An Open Letter to Our Funders, Partners, and Friends

A musician in Egypt protests against Mubarak.
A musician in Egypt protests against Mubarak. Licensed under CC by Al Jazeera English on Flickr.

Dear Funders, Partners, and Friends:
When we met recently in San Francisco to discuss the E-Mediat program to build the capacity of civil society organizations through the use of digital and social media in the Middle East, we were gratified to see your interest and support. Now, we need your help in calling for a clear statement from President Obama and Secretary Clinton encouraging for Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down. Reform is not enough.
On the day we met many of you, Friday, January 14, we paused our meeting at about 10:42 a.m. to acknowledge and celebrate the fall of the Tunisian dictator of 23 years, Zine Abidine Ben Ali. Later that day, we presented about social media in the Arab world, from the perspective of how people are incorporating social media into their daily lives, much like anywhere else.
Aware that daily use cannot increase and benefit people without other shifts taking place, however, we also made some recommendations for your bureaus, international NGOs, nonprofits, and companies. Among them:

  1. To support freedom of expression in the region as a part of your corporate social responsibility,
  2. To lobby the US government to ban the sale of filtering and monitoring software to repressive regimes, in the way it would ban the sale of weapons or the software that could aid in designing them, and
  3. To think of the Arab world as a part of, not apart from, your own

As we all watch the popular uprising in Egypt, which started January 25 and has been at least two decades in the making, and as we watch our many friends—online and offline—struggle for the freedom and economic prosperity that they deserve, we need your help.
You have no doubt seen that the Internet was effectively shut off and cell phone service stopped. In addition, journalists have been attacked and arrested, and broadcast channels disconnected from their viewers. Egyptian activists abroad have been working hard over the phone, and  on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to makes sure that the world continues to pay attention despite this blackout.
Your presence at the meeting demonstrated your commitment to a free and prosperous Arab world. And while our opinions may differ on finer points, I hope you will agree with Mohamad and me, and our friends and allies, both Western and Arab, that U.S. foreign policy in the region is not only decrepit but also dangerous to our interests in working together to shape the world in which we all want to live.
Projects that satisfy the internet freedom and civil society 2.0 agendas may be a step in the right direction, but only if the contradictions between talk and action cease.
We understand that there are many conflicting interests that over many years have turned our Arab foreign policy into the disappointing amalgam of contradictions that it now is. Untangling things will not be easy, but at this moment, we need a decisive statement from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak must listen to the Egyptian people, as our government is supposed to, and step down, leaving the way for legitimately reform-minded people, of whom there are millions, to build the free and prosperous Egypt that they want to see.
You know many people in high places, both in Silicon Valley and within government. We need your help to lobby for a clear statement from our President and Secretary of State that both communicates and demonstrates the essential American values of self-determination, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly that we hold dear and hold up as an example to the world.
We urge you, please send a note or make a call to your contacts in government, wherever you see fit. Or, if you or your company has already taken action in some way, please let us know and we will get the word out.
Please add your voice to those of the Egyptian people, so that we may all be empowered to enjoy our world.
Jessica Dheere, SMEXbeirut
Mohamad Najem, SMEXbeirut
Beirut, Lebanon
January 30, 2011


  1. Dear Jessica,
    I’m so glad to see your work! It is truly inspiring. Thanks for posting to Facebook and letting us know what is going on from your perspective. We live in a bubble. We need other voices and perspectives. Thank you for being out there. Best wishes. CC

    1. Thank you. We’ve been thinking about this issue for quite some time, and will continue to do so and to write more about it. Glad you’re getting something out of the FB posts. Hope you’re doing well! J

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