Journalism and Politics in Egypt
May 4, 2021
Jon Alterman: Khaled Dawoud is a veteran Egyptian journalist and political figure. He was the Al-Ahram bureau chief in Washington, DC for several years after 9/11, and he was just freed from 19 months in prison on April 14. Khaled, welcome to Babel.
Khaled Dawoud: Thank you, Jon, for having me.
Jon Alterman: Thank you, Khaled. You were arrested on September 25, 2019. What were you charged with?
Khaled Dawoud: September 24—I was arrested on the night of Tuesday, September 24. I was arrested in the streets, just after parking in front of my dad's home. I found people holding my hands and saying, "Come with us." I asked them who you are. They said, "We're national security." So they just pushed me into a car, and they blindfolded me. Actually, they used one of those masks. The ones used during kidnapping cases. Then they took me to the headquarters of the national state security, where I spent the night. The second day I was referred to the prosecutor, where basically I faced three charges that are cliché, that go for any opposition figures or members who get arrested over the past three or four years, which is, "assisting a terrorist group in achieving its goals while knowing its targets” and “spreading false news and abuse of social media.”
Of course, as you might notice, the first one is the most dangerous one, because the trick that the regime has been resorting to since President Sisi took office was amending the pre-trial detention law so that if you're charged with terrorism, the prosecutors can keep you in prison for up to two years. While in the regular criminal system, if I'm charged, say, with spreading false news only or abuse of social media only, I'd be referred to a regular prosecutor, not a state security prosecutor. And the maximum pre-trial detention would be six months. They have to include a charge that includes the word terrorism and then they can keep you in prison for up to two years. Of course, I have no relationship to any terrorism of any sort. I am more of a leftist Egyptian intellectual.
Jon Alterman: Did they ever name a group that they thought you were a member of? Or people they thought you were associated with?
Khaled Dawoud: For over ten sessions with the prosecutors, and maybe another eight or nine sessions in which I got 45 days-renewals, this was the number one question and they never named the terrorist organization. I don't know anything about how I participated with this alleged terrorist organization. Even when I would tell the prosecutor concerning spreading false news that I've been a journalist for 30 years, and I teach journalism at the American University in Cairo for the past six years so I should know what's false news and what's not false news, and I've never been involved in spreading false news. This is like Mass Comm 100, where we teach the students that you differentiate between opinion and news. There's no opinion in news. In news you should be objective. But in my case, for example, I gave him an example, the prosecutor.
I would see the Wall Street Journal reporting that former U.S. president Donald Trump was waiting for a meeting with Sisi in one of the G20 meetings and then he told the national security adviser of that time, "Where's my favorite dictator?" So this is not my reporting. This is the Wall Street Journal reporting. But I would share that news item from my point of view to reflect even how Trump thinks about the Egyptian president. And that's what I've been doing all my life, I never spread false news, which is actually the worst charge you can make against a journalist is spreading false news.
Jon Alterman: It's interesting, because of course there are a lot of journalists in the United States who not only wouldn't lead a political party, but a lot of journalists in the United States refuse to vote, because it's their argument that to be a journalist, you have to be completely impartial from what you're covering. You've been involved in politics for a while. How did you get involved in it? How did you square your journalist role and your political role?
Khaled Dawoud: My answer to this question is that journalism—or the business of producing newspaper—is very diversified. Basically, it all has to do with the topic that you choose to report on. My part in the newspaper where I work, Al-Ahram Weekly, is that I'm sort of an international affairs reporter. So I don't report on local news at all. Because I know that I'm a political figure, I have political views. There's no way I'm an opponent of President Sisi and I will report on President Sisi. My integrity would not allow me to do something like that, as a political activist of some sort.
Also allow me to say one thing, which is the reason why I got involved in politics at one point or the other: the fact that I work as a journalist. Because my entire approach to politics is that we need basic freedoms, and without freedom of expression, without freedom of the press, you cannot have a healthy political atmosphere, which would help in democratizing the society in which you're living. Even my entry into politics has been mainly because I spent maybe—How many years? Between 1990 and say, 2011, when Mubarak was removed—working in a government newspaper, and I can see what an authoritarian regime can do to the quality of reporting that you produce when you're totally under the government's control. So when I joined the 2011 revolution—when I left New York, and I came to Egypt during the revolution—my dream and my hope was to reform the media business in Egypt, in terms that we need to report the truth, we should not make the president the center of attention as reporters, we should try to bring up subjects that are of interest to the Egyptian public. This is something that we actually did in Al-Ahram and in other governmental newspapers right after the revolution.
It was like the law of gravity. As soon as we improved our reporting, we started reporting on issues that matter to the readers, the circulation of newspapers increased as much as the viewership of local TV channels increased, because when you're credible and you're reporting, when you have a diverse media, when you have diverse political life, whether media or political parties, people are interested. They take part in public affairs, they vote, they watch their own local media.
So my argument is if the Sisi government is very unhappy with the way the Pan-Arabic channels and the Turkey-based channels are reporting about Egypt, let's improve our own local media reporting. Let's lift the many restrictions that we have in the local media, and then you will see the people staying away from those channels based abroad, and they will watch your local media.
Jon Alterman: How did you decide that politics was going to be a big part of your career going forward?
Khaled Dawoud: Well, first of all, let me say that the nine years that I spent in the United States were indeed very useful, and my understanding of the role of the media and the relationship between media and government. And of course, coming from Egypt, I was very impressed by the margin of freedom that the local press or even what you call national media.
And I remember there was Douglas Feith at that time—he was working for the secretary of defense. He was working for the Pentagon.
Jon Alterman: He was the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Khaled Dawoud: Exactly. Then, my impression was that I want to do interview with that guy. Of course, calling the Ministry of Defense in Egypt is like a fantasy. No reporter would call the Ministry of Defense for any reason. I wanted to ask for a meeting or interview as a reporter with the undersecretary of defense. I called the Pentagon general number, and I asked for Mr. Douglas Feith's office, and I said, "I'm bureau chief of Al-Ahram, and I'm coming from Egypt, and I want to interview Douglas Feith." They said, "Okay, we'll look into your schedule and will call you back."
And then one or two days later, I found Mr. Douglas Feith himself on the phone saying, "Hello, Khaled." So, this was like, "Are you actually Mr. Feith, the under secretary of defense?" But that was it, and this guy was very cool about it. We shook hands after the interview. I did not receive any calls from the Pentagon asking to view the interview before it was published or to censor my interview.
If you work in media, in Egypt in particular, you have to fight for freedom of expression. You have to fight for freedom of the press. So that's how you find yourself involved in politics. One reason why I remain loyal to my principles and the things that I believe—in terms of diversity, pluralism, freedom of the press—is what I saw after 2011, which is basically: when you have an open atmosphere, people can join whatever political parties they want. Suddenly, after the revolution, we had maybe 10, 20, 30 parties coming up, and people would join those political parties. In Dostour, for example—established by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei—they had maybe up to 50,000, 60,000 members in a matter of two, three, four weeks, because of a presidential campaign, which was very active. It was the same with all the other political parties.
The Free Egyptians—we thought that it's going to replace Al Wafd as a liberal party. The socialists had their own political party.
The turning point, of course, was the very dividing year we lived under the Muslim Brotherhood. It gave the chance for the old regime to make a very strong comeback and to argue,"Look what democracy brought to you. It brought chaos. It brought the Muslim Brotherhood. It brought sectarian strife.” Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood—from my point of view—did some fatal mistakes which made their removal a very necessary matter to protect the country from civil war. This is my opinion, until today, even though I went to prison.
Even though President Sisi put me in prison, I cannot regret being on the forefront of standing up to Morsi or demonstrating against Morsi and asking for early presidential elections. That's what we asked for.
Jon Alterman: You were assaulted by Muslim Brotherhood supporters and stabbed.
Khaled Dawoud: Yes. I was one of those people who belonged to the camp that believed that you have to integrate the Muslim Brotherhood into the political system so that maybe they can adopt a more moderate position. This is thinking of the Turkish model, the Indonesian model, something like that, where you accept having a secular state, and you are a political party with an Islamic background. This is no problem as long as you stick to the democratic rules, but after the revolution when I saw their holistic attitude—their desire to control everything in the same dictatorship like Mubarak except under an Islamic banner—I felt “no, you’re taking us to a more dangerous future for my country.”
But still, even though I totally disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood, I can never disregard the fact that they are Egyptian citizens with full rights like myself. What I mean by this is that they are subject to fair law—subject to a fair trial. So even if I stand against them, I cannot support—for example—mass killings that happened in Rabaa. I resigned from the National Salvation Front after Rabaa, because Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei at the time was the vice president. He said, "We wanted to avoid a future similar to that of Algeria after the removal of the Islamic Front there in 1992,” because they saw 10 years of blood. Actually, we've been through that as well in a very similar manner. The Muslim Brotherhood after Rabaa, got involved in violent acts. They felt that they needed to take revenge, and unfortunately, three months after Morsi's removal, it just happened by mere coincidence. I was driving my car on a Cairo street where they were demonstrating. Muslim Brotherhood supporters saw me. They assaulted me. They stabbed me. A number of their supporters stabbed me a couple of times. One of them tried to cut my hand because he thought I should not use it to writre anymore. It was a very bad experience for me. I spent 18 days in hospital.
One of the worst experiences I had during prison was meeting Muslim Brotherhood supporters during our renewal sessions, because during the renewal sessions we're shipped like cattle.
Jon Alterman: When you're given more time in pre-trial detention.
Khaled Dawoud: And then, of course, we are all crammed into a small room—the civilian parties like Dostour, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. These are what we call the civilian parties, but the majority is like 80 percent Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamic groups. So during those sessions of renewal—either for 15 days or for 45 days—you meet a lot of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and of course there is a sense of gloating. They're like, "Okay, now. So, did you save us, Mr. Salvation Front?" "Now you see? Wasn't Morsi better than Sisi?" "Why couldn't you wait?”
Jon Alterman: So you went from being the assistant editor ofAl-Ahram Weekly and a political figure to being a prisoner?
Khaled Dawoud: Yes.
Jon Alterman: What were the conditions in prison like for you for 19 months?
Khaled Dawoud: I think that from the beginning, national security officials—which is in control of this entire process for all the political detainees—were very keen from the beginning not to mistreat me personally, except for the first night. That was like the worst nightmare. When I was arrested, I was kept at the national security headquarters—blindfolded and handcuffed—throughout the night. But even then I was lucky because if I was not relatively known as a journalist, as a political figure, there was a big chance that I could spend one week—two weeks, one month, two months—at the headquarters of the national security, where you're basically unaccounted for. The second day, September 25, I was taken to Liman Tora Prison, but then they kept me in a relatively well-to-do ward, in terms of the company. There were like 16 cells in the ward in which I was kept. There were only five cells in which there were political prisoners, but these were small cells with three people in each cell. Our entire ward was equipped with hot water— which is a major privilege inside prison—and we had a Western style toilet.
In my ward, there were like 40 prisoners: 5 cells for political prisoners, almost 10 people, and 11 cells that are basically kept for former police officers who committed crimes such as drug dealing, killing, murder, bribery—or for the former governor of Monufia, who received a bribe of 27 million Egyptian pounds. So basically, the 30 criminally convicted fellow prisoners were mostly kind of decent people— which is, again, a major privilege because in the rest of the prison, people sleep on the ground and they are kept in bigger rooms with 15 or 20 people. It's only one bathroom for 15 or 20 people. At least I had one bathroom for three people, which is, again, very acceptable.
The recreation period was a major point of debate all the time with the national security officer, but the end result is that for most of the 19 months—maybe at least 15 months—you spent 23 hours a day inside this very small cell, basically lying on your bed.
You see, the thing about prison and their way of dealing with prisoners is that they start slowly, slowly, giving you things so that you can learn what prison means. The first 18 days were the worst days. It’s 18 days of total work—you're not allowed any recreation. You're not allowed any visits from outside. You're basically kept with the same clothes—no toothbrush, no soap, no nothing. You know what I mean?
Then after 18 days, I went to the national security officer during my first visit, and I said, "Okay, Mr. Officer, did you have enough in giving us a hard time? Can you just take it easy a little bit and loosen things up?" He started laughing actually because he knows that they soften things up for you in the beginning and then they start loosening up a little bit. So they started giving us a recreation—which is basically walking around in an open space, like a football yard or something. You walk around for half an hour, and then you start fighting and say, "No, I want one hour. You give the criminals—the ones who're dealing in drugs, the murderers—three hours, and you give me half an hour only. So give me one hour." And then they say, "We'll look into it.” After six months, they say, "Okay, maashi, we will give you one hour."
Books are the prisoners' number one friend—number one, and two, and three, and four, and five. I read a tremendous number of books. Unlike criminal prisoners, we're not allowed any TV sets inside our cells, but we are allowed a small radio. I even teach my students that the best thing in media is radio because you have to be very skillful to work for radio and write things that would make people close their eyes and imagine things. So, of course, that was my opportunity to put my theory into practice, and I closed my eyes, listened to the radio and imagined things—especially soccer. I love soccer. I would follow all the games and close my eyes and imagine how the football yard is and how things are. I would even listen to some channels with Arab movies or TV series, but just made for the radio.
You're only allowed novels and history books. You're not allowed any political books. The national security officer who is resident in prison, has to read the books first and see if they're okay or not okay—depending on the title or on flipping quickly through the book—so if he falls into a page in which there are a few sentences he doesn't like, he bans that book. The national security officer would give you a few books here and there that you're allowed to read. And for the radio as well, you're only allowed to listen to FM channels, which are basically government controlled channels.
But I managed to sneak in a radio with a short/medium wave, so I could listen to the BBC in the day during the morning for a few hours just to get some information of what's really happening in the world because the official channels that are run by the government or other agencies here in Egypt are basically all about the activities of the president, the orders of the president, how great the president is. I remember reading in a book about a prisoner saying that the hardest days are the first days—the first months—in prison. After that, it’s as if your spirits goes dark, basically, and you start losing sense of days, of hours, and the meaning of your life in general. You just feel that all the days are the same. You lose track of which day we're in because you don't really get to know the day except on Fridays. On Fridays, they lock the prison cell 24 hours and you're not allowed to have recreation, so you know that is Friday.
For me as a journalist, my prime concern—or my prime urge—was to get as much information as I could from the outside world, and that comes through your family visits, which are supervised and monitored by the national security officer. Maybe I was also unlucky because my imprisonment came during the COVID-19 outbreak. Basically for six months there were no outside sessions at all, and in terms of renewal, they would only renew your imprisonment on paper. There were no family visits. I think this kind of panic that came with the outbreak of the COVID-19 made people forget about us relatively.
It was like a subject of jokes during my imprisonment when COVID-19 first broke out. We would stand near these small windows and the doors and talk to each other. So there were many countries at that time starting to release prisoners in the thousands because they didn’t want the pandemic to spread among prisoners. So every day, we got at night, "Hey, Sudan, decided to release 3000 people, maybe Allah will bring the same decision to Egypt. Palestine and Iran—70,000. Turkey—I don't know how many thousand. The Emirates, whatever.” People said, "Egypt is next. Egypt is next," and it was sad and funny at the same time how some prisoners—not even the criminal prisoners who know that they have 10 years or 15 years—will say, "I wish I can get COVID-19 because this means I will get out of here." So that's how bad some people would go for it.
Jon Alterman: Do you know why you were released?
Khaled Dawoud: I don't know why I was arrested, and I don't know why I was released. The tradition—in my case, like a political prisoner—is that before your release, maybe two or three weeks, a couple of national security officers would come to the prison, and they would hold a meeting with you. The language was like, "We hope that you've learned from your experience, and that when you get out of here, you will understand and appreciate the security situation in the country and try to kind of adopt a middle ground. We want you to take care of your family."
For example, three weeks before I was actually physically released, two officers came to meet me in prison and that was my number one questions. "Why was I arrested? Why did you arrest me? Tell me, man. I've been doing the same things for many years. I never crossed the line." The Muslim Brotherhood, openly and directly have a serious personal problem with Sisi. They want to overthrow Sisi. They consider him a coup leader. They think he's a dictator. They use that kind of language. But I don't use that kind of language. We recognize the legitimacy of presidencies. I can understand his obsession with this business that we have to keep the state together—the state will break down into pieces and Egypt will be in the state of chaos. I understand where he comes from. But this doesn’t mean we must go back to the Mubarak era.
That's like taking us many steps back. Compared to even what we enjoyed before 2011—and it was always a common joke amongst us, people like myself, whether I consider myself a social democrat, liberal, Arab nationalist. When we meet in prison and we joke, we say, "Oh, we missed the days of the moderate repression under Mubarak. The beautiful moderate repression." That's like, “Az- zaman al-qam`a al-wasati al-gameel,” the moderate beautiful repression. Yes, there was repression under Mubarak but not compared to what we're seeing right now. Because you wrote up a couple of sentences on Facebook or because you liked a post that maybe Jon, Khaled, or Mohamed wrote, or you try to express your views as a citizen, you find yourself in prison. You feel like you're going into the black hole. I knew about this before I went into prison because I've had many members of the school party that I belong to be arrested. What I didn't know about before I went into prison is the new practice of what we call revolving door cases. You would finish your two years as a pre-trial detainee for whatever cliché charges. Then after you finish two years, they can even release you only on paper. Without even releasing you on paper, they can get you involved in a new case—with a different number but the same charges, “joining an illegal terrorist organization, and spreading false news.” And then you start the process all over again—15 day renewals 10 times and then 45 day renewals until you finish another two years.
Under Mubarak, there was the emergency law. Now we also have the emergency law, but under Mubarak, there were what they call detention orders. So they renew your imprisonment once every 45 days, just with a written piece of paper from the interior minister. And then even when you stand in front of the court, the court would release you. The interior ministry at that time, under Mubarak, would issue a new detention order. Right now, under Sisi, they went for this draconian pre-trial detention law, and they amended the law lengthening the period to two years if you're charged with terrorism. There is open-ended power for national security because even if you finish your two years, you can get involved in another two years. And that's why it's a priority for me. Even if I don’t play a political role anymore, I want to join a lot of efforts—including that statement that was issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council asking Egypt to amend the pre-trial detention law and to put limits on the practice.
Jon Alterman: Let me ask two quick questions. The government, presumably, was trying to teach you a lesson, putting you in prison. What lessons did you learn from it?
Khaled Dawoud: You know, when you leave prison you're torn between “this was a very tough lesson, I should keep quiet”—and like we say in Egypt, walk next to the wall—or as the state national security officers told me, "take care of your family, take care of yourself.” I am very angry that I was kept in prison unjustly for 19 months, and I am very angry and sad over my friends and colleagues who remain inside suffering the same injustice that I suffered. So I've been thinking. I've been released now slightly more than two weeks—15 days. This is my first—I don't consider it an interview, I'm talking to a friend—chat over my imprisonment. I've been thinking about this for 16 days now since I was released, but I feel we must continue after my imprisonment experience, even if I keep on fighting for little things—what I would consider to be a little thing even though it's not little—like amending the pre-trial detention law. Because if you fix that law and put restrictions on the wide massive powers enjoyed by the national security and the state security prosecutors, you will help in releasing thousands.
I saw thousands of people going through this vicious circle of renewals that are meaningless and have nothing to do with justice. You're not even listened to because when I stand in front of this judge, they place us inside the court cage, which is made of very thick glass. You cannot even hear the proceedings.
In my case—case number 488, which is a very old case that started even six months before my imprisonment—they arrested me in September. The case is open since March, but it doesn't matter. They just have an open case. "Let's put you in that case." I didn't hear the judge calling my name. The judge would say, "Case number 488." This case has something like 400 people—arrested at different times, in different governorates, with different backgrounds, different ages, different everything. The judge would renew imprisonment for all 400 people at once, or maybe he would say, "The decision will be at the end of the session" and maybe release one or two prisoners. The others would get a 45 day renewal. I managed to stand in front of the judge only twice. You tell them the same thing: "I'm a journalist. I'm a university professor. I'm a former political party president. I've never been involved in terrorism. Just tell me the details of the charges." The judge would listen and say, "The decision will be at the end of the session," and the decision is always another 45 days.
Even before my release, I was given 45 days on March 30, so it's not a court issue. It's not a legal issue. It's the national security. These are the ones who are running the scene. These are the ones who arrest us, and these are the ones who release us, up to their own estimates. I was arrested during the state of chaos that existed when a contractor, Muhammad Ali, came out and started making a video about Sisi. The state was very tense. I was arrested September 24, four days earlier. For the first time under Sisi, there were big demonstrations. Up until today, I don't know who Mohammed Ali is. I don't know who the people who took part in those demonstrations are, but I know very well that the government was very tense. The President obviously was not very happy, so they decided to arrest people whom they thought could be outspoken during this critical period of time.
The Egyptian government and the Egyptian security agencies were never happy. When young people in my school party get arrested, I would speak to the national security officer. "Why did you arrest this person? Can we get some some food in? Can we get some clothes in?"
There was contact between me and the national security officers, and then the officer would come to me and tell me, "Khaled, do not speak to the foreign media. Don't speak to BBC. Don't speak to CNN or the pan Arab channels.” And I said, "Listen, guys, I don't work for you. I work for a political party.” I do have some principles. You know, I'm very Egyptian. I know my country well. I'm not surprised that I was arrested, but I'm a little bit surprised why they kept me for so long.
Jon Alterman: At the time of your arrest, you were assistant editor of a state-owned newspaper, Al-Ahram Weekly. After all of this, you continued to have your state job?
Khaled Dawoud: Yes.
Jon Alterman: You continue to have your job at the American University in Cairo, teaching journalism?
Khaled Dawoud: Alhamdulillah, yes.
Jon Alterman: So after all of this, it feels almost like “no harm, no foul, you can come back and just behave a little better?” Is that the message they're trying to send?
Khaled Dawoud: I wish it's "behave a little better." Maybe it’s behave much better, or behave by not speaking at all. That's advice that I get from lots of friends, but of course, there are some things that will never be fixed. Prison is tough. It's very tough to spend 23 hours in a prison cell, controlled by people who just love practicing control. Everything is an issue. If you want to see a doctor, it's an issue. If you want to get some food from outside, it's an issue. So yeah, you try to be strong, and you try to act like this is part of the experience but it hurts you one way or the other.
One of the books I read, by Mr. Salah al-Sabour, was talking actually about the concept of political detention—comparing a political detainee to a criminal detainee—and the worst thing about the political detainee is that you don't know when are you going to get released. When you're a criminal prisoner, you're sentenced and you know that you’re going to be released after two years—or three years, five years, ten years—and you can have a countdown. In my case, and in the case of my fellows in prison right now, we cannot make a countdown. There is a nightmarish open-ended scenario. We can be in prison forever. I hope that I can continue working on little things, pressing with others for serious reconsideration of the policy of arresting people for very untrustworthy reasons. There's no reason for the government to put more and more people in prison, even if they want to confront the Muslim Brotherhood. They definitely need a democratic alternative. Yes we need social and economic development, but we also need political development. We need to have a society in which we have a president that can be held accountable—a president who's not going to stay in office forever or a president who's not going to tread lightly with the constitution as soon as he gets elected, promising and even swearing that, he will only spend eight years in power as a president.
We've been through a long history of single president rule—Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak. The only way for them to be removed is either to pass away from natural causes—or by assassination like Sadat—or after 30 years of popular revolution, like Mubarak. So we wanted to get this out. Sometimes they come to me and say, "Oh, you're Americanized, you spent ten years in America. You think Egypt is like America." No, Egypt is not like America, of course, but I know from my Egyptian experience that if you stay in office forever, it’s going to open the door for corruption. You're going to have a little gang around you in which you trust and you give all power. It's going to kill any sort of chances of questioning or accountability of that government. We’ve seen it ourselves.
We send expertise to the entire Arab world. Many Arab countries benefit from Egyptian doctors and engineers. So we're not unfit for democracy. No, we want democracy. We deserve democracy. We deserve human rights.
Of course, I express my own political point of view. I don't want a religious state. I respect women's rights. I respect property rights and minority rights. It's not the same thing like the Muslim Brotherhood or other religious political groups, but it's definitely not single presidential rule or like the miraculous superman president who can do everything. I don't want to go through this again. Hopefully we'll continue speaking about it—maybe I'll watch my language a little bit. I don't know. I don't want to go to prison again. Prison is a very tough, very unhappy experience, but it's our fate. To be very honest, I cannot trust sitting in my home and enjoying my lovely bed and my lovely shower or enjoying the moon or the Nile or my friends while I know that my friends that I spent 19 months with remain inside prison, suffering what they are suffering—suffering the lockdown for 23 hour. They also have families. They also have loved ones.
And I wish I could do anything—anything that can help those people get released. They are good people, honest men and women. These are all people who have been in prison for almost two years. I wish I could help if the government here has any tendency towards a slight opening up. We're not hoping for something major, but if I can help in doing this, I'll definitely do that—happily if I can.
Jon Alterman: Khaled Dawoud, thank you for joining us on Babel.
Khaled Dawoud: Thank you very much.