Egyptian Hero Of Tahrir Square Uprising To Speak At Israel's Hebrew University

Maikel Nabil Sanad, a blogger and human rights activist in Egypt's Tahrir Square Uprising who was the first political prisoner of the post-revolutionary government, will visit Israel for the first time next week and speak at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hosted by the Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace in co-operation with the Geneva-based organization U.N. Watch, Sanad will discuss his personal story, political changes in Egypt, and Egypt-Israel relations.

In 2011 a military court sentenced Sanad to three years in prison for objecting to military service, insulting the  Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that replaced Hosni Mubarak, and criticizing its use of excessive force against Tahrir Square protesters. During his 302 days in prison he began a prolonged hunger strike. Declared a prisoner of conscience by human rights organizations and supported via social media and demonstrations, Sanad was pardoned by the military ruling council in January 2012.

Sanad called his visit "a message from the Egyptian peace community that we have had enough violence and confrontation, and we want to live together as human beings without violence, racism or walls." He said that for a long time the Egyptian authorities had denied him permission to visit Israel, but his godfather, the Egyptian intellectual Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, represented Egypt at the Hebrew University's opening ceremony nine decades ago.

Event chair Professor Elie Podeh, an Egypt expert at the Truman Institute, referred to Sanad's visit as “a rare opportunity for the Hebrew University to get a real taste of the Arab Spring as it happened."

Sanad's visit is organized by UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the United Nations and promotes human rights. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer called Sanad "a brave young man who believes in human rights, and who sacrificed his freedom, and almost his life, for democracy, tolerance and peace between Israelis and Arabs. He is a true hero who inspires hope and determination among young people around the world."

Sanad is the first conscientious objector of the current regime, having founded an Egyptian movement against the country's military conscription in 2009. His blog posts, which have been carried by international newspapers, are followed by people in Egypt and around the world.