Friends of Egyptian technologist and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah changed their social media avatars to his iconic one to mark the one-year anniversary of his most recent arrest. The effort was planned in advance by his friends and family, who asked allies to share quotes of Alaa's from over the years to keep his name—and his case—in the public eye.
Alaa is currently serving a five-year sentence for his role in a protest just two days after the passing of Egypt's 2013 anti-protest law. While many others involved in the protest were pardoned after serving their first year, Alaa, along with Ahmed Abdel Rahman, has remained imprisoned. Since January 2011, when Egypt rose up against Hosni Mubarak, Alaa has spent more than 500 days in prison. His first arrest after the revolution coincided with his second trip to the United States, to attend RightsCon. He left San Francisco to fly directly back to Cairo, where he immediately faced a military prosecutor and a set of trumped-up charges that kept him in jail for 55 days. He has since been in and out of prison several times. He missed the birth of his first child, Khaled, and the death of his father last summer. He has undoubtedly missed so much more.
Although Alaa's primary fight has been for freedom in Egypt, he is no less an advocate for digital freedoms: free expression, open-source software, and privacy are all a part of his guiding philosophy. Within the technology community, he has been at times a teacher, an ally, a collaborator, and a guiding light.
Alaa has always been a friend to EFF, frequently donning one of our t-shirts in photos (such as the one at right, with his sister Mona Seif). Yesterday, along with his many friends and other organizations like Advox, we wore his icon to call for his freedom.