8 Egyptian bloggers were chosen by the AUC's Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training & Research to take part in a program to go to America and blog their impressions of the US Elections. They went on two trips -- one in September to intern at the National Press Foundation, learn about the American Electoral system, spend a week with some of the top media sites in the country (The Washington Post, Time.com, the Huffington Post) and then be guests of some of the best journalism schools in the country.
The project was supposed to be an exercise in building bridges and fostering inter-cultural understanding and dialogue. Some of the bloggers had been educated in the American system and have had a keen interest in American society and politics. They were all excited to be going to the States to be part of one of the most exciting elections of our lives.
This week, they went back to the States for part 2 of the project: to be there on election day and blog from their host journalism schools. Two were detained and treated quite badly at the US border and others were selected for "further screening" on each connecting flight. All this despite the fact that their visas were issued by the State Department, despite the fact that they were sponsored by USAID and sent by the AMERICAN university in Cairo and had all the paperwork to prove it.
Can you say: The left hand doesn't know who the right hand is screwing over? While one part of the American government is spending a good chunk of change to try and build bridges with the rest of the world by showing them how great their democracy is, the other part of the American government is showing visitors that their detention centers are just as bad as the ones they left behind in their home countries.
The project has yielded so much thought-provoking debate and insight. Their hosts and regular Americans have been wonderful ambassadors for their country and the process. I'm disappointed that the first people most visitors meet when entering the States can undo it all in one fell swoop.
Read the translation of one of the bloggers' experience: Detained