Hunger Strike Over

12 01 2010

The House of Bliss

After a major scare, reported in the previous post, Hanevy issued a letter announcing his decision to end his hunger strike. While his decision is wise given his health situation, and despite the government’s determination to keep him in jail where he remains.

His decision came after his former Qur’anic teacher Sheikh Mohamed Vall Ould Abddallhi Bah (a prominent cleric) asked him to do so to preserve his life arguing that “all Abrahamic faiths forbid the infliction of self-harm.”

After providing the context of his decision to enter a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention, Hanevy thanked all those who supported him and showed solidarity with him, he further explained his decision saying:

I cannot turn down the request of my teacher, a man of God, who never sought the favor of any ruler nor any proximity to his court. I decided that as of today, 1/12/2010 I shall cease my hunger strike.

I recall here the advice I received through an intermediary from my friend, the great Tunisian human rights activist Moncef Marzouki; he recommended that I limit the period of my hunger strike given the severe health complications that might ensue. He gave me this advice as one of the most brilliant physicians in the Maghreb, and not as a courageous human rights advocate.

I took this decision in consultation with the Mauritanian Journalist Union

Contrary to earlier reports, his jailers refused to allow him to be transported outside the prison to receive treatment after his fall:

I cannot but state for the record the inhumane treatment I received in prison after I lost consciousness yesterday [Monday]  I was not transported outside of the prison to receive healthcare. The prison doctor turned off his phone all day long. This allowed the prison guards and the warden to hide behind the excuse that only the doctor could allow me to be moved to the National Hospital Center.

While courageous and inspiring, Hanevy clearly understands that we do not need martyrs, but outspoken journalists to keep rulers in check. After all, in the eyes of a despot, the only good journalist is a muzzled journalist.





Haram in the House of Bliss!

11 01 2010

Hanevy on the day he was arrested

The news from the House of Bliss (Dar Naim Jail) is not good; Hanevy fell on his head on his way back to his cell and is semi-comatose according to the latest reports. The government sent a military doctor to asses his status. The verdict is that he needs x-rays to evaluate any possible internal injuries. A great source of concern is that the authorities blocked any visits to Hanevy since his fall which raises grave concerns over his prognosis: What is there to hide?

Interestingly, a cleric urged Hanevy to end his hunger strike because it is a form of suicide. This blogger’s response: is it Haram to combat injustice? Isn’t silence in the face of tyranny a sin?

Today, the head of Mauritania’s opposition, former presidential candidate and chairman of the RFD party, joined a sit-in at Nouakchott’s courthouse. The event was called for and organized by the Journalist Union to demand Hanevy’s release.

Daddah was not the only political leader to advocate for Hanevy, in fact, Noma Bint Mogaye (featured previously on Dekhnstan) among others, demanded his release in an interview where she attacked General Aziz. To them his case is about the future of freedoms and liberties of Mauritanians under the increasingly authoritarian General Aziz.

He was featured extensively during the parliamentary debate over the new Anti-Terror Law. In the process of the debate, private sources in the opposition informed this blogger that the said law is plagiarized from Tunisia’s own anti-terror law with the difference that the Tunisian version had relatively more protections for the citizens. It should be said that while Tunisia is not exactly a model on civil liberties, General Aziz is drawing on the example of some of the worse human rights abusers in the world; it gives observers insights into his real ambitions.

In other news, if you type Mauritania in Google News, or twitter, most of the return hits you will get are about the unfortunate westerner hostages (Spaniards, French, Italian) kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in November and December of last year. This is a far cry from the content of Mauritanian news sites where the issue has been given minimum attention.

These hostages’ plight deserves our sympathy and our prayers go to them and their families in the hope for their safe return to their homes and families. We also hope that the Mauritanian government will get its act together and wipe out from the face of the earth, once and for all, those terrorists behind these acts.

Unfortunately, the reality is such that Mauritanians are focused on their own domestic problems trying to fight off a tyrannical regime with every legal and peaceful venue amidst international indifference.

While, the world’s concern over the growth of Al-Qaeda in the Sahel is commendable and justifiable, policy makers ought to remember that terrorism is not vanquished only by bombs and guns. The best hope to prevent this criminal gang from growing is winning the goodwill of local citizens by showing-  rather than talking- a commitment to their liberties and freedoms.





Aziz: Hanevy isn’t my problem

3 01 2010

General Aziz & his top ally Colonel Kaddafi

Hanevy today has been on hunger strike for a week and his health is deteriorating. Yet, the Mauritanian government remains determined to keep him locked up. General Aziz told members of parliament yesterday:

“Hanevy’s case does not concern me and I will not intervene in it. Hanevy was not arrested during my rule. I have not arrested a single journalist. His case is a matter for the courts.”

Regardless of how disingenuous these statements are, General Aziz did in the past say in a meeting with journalists on November, 1 2009:

“..it is better for Hanevy to remain in jail for his own safety, so that he wouldn’t be kidnapped or killed by the people he writes about all day long..”

As you can see, there is a pattern. The judges are taking their cues from Aziz. They interpreted his November statement and implemented their boss’ wishes: “Keep Hanevy locked up even if his sentence is up” which was what happened on December 24.

Hanevy’s plight is already gathering attention. Tunisian dissident Moncef Marzouki and the head of the Arab Committee for Human Rights Syrian Haitham Manaa, two of the most prominent Human Rights activists in the Arab world are already demanding his releases. They were reached by phone by the head of Mauritania’s journalists union.

Speaking of Mauritanian journalists, they are on strike anyway today; no press was printed today because of the sharp rise in printing costs.

Interestingly, RFI picked a report issued by the Mauritanian Bar Association decrying the conditions  the infamous House of Bliss a.k.a Dar Naim prison where Hanevy is held, the conclusion are devastating according to the report:

-Overcrowded: Dar Naim prison was built to house 300 inmates, now there are a 1000 inmates in because of the excessive use of preventive detention. There are people who have been on preventive detention since 2002,2003, 2004 who still await trail for offenses whose punishment are shorter than the time already spent in.

-Violence, infectious diseases, torture: the prison does not have healthcare services, the overcrowding of cells is ideal for the spread of diseases. Add to that the constant violence among the inmates and the torture practiced by the guards.





The House of Bliss

1 01 2010

Yesterday, after five days of hunger strike, a doctor visited Hanevy in his prison, and he concluded that his blood pressure is too low and asked him to stop his hunger strike. Hanevy thanked him and said: No.

His lawyers led by longtime Human Rights attorney Brahim Ould Ebetty, outraged by the arbitrary detention of their client, hit back with a statement announcing their intention to file lawsuits against judicial officials and their accomplices responsible for Hanevy’s extrajudicial imprisonment.

Internationally, Jillian York, Bostonian activist and author, fired the first shot in the advocacy for Hanevy right at the Obama administration. In her Huffington Post piece entitled “Sex, Obama and a Mauritanian Dissident“, York puts this case in the larger Arab context and points out that this is another sign that Obama administration is not living up to its own (emphasis is mine) promises of embracing reform and human rights in the Arab/Muslim world in last year’s highly publicized Cairo speech:

In President Obama’s much-vaunted 2009 speech in Cairo, he made a commitment to supporting reform in the Arab world. Though there was plenty in the speech to criticize, many advocates for free speech saw this as a welcome change and hoped for genuine follow-through. Yet, 2009 has been a terrible year for free speech throughout the region: Six journalists were killed, and more than75 bloggers and cyber-dissidents linger in prisons. And the Western media remains mostly silent.

While the Obama Cairo speech asked Arab youth to remake the world, York explained how that was the case of Ould Dahah:

Hanevy Ould Dahah is an interesting case: educated in Mauritania’s Qur’anic schools, he chose a path of rebellion and staunch liberalism, opposing the military coup and daring to return to Mauritania after a stint in the U.S., knowing full well how much the Mauritanian government despised him. He was arrested only a week after returning to Mauritania earlier this year.

She also pointed out why Hanevy spent six months in jail:

Yet when it comes to issues of free speech and reform, the Western media is hopelessly silent. Hanevy Ould Dahah has been sitting in jail for six months for publishing an anonymous comment from a woman which read “I want to have sex…I am free” on Taqadoumy, the popular site Hanevy edits. On December 24, Hanevy’s sentence was up, but authorities refused to release him; the judge claimed that Hanevy cannot be released because the appeals court doesn’t have his file.

York informs us as well that the US government has been silent on Hanevy’s case despite it offering Mauritania access to preferential trade terms along with other African states just a day before Hanevy’s sentence ended. However, the African Growth and Opportunity Act was not extended to Guinea, Madagascar and Niger because these nations according to the white house  ” saw undemocratic transfers of power which [are] incompatible with making progress toward establishing the rule of law or political pluralism.

To this blogger, it is beyond dispute that holding a journalist and a social entrepreneur after ending his already highly dubious jail sentence is indeed incompatible with “progress toward establishing the rule of law or political pluralism.”

In the meantime, Hanevy remains locked up in the Dar Naim prison, Arabic speakers will appreciate the irony; the prison’s name means House of Bliss.

Happy New Year Hanevy and I hope to see you free sooner than later.








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