CAIRO Last Thursday, I returned to my country, Egypt, after several weeks in the United States on a Freedom House fellowship. I came home full of anxiety. I feared that the authorities would arrest me as soon as I set foot on Egyptian soil.I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago and, after talking to Egypt-watchers in the think tanks, government, Congress, and a few Egyptian dissidents living there I get the feeling that we're not about to see any serious movement on tying aid to political reform and human rights. But more about that later.
That didn't happen. But as I went through the airport arrival procedures, I felt that I was being closely watched and followed. Men using walkie-talkies observed me from a distance. When I joined my family members outside the terminal, they, too, told me that they had been watched while waiting for me.
I could still be arrested. And if I am, it will be because I dared to speak the truth about President Hosni Mubarak's regime, which continues to receive billions in foreign aid from the U.S. government -- including funds ostensibly intended to support democracy. It will be because I dared to expose the actions that have made Mubarak's administration one of the world's foremost violators of human rights, according to human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.
I am an Egyptian blogger. And the Mubarak regime is out to get me and others like me.
It is engaged in an all-out campaign against those of us who use the Internet to report the truth about what is happening in Egypt. It is spreading rumors about us and targeting us for character assassination. Judges allied with the government have filed lawsuits against more than 50 bloggers, accusing them of blackmail and of defaming Egypt and demanding that their blogs be shut down. Meanwhile, security officials appear on television to claim that the bloggers are violating media and communications laws.
Is this the kind of regime you want your tax money to support?
Update: The US embassy in Cairo is having a "webchat" on May 29. The topic is public diplomacy, but perhaps this might be a good occasion for Egyptian bloggers to raise the kind of issues Wael is talking about.