It was a bitter sweet reunion for Arab bloggers and activists at the Fourth Arab Bloggers Meeting, which kicked off in Amman, Jordan, this morning.
The four-day gathering, bringing around 80 bloggers, activists and academics from across the region and beyond, includes a three-day retreat for Arab bloggers, which culminates with a public meeting on Thursday.
Missing from the meeting were prominent bloggers Egyptian Alaa Abdel Fattah and Syrian Bassel Al Safadi, both in jail in their countries.
Palestinan Abir Kopty tallies up those missing:
— Abir Kopty (@AbirKopty) January 20, 2014
Bahraini activist Mohammed Al Maskati fondly remembers Abdel Fattah – a constant at all previous gatherings:
— Mohammed Al-Maskati (@MohdMaskati) January 20, 2014
The Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah was supposed to be with us at the Arab Bloggers meeting. Unfortunately, he is in prison [in his country] because of his opinion
Red tape also prevented some invited Iraqi and Syrian bloggers from making it to the gathering, generating complaints about the difficulties facing certain Arabs when traveling in Arab countries.
Jordanian Sara Obeidat suggests:
— Sara Obeidat (@saraobeidat) January 20, 2014
Syrian Leila Nacahwati echoes this sentiment:
So we´re going to have to think of doing the Arab Bloggers meeting in a non-Arab country (sic). #Ab14
— Leila Nachawati Rego (@leila_na) January 20, 2014
Despite the no shows, the meeting is generating positive vibes and energy.
Global Voices executive director Ivan Sigal is ecstatic:
— Ivan Sigal (@ivonotes) January 20, 2014
Not everyone is as excited. Others have other grievances.
Security guru Jacob Appelbaum feels left out*:
I wish I could be at the Arab Bloggers Meeting. #ab14
— Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror) January 19, 2014
Ali Al Amer complains that all the tweets, on the event hashtag #ab14, are in English [Ar]**:
هاشتاق ملتقى المدونين العرب كل التغريدات فيه باللغة الأنجليزية! #ab14
— علي العامر (@_3amr) January 20, 2014
All the tweets in the Arab Bloggers Meeting hashtag are in English
And Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser makes a note on gender representation***:
Glad to know there are 3 Yemeni speakers in #AB14 – Though, it'd have been greater if there was a diverse gender distribution.
— Afrah Nasser (@Afrahnasser) January 19, 2014
For more on the meeting, check out the hashtag #ab14
** Not all tweets are in English
*** We have a Yemeni male and female on board.