This past February 9 & 10, 2017, I was contractually obligated to attend my very first North Central Teachers’ Convention in Edmonton, Alberta. The two-day event was so well-planned and elaborate, compared to any convention I had attended before, and even if it wasn’t in my contract to be there, I certainly would have wanted to be. I scored some free resources, was given some classroom management techniques to think about, spent some time on both self-care and socializing with colleagues, and took in a couple amazing talks.
One such inspirational talk I was lucky enough to attend was a presentation by journalist Mohamed Fahmy entitled “Media in the Age of Terror: How the War on Terrorism Became a War on Journalism.” This man spent over 400 days in Egpyt’s maximum security ‘Scorpion’ prison, on trumped up terrorism charges next to Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda leaders, and ISIS sympathizers, simply for doing his job. His journalism was denounced as “false news” (sound familiar?) by the succeeding government to the Muslim Brotherhood and then he was arrested as a supporter of the Brotherhood (a group he had protested against in the past) because his job entailed him interviewing members of this group after they were democratically elected as the ruling party in Egypt. A massive social media campaign, lobbyists, international human rights lawyers, family and public outcry around the world finally secured his release.
I took a few points away from Mr. Fahmy’s talk that I felt I should share:
-Social Media activism, petitions etc. may seem highly ineffective from our perspective of constantly being bombarded by them online, but they matter. His high profile lawyers like Amal Clooney presented petitions in court and social media put heavy pressure on the Egyptian government. If it wasn’t for the people that took the time to sign these documents and contribute to social media campaigns like #HarperCallEgypt, that raised awareness, I wouldn’t have met him and he would still be locked up for a crime he didn’t commit (Teachers who bring social media activism into the classroom are creating opportunities for learning sure to increase student engagement, by allowing them to be part of something that matters beyond themselves).
-Prisons in general, including those that house terrorists, need to place a greater focus on rehabilitation. Currently these prisons are creating more terrorists than anything. Youth activists wrongly imprisoned are turned radical in these places. Many of the current ISIS leaders met and organized in prison.
-When a Canadian traveller or worker is wrongfully imprisoned/detained abroad, currently there is absolutely NO legal obligations for our government to intervene unlike many other developed nations, including the US, who are.
-Researchers on the ground in the Middle East have started sharing reports that ISIS is calling America’s recent ‘Muslim Ban’ the ‘Blessed Ban’ because of how much easier this unjust executive order is making it for them to recruit soldiers and prove their tales of the West.
-Unlike the false narrative goes, the US has some of the most rigorous checks and vetting processes for refugees on this planet.
-About 200 journalists are currently wrongfully imprisoned.
-About 700 journalists have been killed in duty in the last ten years.