Imprisoned Egyptian liberal oppositionist Dr. Ayman Nour recently wrote an open letter to U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
The following is the letter in its entirety, in the original English, as posted on freeaymannour.org, and dated June 15, 2008:
"[I Am] A Human Being, About Your Age, Who Was – And Still Is – Dreaming... of Change and Reform... In Our Countries Legitimate Dreams Turn Into Horrifying Nightmares!!"
"Senator Barack Obama
"Democratic Candidate, U.S. Presidency
"Dear Sir: These lines, which I'm not certain will see the light or reach you, were written behind the walls of an old prison in the south of Cairo. This may be the oldest prison in Egypt and the Middle East. The writer of these lines is a human being, about your age, who was – and still is – dreaming like you of change and reform in his country, this legitimate dream. However, in our countries legitimate dreams turn into horrifying nightmares!!
"Senator Barack Obama
"- The writer of these lines is Dr. Ayman Nour,
"- Born on 5th December 1964
"- Obtained a law degree in 1985 then obtained a PhD in Constitutional Law in 1995.
"- Worked in various fields, including law, journalism and human rights as I've founded the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the oldest and first civil organization that monitored human rights violations in Egypt.
"- Became a parliament member in Egypt in 1995 for the Middle Cairo area, the oldest and most densely-populated area in Cairo. My parliament membership continued (for 10 years) till I was imprisoned in 2005.
"- In 2004 I founded Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) liberal party after four rejections from the state.
"- I ran for the first presidential elections in Egypt's history in 2005 as candidate for the party I had founded and been elected leader of. I came in second to the current (and previous) president (1981 – 2008) in the presidential election among 10 parties. My campaign motto was "Hope for change"!!
"- The official charge in the documents is a claim that I was aware that forged powers of attorney were submitted to the state among the party establishing documents. It may surprise you to learn that the Egyptian law requires no more than 50 powers of attorney from any 50 Egyptian citizens!! We submitted thousands of powers of attorney which we had received from citizens. Although the charges were naïve, lacked logic and procedures were null because they violated my parliament immunity, the state assigned the case to a prosecution specialized in political cases (State Security Prosecution) then referred the case to a particular judge which specializes in political cases. This same judge had sentenced Saad Eddin Ibrahim and other Egyptian opposition figures to prison. He sentenced me to five years with labor in December 2005, in addition to prohibiting me from practicing any political, parliament or party profession or work for six years following the sentence!!
"- The real charge is that I committed the crime of dreaming of change!! That and competing with the president who had been ruling Egypt for 27 years!! I threatened his ream to hand down Egypt to his son who seeks to rule for another 27 years and monopolize the mechanisms of peaceful circulation of power
"Between the naïve and fake official charge and the real charge there was a considerable government package of political accusations that the official, government media sought to promote against me, all of which claim that I am supported by the United States of America's reform agenda in the region to achieve a model similar to that of Iraq!!
"This claim may be supported by a set of lies and rumors, in addition to only one truth, the fact that the U.S. Congress, Administration and media object to the injustice and revenge I and my party were and continue to be subject to, as my party also got a serious and hidden share of unfair measures."
"[My] First Presidential Campaign... Showed a Fetus That Had Started Moving and Coming to Life in the Womb of This Nation"
"Senator Obama: My real crime and the crime of the Al-Ghad liberal party is that we spoiled an old ongoing equation that the regime and party that has been ruling Egypt since 1952 have been promoting that they are the only choice in the face of the religious alternative represented in political Islam movements, particularly Muslim Brotherhood. Between the founding of Al-Ghad party in October 2004 and the presidential election in September 2005 we have provided practical and shocking evidence that an opposition liberal secular party can succeed to become a third party between an oppressive state and the Islamist Movement... a young alternative to an ageing regime, a popular and modern alternative to a domesticated opposition that has become marginalized, and a reasonable alternative that possesses the dream and the ability to fulfill this dream without disturbing the principle and priority of stability!!
"During that first presidential campaign that lasted for only 18 days we have presented a model of an election campaign that was the poorest ever but the most capable of awakening stagnant dreams and young capacity. The results, despite blatant rigging and terrorization, as well as monopolizing the sources of funding, media and state power and resources, showed a fetus that had started moving and coming to life in the womb of this nation and in the heart of the region that had been swimming in oppression."
"What Happened To Me Was Not Only an Assassination of My Rights as a Human Being [and] Citizen, Nor an Assassination of My Political Party... It Was an Assassination of the Last Promising Civil Reformist Dream"
"Senator Obama: What happened to me was not only an assassination of my rights as a human being, citizen, nor just an assassination of my political party and its right to exist. It was an assassination of the last promising civil reformist dream, a confiscation of the right of my generation in this country and in the region to dream again of a peaceful, civil and reformist change in the shadow of the 'flying wolf's head'!!
"I admit that we have not felt alone due to the objection and condemnation on part of the parliaments of the free world, the European Parliament (which issued a strong decision in 2008) of what I was and continue to be subjected to. There was also reservations expressed by the U.S. Congress, Administration and President Bush in May 2007 in Prague and in May 2008 in Sharm al-Sheikh, as well as Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice on many of her visits to Cairo following our first – and last – meeting during her first visit which she had postponed more than once due to my first arrest.
"However, Egypt's regime has become accustomed to such pressures and has always proven its ability to ease them through an exchange of temporary regional roles and interests taking advantage of the seasonal nature of such pressures and its ability to maximize and play on U.S. and Western fears of the spread of fundamentalism in the region, particularly the Hamas model. The Egyptian regime also takes full advantage of the constant tension in the region and the tarnished image of democratic reform due to events in Iraq. Egypt's regime also bets on the weakening criticism against its violations during the U.S. election and administration change. Egypt's regime may take advantage of the time the new American administration may need to organize and fortify itself and hand down the country to the president's son while the world is busy with U.S. election and White House changes.
"I and My Generation of Reformists In Egypt, The Arab Region And The Middle East Do Not Only Share Your Feelings... We Also Share Many of Your Campaign Opinions"
"Senator Obama: Me and the generation I belong to – in Egypt and the Arab region – which views you as a gifted and inspiring model for the dream of freedom and change and look forward to hearing from you – today, tomorrow and in the future – what may renews our legitimate dreams of freedom, justice and peace and render hope and the values of freedom and progress victorious over the frustrations brought about by old oppressive regimes that have for long decades enjoyed the support of major states in a losing bid between interests and principles where the values of oppression won to the disadvantage of principles and interests alike.
"I and my generation of reformists in Egypt, the Arab region and the Middle East do not only share your feelings because you belong to this generation and have become a leading figure of it, we also share many of your campaign opinions, as, for example:
"1. Concerning the withdrawal from Iraq: We agree with you, despite the differing reasons, of the importance of a quick withdrawal from Iraq making sure not to leave any permanent bases that may give constant rise and justification to extremism and terrorism. We clearly say that the Iraq model has become a major obstacle in the face of Arab reformists as regimes have used it and simple citizens fear a reform dream that would lead to a nightmare similar to that of the Iraq scarecrow. It's as if it is the fate of reformists and people in the Arab world to pay the price twice, the first time due to the presence of oppressive regimes, such as the Saddam Hussein and other regimes, and the second time with the elimination of such regimes and their replacement with chaos and bloodshed that render oppression the only option.
"2. Concerning the Peace Process with the aim of establishing a Palestinian and an Israeli state: The declaration on 06/06/2008 considering Jerusalem an issue to be decided by negotiation between both parties renewed all of the region's peoples' hopes to reach a final, fail solution to this issue which has consumed the blood and capacities of the people and opened the door to fundamentalism, terrorism and oppression, each of which are justified as long as this issue remains unresolved.
"3. Dialogue with Iran and Syria: Recent history affirms this dialectic relation between the person sitting in the White House and the Iranian tendency. Your presence in the White House will end the Ahmadi Nijad phase. When Clinton was U.S. president, Iran elected the reformist Khatami, and when the White House methodology changed Ahmadi Nijad came to power. Your coming to power in the U.S. will be a good reason for the end of the Nijad era to be replaced by Larijani or another leader capable of changing the roles and natures of the phase. This will also definitely reflect on the general mood in Damascus and Lebanon.
"4. The priority of democratic reform in the region: We agree with the announcement you made on June 4th criticizing the policy of depending on Middle East dictators. However, some people linked the Minnesota speech to pressure on oil states!! Now remains the issue of the priority of democratic reform in the region in general and the importance of providing a clear vision as the right means to helping this region out of its fall and saving it from the terrorism and fundamentalism generated by oppressive regimes that monopolized means to peaceful circulation of power and that lacked any of the good governance characteristics. We still await, during the coming stage of your campaign, a clearer position towards issues of reform and freedoms through the agenda to be expected from a law professional, a lecturer of constitutional law, an attorney who has contributed for over 11 years (1993 – 2004) to the field of human rights and the Democratic Party candidate who has always been concerned with such issues, whether in power or not."
"The Supporters of Reform And Freedom, Headed By Prisoners of Consciousness in Egypt, Syria, Palestine And Other Countries, Await Your Declared and Fixed Position Supporting... Their Hope in Change"
"Senator Obama: The supporters of reform and freedom, headed by prisoners of consciousness in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and other countries await your declared and fixed position supporting their rights to life and freedom and their hope in change. Prisoners of consciousness in oppressive countries are deprived of the simplest human rights and subjected to the worst forms of violation and physical and psychological pressures in the absence of the justice of litigation and natural law. The authorities now use the incidents that took place in Abu-Ghraib and other detention places located outside the United States as a justification to violate the rights of innocent callers for peaceful reform in their countries saying that America, the country of freedom, is committing the same acts!!
"Your Remark in the Minnesota June 4 Speech... May Not Agree With the Ambitions of Arab Liberals, Particularly in Egypt, Syria and Palestine"
"Senator Obama: Your remark in the Minnesota June 4th speech on how serious it is to depend on and support dictatorships may be satisfactory but may not agree with the ambitions of Arab liberals, particularly in Egypt, Syria and Palestine where the disaster is harder. I only point out to parliament figures behind bars and paying a high price for their positions. They are threatened with murder through illness and pressures. I will not speak of my condition. I mean other figures for example in Syria, such as the Damascus Declaration group which includes former parliamentarians and liberals, such as liberal lawyer Anwar al-Binni and others. I also mention Palestinian parliament member Marwan al-Barghouty who is detained in Israel. The real hope lies in a strong alternative to Abbas capable of brining balance in the light of the popularity enjoyed by Hamas.
"As for Egypt, in addition to my situation, which I will not further detail, there are detainees in accordance with the Emergency Law from Al-Ghad party as a result of the April 6th strike and incidents, others from the Kefaya movement, Al-Karam party and Al-Amal (Labor) party, all of which are prohibited by law!! There are also Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood detainees and those referred to military trial. More important and in addition victims of oppression in Egypt, are the sources of such oppression, which in my estimate are:
"1. Article 76 of the Constitution, amended in 2005 and 2007 to eliminate any real competition to the president and the heir. The conditions are restrictive to the point of tailoring the position to the president and his son.
"2. Article 77, amended in 1980 to extend the president's term to become unlimited
"3. Constitutional amendment introduced in 2007 eliminating judicial supervision of elections. This results in further organized rigging of any parliament, local and presidential elections.
"4. Violating the principle and independence of litigation and public prosecution
"5. The regime monopolizes all media and means of real influence
"6. The state controls the establishing of political parties and interferes with their work, as well as robbing them (as was the case with Al-Ghad party)
"7. The continued enforcement of the Emergency Law for 27 years and applying it to political parties (as was the case with Al-Ghad party) and using it to prevent gatherings, demonstrations, expression, etc., particularly during the peaceful strike organized on April 6th.
"8. Using the directed judicial rulings, infiltrated judiciary and the government-controlled parliament to commit all forms of rights violations that allow those in power to monopolize power and terrorize opposition and reformists under a false cover of legitimacy.
"9. Confusing the state with the ruling party and ensuring that other parties remain weak. Exerting strong pressures on civil society institutions with the aim of controlling them or economically and legally restricting them.
"10. Promoting aggressive sentiments against all calls for reform under the pretext that they are pushed by foreign hands and echoing foreign agendas in surprising double standards as the regime seeks foreign support and cooperation while internally inciting aggressive sentiments against the West and accusing those who seek to communicate with it concerning political reform in particular of being its agents!!"
"We Await Much From You as a Democratic Candidate and President Expected to Lead the Whole World Towards a Real and Fair Change"
"Senator Obama: We await much from you as a Democratic candidate and president expected to lead the whole world towards a real and fair change. Your generation and all the powers of reform, democrats and liberals in Egypt and the Arab world hope that January 20th becomes a day of freedom and democracy, not only in the United States of America but in the whole world primarily by rectifying the wrongs caused by long years of supporting dictators under the pretext of protecting interests at the account of principles.
"Please accept my sincere wishes for your success.
"Yours sincerely, Dr. Ayman Nour, Tura Mazraa Prison, 15 June 2008"