Global Voices Community: We Stand With Hisham

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Hisham Almiraat (center) at the Global Voices 2012 Summit in Nairobi with Mohamed ElGohary (L) and Sami Ben Gharbia (R). PHOTO: Ivan Sigal

Seven free expression advocates face trial in Morocco this week. Among them is our dear friend and long-time Global Voices community member, Hisham Almiraat.

Lova Rakotomalala speaks for many of us when he writes below that “the news that Hisham will face trial this week felt like a punch to the gut….” As the following tributes from the Global Voices community show, Hisham's integrity, humanity and commitment to social justice are without question. We stand in absolute solidarity with him and his colleagues as they face trial this week.

It has been a trying week for many folks worldwide. The news that Hisham will face trial this week felt like a punch to the gut after a series of other painful blows. But I know Hisham would find the right words to put it all in a context, and that he would always emphasize justice and progress for all before himself. So it is only right that we try to give back as much, considering all he has done for this community.

I first met Hisham over coffee at La Cantine in 2010 in Paris,  a few minutes from the site of the attacks on November 13. Back then, blogs were still at the forefront of participatory media and freedom of expression. It’s a cliche, but it felt like we knew each other for a long while. Hisham was juggling being a medical doctor and leading the Blogoma in the fight for true freedom of expression in Morocco; I was doing research on Hepatitis B while working to get Malagasy students recognized for the critical role they played in covering the coup d'état in Madagascar.

But we didn’t talk about any of that. Instead we talked about the upcoming World Cup, the magic of translation at GV and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. I hope (and I know) Hisham will soon be set free from this ordeal. His kindness and thirst for social justice alone should be enough evidence that he is innocent of what he is accused of. It is time people like Hisham and many other activists get a break from oppression. Lord knows justice has been severely wanting these days.

- Lova Rakotomalala, Madagascar/France

Hisham is one of the very first GVers I met, back in 2012. In my first few months, he constantly reached out to make sure I felt included as a part of the community, and I've always really appreciated him for bringing me in. Hisham’s kindness and passion really encapsulate for me what the Global Voices community is all about, which is why I was so dismayed to hear about these charges.

Hisham, we're all behind you and will fight for your freedom.

- Sarah Myers West, USA

Luis Henrique and Hisham in Porto, Portugal.

Luis Henrique and Hisham in Porto, Portugal.

July 2011. We were at Porto, Portugal, attending Gary Chapman's International School on Digital Transformation (ISDT). Between panels and unconferences, students were invited to experience life in Porto and to enjoy a week immersed in digital themes alongside academics and activists. All week long, one could forge bonds with peers. And share.

Relatively new to this world of events abroad, I was feeling very confident because, since day one, I knew I would be around GVers. I just didn't know they would be so many! Hisham was one of them.

In his signature tone of voice—I can hear him saying the words right now—he said he remembered me from Chile (the GV Summit 2010). We shared a bit each day, but the dearest memory is of a walk by the beach. We spent what felt like hours talking about life and work.

I can't imagine Hisham facing these charges. Instead I keep in my head another image and sound from that lovely afternoon in Porto: that smile of his tone of voice melting all things strident in this world. And then there were seagulls. And the sea.

Stay safe, bro.

- Luis Henrique, Brazil

I first met Hisham at the Global Voices Summit in Santiago, Chile, in 2010. I was immediately impressed by his smile, friendliness, and humility—the latter such a rare quality to find these days. I hope justice prevails for Hisham, a medical doctor, advocate for human rights, and a fighter.

- Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, Puerto Rico

I have never met Hisham in person, but I've had several conversations with him about various GV topics. Hisham masters this type of conversation which makes you feel that everything you write is important. He takes his time making sure things are unfolded. A rare skill.

- Pernille Baerendtsen, Denmark

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Hisham and Ellery Biddle in Java, Indonesia.

I met Hisham while Global Voices was in its infancy, in an extremely pioneering and creative time. As Hisham worked as an ER doctor at a state hospital in nearby Normandy, I was fortunate to meet him and chat quite often when he came for day trips to Paris. We collaborated often and with great pleasure as  bloggers on independent news for North Africa and Francophonia.

I was right from the start impressed by his passion and dedication to freedom of speech, and by his many talents. He’s a great and fast writer, a master with Photoshop, and he’s able to whip up the most sophisticated graphics for social media campaigns in minutes. I've saved some on my hard drive, forever.

I also like and admire Hisham for non-GV activities I learnt about along the way: his concern for the local residents in the village near Agadir, where he was sent as an intern, his caring for the elderly (I recall that the subject of his thesis was geriatrics), the poor, the uneducated and for women. Whatever he undertakes, he undertakes in good faith, for the benefit of his country, his country men and women, and humanity.

- Claire Ulrich, France

I met Hisham for the first time in Nairobi, Kenya during the 2012 GV Summit. What struck me was how a medical doctor could be so tech savvy! Apart from that, Hisham is very humane. I worked more closely with him as an Advox contributor.

I recall one post I did, after which I started receiving phony emails which naturally made me nervous. Hisham calmed me down in a way I won't forget. He's an impressive leader and motivator who deserves many things, but certainly not injustice.

- Nwachukwu Egbunike, Nigeria

Too many people I know personally are being persecuted by the repressive regimes, authoritarian governments and ruthless leaders. Not a day goes by when more bad news hits my inbox. Yesterday, was one of those days, with the news about Hisham's trial in Morocco leaving me in shock.

I didn't know Hisham very well, but hearing people talk about his kindness and everything he did for his country was enough to show that he doesn't deserve to go in prison. Hisham is a member of our global community of outspoken voices, and that is enough for me to know that here is one more honest person is caught in net of a repressive government afraid of its own good people

- Arzu Geybulla, Turkey/Azerbaijan

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Hisham. PHOTO: Suzanne Lehn

It seems to me that I have known Hisham for as long as I have been a member of the Global Voices community, a fact that illuminated my life— and still does. I met him “IRL” at the GV Summits in Santiago and Nairobi, as well as at several occasions in France. Hisham embodies the GV spirit at its best, always adding to his commitment tireless support and wonderful kindness. From the shock I am lacking words, so for me, this 2013 picture [above] says everything about Hisham's soul.

- Suzanne Lehn, France

When our Bahraini friend Ali Abdulemam was arrested in 2010, I worked with Hisham and a few other GV friends on a campaign to raise Ali's profile and ask for his release. Hisham helped not only with technical parts of the campaign, but with his calm, warm and soothing manner, which is something that stands out in the stressful, overwhelming situations we have lived ever since. In this context of chaos, repression, and terror, we need Hisham and all our free thinkers from the region, more than ever.

- Leila Nachawati, Spain/Syria

“Same causes produce the same effects”. This is not only a theory that applies to the Physics we studied in secondary school—it also applies to human relations.

Hisham can sincerely brag of having well-wishers, for at one point in his life he wished others well himself. Participating in Global Voices is enough proof of all this, for this overwhelmingly generous person.

- Antony Namanga, Cameroon

Hisham and Paula Goes. PHOTO: Ellery Biddle

Hisham and Paula Goes. PHOTO: Ellery Biddle

First time I met Hisham was at the Arab Bloggers 2011 meeting in Tunis. He and Claire and I would—whenever the three of us were together—start speaking in French, au grand damn des anglophones. :) He told me he got the chance to obtain the French nationality but refused. I was surprised—back then he had already started his plan to return to Morocco for good. Since then I consider him as someone I really cherish though we rarely talk. He’s a very pure soul.

- Thalia Rahme, Lebanon

Hisham was always a great support for our all new volunteers—during Summits and online. He is a great friend and mentor to those who just joined Global Voices and might feel overwhelmed. He has this brilliant talent of a soft leader, grounded and professional but light-hearted, kind and always there to help, sharing a kind word even if it's not necessarily expected. Sending my warm regards and hoping he is going to stay safe and continue his great work!

- Sylwia, Poland/UK

I do not know Hisham personally but his good work, honesty, beautiful personality reached here before his person. I register my solidarity with him and I hope justice will be served.

- Erkan Saka, Turkey

Hisham, incorrigible shutterbug. PHOTO: Ellery Biddle.

Hisham, incorrigible shutterbug. PHOTO: Ellery Biddle.

I met Hisham in Santiago and Nairobi when attending the 2010 and 2012 Global Voices Summits. We spent a few days walking around Santiago and Valparaiso, times of great laughs and in-depth conversations. He’s a sweet guy, with lots of humour and it’s an understatement to say that exchanging points of views with Hisham is always really interesting. I’m impressed by how he finds time to manage a career as a doctor as well as defending social justice in his many other activities. In the name of justice, there is no way Hisham won’t be cleared of the unfair charges he’s facing, but I’ll still be worried for him until hearing the good news.

- Pauline Ratzé, Switzerland

I met Hisham in person during the GV summit in Chile where our connection was strengthened from online to offline. Fundamental freedoms are core values as human beings, and no one should be charged or persecuted simply because of exercising these freedoms and speaking truth to power. I therefore call for the charge to be dropped and as GV friends, we are standing in solidarity with our friend Hisham.

- Sopheap Chak, Cambodia

I got to know Hisham in Santiago, where we were shared a hotel room. I am so sorry to hear the news. He is really wonderful man and one of the most active GV members. My thoughts are with you, dear friend.

- Siniša Boljanović, Serbia

I met Hisham in Santiago and again in Nairobi, and what an amazing guy. It's a pleasure and a honour to know him. I remember in Nairobi that I had a mild asthma crisis and Hisham was quick to calm me down, look after my medicine and afterwards we spent some time talking about him, about his medical work, his human rights work,etc. He’s an outstanding human being doing amazing work and it's so absurd what he's facing back in Morocco.

- Raphael Tsavkko Garcia, Brazil

I had the honor of meeting and working with Hisham for several years, and seeing him IRL several times around the world. He shows keen and genuine interest and support in everything he does. He deserves the most prestigious recognition, not prosecution. Best wishes to Hisham and hope all ends well

- Mohamed ElGohary

Hisham is an admirable spirit. I met him in Casablanca in 2010, as I lived in Morocco for more than four years. Hisham was already practicing medicine at the time and living a comfortable life in France, however, he shared with me his plan to move back Morocco to improve his native country. He didn't choose comfort—he chose the truth and fought for what's right. Censorship and witch hunting of activists in Morocco are nothing new. I can't stress enough how depressing it is to hear of another colleague being called subversive for protecting one of the most basic rights that every person should have: freedom of speech. From the bottom of my heart I'm calling for a fair trial for Hisham and his immediate release. May God protect his loved ones during this terrible ordeal.

- Juke Carolina, Indonesia

To sign the open statement from the Global Voices community in support of Hisham and his colleagues, please visit this page.

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PHOTO: Georgia Popplewell

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