South Korean activists demonstrate in solidarity with Egyptian detainees

Once again, the South Korean activists demonstrated “held a press conference” in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Seoul, in solidarity with the Egyptian political detainees.

I received the following report from Socialist activist Kim:

More than 40 people gathered in front of Egyptian embassy to have “press conference” for releasing of opposition figures and against the use of military tribunals to prosecute civilians. (In South Korea, the government doesn’t allow having a demonstration within 100m of any embassy. Some democracy, isn’t it?! So we usually do ‘press conference’, because we don’t need to get authorization for press conference.)
Around 10 organizations joined this campaign in such a short notice, some of them already had participated 2005 and 2006 “press conferences,” but some are new to this campaign.
The list of the organizations include: All Together, Catholic Human Rights Commission, Citizen’s Solidarity for Human Rights (CSHR), Friends of Asia, Korean Democratic Labor Party (KDLP), Imagination for International Solidarity, Lawyers for Democratic Society International Solidarity Commission, National Association of Professors for Democratic Society, People’s Solidarity for Social Progress.
As you can guess from names of organizations, very different type – ideologically and organizationally. Still, they came together to show their solidarity to Egyptian movement. I think we benefited from legacy of anti-dictatorship struggles in the past.
Speeches were strong. There were 3 speakers, KDLP, CSHR, and All Together.
Here are some quotes from speeches:
KIM EUM JIN (a senior member of the Korean Democratic Labor Party): Mubarak is Egyptian version of President ‘Park Jung Hee’. South Korea also had a difficult and dark past under military dictatorship 1970s and 80s.
I went to the Cairo International Anti-War Conference at last March. I saw many determined pro-democracy activists. They reminded me of many brave pro-democracy activists of South Korea. Having seen their determination, I realized that the days of the Mubarak regime are numbered. Egyptian workers are struggling against privatization, poverty and exploitation. Peasants are fighting for their land, and the Muslim Brothers are fighting for democratic rights.
The Korean Democratic Labor Party is one of outcomes of long and hard democratic struggles in South Korea. Therefore, we’ll keep send our solidarity to pro-democracy fighters.
OH CHANG IK (an executive officer of Citizen’s Solidarity for Human Rights): Why shouldn’t civilians stand in military tribunals? Answer is very obvious. Think about the past experience in the 1970s, the Democratic National Revolutionary Party members had gone through the first instance, the second instance, and final verdict within a year. Judicial proceedings were proceeded just like military operations under military tribunals. Civilians have rights to have certain legal protection.
I want to say to Egyptian embassy officials, who refuse to accept our statement. After bring down the Mubarak regime by their own hands, the Egyptian people will ask them, ‘what did you do in the embassy? Did you try to deliver what people around world think about the Mubarak regime to the Mubarak government when it oppresses its own people? Or you just spend whole time to promote yourself?’ You should ashamed of yourselves.”
KIM YONG WOOK (Journalist with All Together): I heard the Egyptian government has a seat now in the UN Commission on Human Rights. Well, this says much about the nature of UN. But what is really going on in Egypt? Does the Egyptian government respect its people’s human rights? NO! This government keeps trying to civilians in military tribunals. The State Security police tortured young college student for 13 hours just because he tried to protect his family from abuse of security police who had arrested his father. And they also tortured a Muslim Brotherhood member for a week, so he lost his hearing. Mubarak might have justified these atrocities quoting anti-terrorism clauses in the ‘new’ constitution. But who is a real terrorist, the Muslim Brothers who peacefully express their political views? Or Mubarak regime who tortured the innocent young student? Mubarak is afraid of his own people, because he knows his grip on power is very shaky. His biggest fear is the coming together of pro-democracy movement like Kifaya who is successfully breaking down the political iron wall of dictatorship, working class movement which has showed potential power and the greatest militancy since WW2, and peasants’ movement whose affection to their land is greater and more meaningful than Mubarak’s greed to power. So Mubarak wants to scare the people by military tribunals and arresting an opposition party chairman like Ayman Nour. But Egyptian people will not be easily scared, they are still fighting. We, the South Korean people and progressive movement, have had similar experience. So it’s our duty to support Egyptian people’s movement.
Your solidarity message got huge applauds! People were moved by your message.
AND then we tried to deliver our statement [I attached it] to Egyptian ambassador, but he refused to accept it. I talked with the ambassador’s first secretary last Friday, and he provide me option, which is, whether we have an interview with him and drop the whole idea about the press conference, or have a press conference and no interview. Well, I don’t accept the option. And he had very high-handed manner. Any way, we sent the statement by fax.
Even though number of participants weren’t many [because of lack of preparation time], I think mood of press conference was quite lively as you can see from some pictures. And it will be a stepping stones to future campaign.
Like you said in message, let’s keep fighting together!

What can I say? The South Korean shabab TOTALLY ROCK!

5th Cairo Anti-War Conference opens

It was a great evening, with hundreds of activists filling the syndicate’s entrance and main hall, listening to representatives of Egyptian leftist and Islamist parties, leaders of Arab resistance groups, and international anti-war activists.

Opening Rally (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

The Press Syndicate’s was buzzing with movement, as young students and activists from the Muslim Brothers, Karama, Revolutionary Socialists, and independents set up booths, with political pamphlets, publications, leaflets. The MB youth also held banners denouncing Mubarak’s military tribunals.

MB youth denounce military tribunals (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

It was my first time to see Socialist activist and friend Khaled Abdel Hamid following his release.

Khaled Abdel Hamid (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

I missed half of the speakers, as I was busy standing with journalist Ibrahim el-Sahary and others at the Center for Socialist Studies‘ booth outside the hall.

Socialist journalist Ibrahim el-Sahary (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Mahdi Akef, the Chairman of the Muslim Brothers, was one of the speakers in the opening rally. Among things he said was “American soldiers are dying today as victims of American Capitalism” and condemned the “military-industrial complex” that “took over” the US. I thought it was interesting, as I never heard this lingo before from Akef.

I was thrilled also to listen to two British revolutionary socialists, who are no strangers to Cairo:

Alex Callinicos (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Alex Callinicos (photo above) and John Rees (photo below), whose books and contribution to revolutionary socialist thought have had a strong impact on Egypt’s new radical left.

John Rees (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

Comrade Sameh Nagib spoke in the name of Egypt’s Socialists, saluting Arab resistance fighters in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, and denounced the blackmail and pressuring the Arab regimes are exerting on these movements. Sameh also greeted the international anti-war protesters, “who exposed that the current battle is neither religious nor cultural, but a battle between the majority of the world’s poor and those who instigate wars, breed racism and enforce capitalist globalization.”

سامح نجيب

In the name of Egypt’s Socialists, Sameh also expressed solidarity with Khairat el-Shatter and the MB detainees facing unjust military tribunals, affirming that “the struggle against Mubarak’s regime is just in its beginning and not end as the regime hopes. Despite the constitutional coup, passed by force and forgery, the Egyptian state terrorism will not intimidate us. Their laws and dictatorial constitution will not deter us from fighting for freedom and justice.” The way forward has been shown by the tens of thousands of striking workers over the past four months, Sameh said, affirming that the movement for political change had no other option but linking their struggle against the corrupt dictatorship with the labor struggles in Mahalla, Kafr el-Dawar, Helwan and Alexandria.

The 70-strong South Korean delegation attracted lots of interest and applause, when anti-capitalist campaigner Choi Il-bung took the stage, to denounce the war in Iraq, the South Korean government’s clientalism to the US, and Mubarak’s Abu Ghraib-style torture of dissidents.

South Korean Socialist Activist Choi Il-bung

Choi and his comrades demonstrated May last year in front of the Egyptian embassy in Seoul in solidarity with the Kefaya detainees.

One of the stars tonight was Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ second-in-command, who was one of the speakers in the opening rally too.

Hamas Leader Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk القيادي بحماس د موسى أبو مرزوق

And the head of the Women Secretariat at the Lebanese resistance Hezbollah group.

Hezbollah representative مممثلة عن حزب الله من لبنان

And Rose Genle, the mother of a 19-year-old UK soldier who was killed in Iraq, denounced Blair for sending British youth to die for a war based on lies in Iraq.

British Anti-War Activist Rose Gentle الناشطة البريطانية المناهضة للحرب روز جنتل

Finally, please check this paper, the Center for Socialist Studies distributed tonight, on the future of political democracy in Egypt.