CAIRO (AP) — A prominent atheist video blogger says he has given up hope on life in Egypt and has launched a crowdfunding page called “Help Me Escape Egypt” to aid him in purchasing another…
CAIRO (AP) — A prominent atheist video blogger says he has given up hope on life in Egypt and has launched a crowdfunding page called “Help Me Escape Egypt” to aid him in purchasing another nationality so he can override an exit ban imposed by the secret police.
The video appeal posted by Sherif Gaber had collected over $12,000 in pledges by Wednesday, a day after it opened. Gaber says he needs $100,000 to obtain nationality from a place such as the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Obtaining a second nationality and renouncing the Egyptian one has been a tactic used successfully in the past by defendants seeking to leave the country.
Gaber, who addresses atheism and science to his 212,000 followers on YouTube, says that although he has no criminal record, Egyptian security agents have prevented him from leaving the country despite several attempts over the years, confiscating his passport without giving a reason on his last attempt in October.
“Some asked me to try and legally remove my name from the ‘Banned from leaving list,'” he wrote on his page, adding that that was impossible because he has not been added to the no-fly list legally. “National Security is the one which banned me … not the court. And the court has no authority over National Security.”
Gaber has been repeatedly detained by authorities accusing him of blasphemy, which is sometimes prosecuted in Egypt under laws against “insulting religion.” His videos, in Arabic with English subtitles, sometimes use comic formats.
Gaber could not be immediately reached for comment, and Egypt’s national security agency does not respond to such requests.
Egypt has undergone an unprecedented suppression of free speech under general-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who came to power after overthrowing an elected but polemical Islamist president in 2013.
Since then, authorities have jailed thousands of people, mainly Islamists but also prominent secular activists, including many of those behind Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Egypt has also been accused of arbitrary detention, disappearances and torture, and has silenced most independent media.
The crackdown has extended to those who contravene cultural norms, with edgy comedy shows being shut down and people seen as supporting LGBT rights arrested or heavily sanctioned.
Gaber faces multiple blasphemy charges, and says his impassioned plea is something he knows brings the risk of facing further charges for “intentionally defaming Egypt, like anyone who tries to express what he feels about this country.”
But it’s a risk he’s willing to take as a last resort.
“I’ve blamed myself for every moment I spent in this country, I blamed myself for every second I had the chance to leave this place but chose not to … for having chosen this county over my freedom and sense of security,” he said.