December 31, 2007
Inside the Middle East's "People of the Year" - Your Votes
Above all, I would like to thank the hundreds of readers who took the time to nominate their “Midde East Person of the Year.” We did not publish every single comment and email but the ones you will find in the original entry constitute a fair and representative selection of our readers’ submissions.
Below is a list of the five most frequent nominations. What they have in common is that they were nominated by you. Keep in mind that although this is in no way a scientific poll, it is a faithful reflection of a week-long survey based entirely on your votes.
Thanks to all and happy New Year!
1. Wael Abbas – Egyptian Blogger
In 2007 Wael Abbas went worldwide. An Egyptian blogger, Wael spent the past few years using his site to showcase alleged police abuse inside prisons and also at the site of protests against the government. But early this year, a video posting he made on YouTube of a bus driver being sodomized with a stick at the hands of Egyptian police, forced an international spotlight on Egypt’s security forces and their tactics. Two policemen from that incident were later sentenced to jail time and Egypt is taking action over other incidents. Still Wael, who briefly had his youtube account suspended some weeks ago, wants more, to inspire the Egyptian people to demand change. And as the first blogger to win the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award by the International Center For Journalists earlier this year, Wael intends to keep up the fight online and keep his check on the Egyptian government.
Mina Zekri in Egypt said she nominated Abbas "...because of the efforts of Wael (together with other Egyptian bloggers as well), several police men were sent to jail after being proved guilty of torturing.”
A reader who did not give his name added that “Wael Abbas turned blogging into a very powerful tool to fight tirany and state torture. It is such characters that give us hope of a better future and dignity for human beings.”
2. Nadine Labaki – Lebanese Actress and Filmmaker
Thirty-three year-old Nadine Labaki single-handedly revolutionized the world of Midde Eastern music videos, with her colorful and sultry vision of Mideast superstar Nancy Ajram. Then came "Caramel", the international breakout film of the year, depicting the lives of five lebanese women whose lives, loves and feelings of loss intersect in a Beirut beauty salon. There is even talk of an Oscar nomination for Labaki, who has become a symbol of female modernity and creativity in the Arab world.
Taline Babikian wrote from Cyprus:
“She brings Lebanon to its former glamour by her creative inspirational movies, music clips and documentaries.”
3. Gilad Shalit/Ehud Goldwasser/Eldad Regev
(Captured Israeli Soldiers)
Dozens of readers nomintaed the three caputured Israeli soldiers, all seized in 2006, in the case of Gilad Shalit, by Palestinian militants, and in the case of Ehhud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, by Hezbollah.
Shortly after Goldwasser and Regev were captured, the Israel-Hezbollah war of the summer of 2006 broke out, drastically changing the political and military reality of that part of the Middle East to this day.
Mary Robertson in New Mexico wrote: “I shudder to think what suffering and torture these poor individuals are enduring and call for the Red Cross to seriously pursue their cause to visit them after over 500(!) days in captivity while the world remains silent.”
But not everyone agreed with the nominations. A reader named James sent in this comment: “I find it curiously interesting how some people know the names of the 3 Israeli soldiers held captive in Arab countries, but do not know the name of a single Lebanese or Palestinian prisoner (many of them innocent) out of the thousands held in Israel today.”
4. Michel Aoun - Lebanese Army General
Talk about a divisive choice. Dozens of nominations poured in for this man: Christian Maronite Lebanese Army General Michel Aoun. As Lebanon continues to labor through its latest presidential election deadlock and with regular political assassinations rocking the country, Michel Aoun came back last year from 14 years in exile in Paris determined to play a major role in Lebanese politics again. The former prime minister, once fervently anti-Syrian, is now allied to Hezbollah and Amal against the ruling March 14th majority. His past in the Lebanese civil war will no doubt have some questioning his nomination.
One reader wrote: “I vote for General Michel Aoun, the only politician in Lebanon who is not relying on foreign interference.. the only politician whose support is 100% Lebanese.”
Szende D said his nomination went to Aoun because the army man has "never compromised in favour of those corrupt leaders by the foreign pressure, who is working on a secular and democratic Lebanon, a hero and idealist, a restless and straightforward man, among the easily corrupted Lebanese leaders."
5. “Ordinary People”
One reader wrote: “The Person of the Middle East is not any leader, Christian, Muslim or Jew, is not a general or soldier, he or she is not the captivating blogger or author, or philanthropist/king. The person of the Middle East is me, my neighbor, my countryman, the person across the border, his brother, son, wife and those beyond his borders. The person of the Middle East is every single one of us.”
From Egypt, Mohammed Hassan asked: “How about the Egyptian normal moderate man who is living with a salary 300 Egyptian pounds doesn’t he deserve to be the man of the year while he is still honest and trying to live?”
While Robert Godfrey sent in this message: "The obvious Middle East's 'People of the Year' are the innocent victims of war and terrorism."
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