with the Israelis.
3. My building owner, alongside with all of my neighbors, want me out of the house. At first this didn''t bother me much because I didn''t deal with them on a regular basis. But it became a very frustrating feeling to meet your neighbors on the stairs or the street and have them give you looks of disgrace, as if I am less than a human. Even the shop owners refuse to sell me anything so I have to go buy my stuff from another neighborhood where nobody knows who I am.
4. This was the absolute worse of all: the anxiety attacks that hit me once I hear any sound or feel any movement. Add to this the daily nightmares I get about my imprisonment. These nightmares messed me up to the point that everyday I try as much as I can not to fall asleep.
But Allah sent me the best therapist ever who doesn''t take any money from me and altered my medications that helped with all of that and made me gain some control over myself to come back to write again without being afraid.
I may be a lunatic, a fool, a crazy, a dreamer in front of so many people but I see myself as a BELIEVER and InshaAllah I won''t give up.
Here is my:
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/ahmed.meligy.73
Skype name : MELIGYY
You are welcome to add me or message me with any questions you may have.