Inner-Workings of A Police State

20 01 2011


Crime: Wearing Hijab


This is a summary translation of a surveillance report (the picture above) found after the fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia. I found it through my friend Saudi reporter Hassan Al-Mustafa’s twitter feed.

I could have written a long detailed analysis of what is behind this, but I choose not to.The document speaks for itself.



Interior and Local Development Ministry

General Directorate of National Security

General Directorate of Public Security


[handwritten] Ha 222


Re: arrest of a girl wearing hijab “Rawda Ben Attiya”

Authority-based on: administrative order number 1120/SAM dated 10/06/2002 and message from General Directorate of Public Security number 1355 S A dated 11/27/2003

In accordance to the above mentioned directives whose purpose is to dutifully increase actions against the different forms of extremism in order to preserve our society’s character by:

-cracking down on followers of extremist religious groups;

  • aborting their attempts to organize and operate through stricter controls of:

individuals wearing sectarian outfits, bearded men, individuals selling amulets, books, suspect books, activities of the Dawa & Tabligh group, mosques, prayers spaces and activities of Salafis.

It is my honor to inform you that on 03/18/2009 a girl wearing a hijab was detained. Her name is Rawda Ben Attiya born in the city of Seliana, residing in Beni Khiar. After investigation, [we learned] that she performed her religious duties regularly and she was informed that she needed to stop wearing the sectarian outfit [Hijab]. She acquiesced to said request.

An incident report was filed on the matter and archived [here], [the report’s] number is 179 on 02/18/2009

ID Card Data:

Rawda Ben Mohamed Ben Attiya, Tunisian citizen, born on 10/12/1985, female. Mother: Aisha Ben Gamra, married and residing in Beni Khiar

Filed for your information, the matter is still being pursued.

[illegible Signature]

54/ MN

Sent to Mr: R M A W N



Facebook Hubris: “Privacy is No Longer The Norm”

22 05 2010

Master of Disaster?

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and his company are no stranger to controversies, that’s not news per se. However, what is really disturbing is that his mantra stating that privacy somehow is no longer what it used to be is being repeated by others as if  it were orthodoxy. You don’t believe me?  Take for example this quote from Mashable’s Ben Parr on Al jazeera English show Inside Story:

“ One, part of the problem is that the world has just changed! and the world has changed to the point that anyone with a camera phone, which is almost everybody in the developed world at this point can just take a picture and post it online, can take a video and post it online.

And to expect that the thousands of social media websites can can be regulated and protected so that your pictures and identity don’t go online is just not realistic anymore.

So, we have to adapt to what the new situation is which is: your information, your picture and information will be posted. How do you handle your self in public setting, how do you handle yourself after the information has been posted online.

Parr goes on to answer his interviewer further clarifying his opinion:

Ketchup is a vegetable?

I would say that privacy has evolved and changed, it has become something that is.. I guess.. tougher to defend. I think that because of that , yes society does have to adapt around what technology has done. We cannot expect to have the same kind of privacy or the same way we protected privacy even five years ago.

In essence we are told to capitulate our right to privacy to social media websites just because they feel things ought to be so. Of course, the world has changed so did the technology, but that should not be taken to mean we, the consumers, should ply to the for-profit wishes of those so-called “new media gurus.”

Strangely enough, this line of reasoning is reminiscent of two guys whose names start with G for George and D for Dick. For the sake of this quick comparison George and Dick ( just like Mark and Ben) felt that existing norms had to be changed because they decided that the tasks they set out to accomplish required a radical change of the basic rules governing the fields because… it is a new world.

The events of the last decade proved that  just as the Geneva conventions and the laws of war could not be changed because we were faced by a new form of warfare, privacy has not changed one iota either.  What has changed is our willingness to sign off our right to privacy and trust others with it. Again, at the time that George and Dick made their case the establishment acquiesced and did not dare challenge them, remember how quickly the Patriot Act passed in congress?

Although I am no constitutional lawyer (Zuckerberg and Parr are not either), I say that the “default setting” in the US constitution is “PRIVATE” until otherwise proven. Maybe it is not an accident after all that Facebook’s privacy policy is longer than the US constitution?

Simply put, there is no reason to trust Facebook, Zuckerberg or Parr with deciding what privacy is. They are neither neutral or detached. Facebook is a for-profit enterprise worth hundreds if not billions of dollars whose best interests are not by default aligned with its users right to privacy. Furthermore, I think that the same way we have a tradition in this country, started by the founding fathers, to distrust our government, we can and should distrust Facebook or anyone else who wants to make a quick buck at the expense of our right to privacy.

At the end of the day, privacy is only one click away!

Ps. Someone please tell Zuckerberg and Parr that they are no James Maddison, not even close to a Ruth Bedar Ginsburg..

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