Solidarity with imprisoned WHRDs, with or without Facebook

On the 23rd of June, I opened Facebook and found news that two friends had been arrested after participating in protests on the other side of the world. Natalie Lowrey is an Australian environmental activist who was arrested in Malaysia on 22 June during a peaceful action against Australian-owned Lynas Corporation’s rare earth plant in Malaysia. Yara Sallam is an Egyptian feminist activist who was arrested in Egypt on 21 June during a peaceful demonstration against the country’s anti-protest law. These two women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and friends who I had met at different moments in my activist life were now in jail, and I was alarmed and worried.

I immediately re-posted the two news items with messages that said “Sending strength and cheer to Natalie while in detention after a protest in Malaysia” and “Sending strength and cheer to Yara during her detention in Egypt.” I found it odd that I was not able to tag Yara like I had tagged Nat, but I didn’t give it much thought.

For three weeks, I engaged in a frenzied exchange of testimonies, pictures, news items, and calls to action about my two friends who were in jail. There was a lot of traffic on my newsfeed regarding Natalie’s situation and the background of the fight against Lynas, and also about Yara’s situation along with other WHRDs arrested during the 21 June demonstration. Another WHRD arrested along with Yara is Sanaa Seif, a young woman I do not know personally but whose stories I am learning about through the campaign demanding their release. My sole contact was through Facebook, and the two intertwined experiences of Nat and Yara raise questions for me about my own use of Facebook, and how as a movement we can be conscious of the benefits and the threats involved.

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