After the new Qatari administration announced that 250 employees in the widely read IslamOnline news website (IOL) would be laid off, hundreds of employees, editors, and journalists started an angry sit-in. The situation escalated rapidly when the administration threatened to call state security to break the sit-in, but employees confirmed they will continue their open strike till their demands are fulfilled.
It is worth mentioning that this strike may be the first instance in which strikers are using new media efficiently and effectively to draw all the attention needed to support their cause, from continuous Twitter updates to Live streaming.
Nadia El Awady, an ex-journalist for IOL, was closely following the situation and posted a statement issued by IslamOnline striking employees on her blog:
تصاعدت الأوضاع بشدة اليوم الاثنين داخل مقر موقع إسلام أون لاين في القاهرة، بعدما قامت الإدارة القطرية للموقع في الدوحة بإرسال محامين لاستلام المقر بكل ما فيه من ممتلكات وأوراق، والتحقيق مع 250 عامل كانوا قد أرسلوا بيانا للشيخ يوسف القرضاوي رئيس مجلس إدارة الموقع يتظلمون فيه من تصرفات الإدارة الجديدة لمؤسسة البلاغ القطرية المالكة للموقع.
وقالت مصادر مطلعة داخل الموقع إن الهدف من التحقيق مع هؤلاء العاملين هو فصلهم تعسفيا وبالتالي حرمانهم من كافة حقوقهم المالية.
The situation has miserably escalated inside IOL HQ in Cairo, after the Qatari management sent lawyers to take over the building, with all its properties and papers, and investigate 250 employees who sent a statement to Sheikh Qaradawy, Chairman of the Board, complaining of unjust actions by the new management.
Well-informed sources within the institution said that the aim of the investigation of employees is to arbitrarily dismiss them and therefore deprive them of all their financial dues.
While Tadamon Masr mentioned that the dispute may be because the new Qatari administration wants to move the HQ from Cairo to Doha, AbdelMoniem was skeptical and wondered if it was all about extremists who want to silence moderate voices on websites like Islam Online.
Zeinobia expressed a similar opinion to AbdelMoniem, saying:
The new Qatari administration is said to be a very conservative one that believes the Website should stick to conservative religious issue and remove other sections.
On Twitter, Mohammed, another former journalist in IOL, broke the news saying:
@MohammedY: To journos in Egypt & Arab world: Journalists @ #IslamOnline r being bullied by new management into silence against bad company practices
@MohammedY: So when workers sign a petition stating their problems, the management puts the workers under investigation. WTF is wrong at #IslamOnline ?
Abdullah El Shamyand Muhammad Ghafari, who are among the strikers, are working on the live stream, continuously updating their Twitter accounts and posting pictures from the place.
Ghafari didn’t forget to mention how women were playing a vital rule in the sit-in:
مش محتاج اقول اد ايه العنصر النسائي كان مشارك في الاعتصام والهتاف وتأليف الشعارات كمان http://bit.ly/cDXyf4 #IslamOnline #strike #women
Needless to say, women had a vital role in the sit-in and in composing chants as well!
Nadia El Awady was also updating through her friends on Twitter around the clock, where she mentioned:
@NadiaE: Female employee at #Islamonline talking about staying overnight at the office in her sleeping bag to continue her strike
@NadiaE: #islamonline employee @mos3abof calls on audience to backup website content [qatar board taking over & plans for website unclear]
Egyptian blogger Ahmed Shokeir expressed an opinion that nearly everybody felt, commenting on how new media tools are used differently this time:
أعتقد أن إعتصام إسلام اون لاين هو الأول الذي يتم بثه مباشر من موقع الحدث فيديو ستريم على الإنترنت – لاشك انها ستصبح وسيلة فعالة ومنشرة قريبا
I think the IslamOnline sit-in may be the first to be live streamed online. I believe it will be an effective and widely spread tool in the near future.
It is worth mentioning that a rumor spread on Twitter that EL Qaradawi might resign, as per Mohammed:
@MohammedY: #IslamOnline management in Qatar have been evading Al-Qaradawi’s calls bec he wanted to take sides with employees (through Fathi at IOL)
And was supported by another Tweet for Nadia:
@NadiaE: Motaz Al-Khateeb producer of Sheikh Al-Qaradawi’s Aljazeera show spoke with Sheikh’s secretary who says he is still considering resignation.
Before sleeping, Ghafari concluded his updates saying they will not stop their strike unless all these demands are fulfilled:
اعتصام العاملين بإسلام اونلاين مستمر حتى الصباح لحين صدور قرار ضمانات العاملين بشكل رسمي #IslamOnline
The employees’ strike will continue till morning, till decisions are issued to guarantee our rights officially.
More pictures can be found here.
Eman AbdElRahman is an engineer, who blogs at <lastoadri.com/blog/>. AbdElRahman also works on the We Are All Laila project. This article was first published by Global Voices Online on 16 March 2010 under a Creative Commons license.