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Remembering Egypt's heroes on the eve of the January Revolution

Remembering Egypt's heroes on the eve of the January Revolution

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إقرأ باللغة العربية:

الغائبون/ات في ذكرى ثورة يناير... تذكروهم/ن


Hoda Abdel Moneim

In the first hours when the regime still seemed like it was on firm footing, she stood in front of the High Court of Justice, addressing the demonstrators and chanting for the departure of the regime, in an act that seemed too scary for most men. She was also among the first demonstrators to enter Tahrir Square on the 25th of January.

After the departure of the leader of the regime, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim intensified her human rights activism and became a member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), before she later went on to resign from it following the July 2013 announcement. She then began her efforts to document cases of enforced disappearances and volunteered as a consultant to the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms. But today Hoda is a clear example of the January 2011 revolutionaries who have been made absentees in prisons and behind bars.

Hoda is considered an example of women (and men) who took part in the revolution of January 25, 2011 in Egypt, but today have become enforced absentees, forcibly locked behind bars, all under similar and repeated accusations, as if they were rehearsed phrases and text transferred from one case to another without any clear explanation.

In early November 2018, Hoda Abdel Moneim, who is over the age of sixty, was arrested from her home and then was forcibly disappeared for 21 days after her arrest, before appearing at the National Supreme State Security Prosecution headquarters in late November, accused of joining a banned group and inciting against the national economy.

Amnesty International stated that Hoda has been arbitrarily detained for four years after remaining subject to enforced disappearance. She is on trial by an Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) on bogus charges in relation to her human rights activism and work. On 11 October 2021, Hoda told the court judge and her family during a court hearing that she was suffering from a heart disease that requires cardiac catheterization, but the prison authorities refused to transfer her to an outside hospital for treatment.

In addition to Hoda, many women continue to suffer from a long detention that seemingly has no end in sight, including translator Marwa Arafa, journalist Hala Fahmy, daughter of Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat el-Shater, Hassiba Mahsoob, photographer Alia Awad, and others.

In early November 2018, Hoda Abdel Moneim, who is over the age of sixty, was arrested and forcibly disappeared, before later appearing at the State Security Prosecution headquarters, accused of joining a banned group and inciting against the national economy

Alaa AbdelFattah

On the evening of the 25th of January 2011, the words and dreams of Egyptian blogger Alaa AbdelFattah finally materialized into reality that day. After they had only been wild fantasies drifting across the internet, they finally came alive on the ground of Tahrir Square as people calling for their rights, which drew attention to his prominent role even before the outbreak of the revolution, and made him one of its well-deserved symbols.

But Alaa and his family are paying the price for this with their lives, either behind bars or in front of prisons, waiting for a visit or a piece of paper to reassure them that their loved ones wasting away in the darkness of the cells are still alive and breathing.

Although Alaa, who has been detained since 2013, served a five-year prison sentence for "protesting without a permit", and the authorities released him (partially) in March 2019, he was arrested once again in July of the same year, on repeated and unclear charges, which has prolonged his stay behind bars to this day.

Even though Alaa is considered one of the prominent icons of the revolution, he has not once been able to observe the anniversary of the revolution as a free man for more than ten years — from 2014 to this day — spent behind bars. Alaa's family is also stuck with him in this vortex, as his mother, Dr. Laila Soueif, spends many days and hours in front of the prison complex demanding to visit her son or get a written answer from him, just to make sure he is still alive and well, especially when he begins long hunger strikes to demand his rights.

In June 2020, the Egyptian authorities became fed up with Alaa's family camping out in front of the prison complex in the hope of receiving any correspondence from Alaa, so they sent some of their recruits to physically assault his mother and two sisters. When they documented what happened to them and went to the Public Prosecutor's Office to file a report, his sister was arrested and got a share of arbitrary imprisonment as well.

Ahmed Douma

A poet, a revolutionary, a rebellious speaker, but just like talents do not come individually, misfortunes do not either. In Ahmed’s case, they came in imprisonment, fines, and torture.

Just like Douma witnessed the events of Tahrir Square and the revolution’s sit-ins early, he also witnessed a harsh sentence of fifteen years in prison, in the case known in the media as "the Council of Ministers’ events". The ruling against him included obligating him to pay 6 million Egyptian pounds, in addition to distressing leaks detailing his torture inside the Tora Farms Prison for the second time last July, 2022.

Amnesty International expressed concern following reports of Douma being beaten and mistreated yet again, and in a statement called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate Douma's allegations of torture in prison and demanded that he be released immediately.

Egypt’s Attorney General Hamada el-Sawy responded to the calls to open an investigation into the complaint submitted by the family of political activist Ahmed Douma, who had accused the chief of the investigations unit at the prison of physically assaulting and beating him. However months have passed since the investigation began, and not a single finding or outcome of the alleged investigation has seen the light of day.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh

On the morning of the first day of the revolution, the Secretary-General of the Arab Medical Union, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, was standing among a group of young men surrounded by the Central Security Forces. At the time, he seemed confident that the revolution would go on to reach its goal by overthrowing Mubarak, and it did. One year later, Aboul Fotouh had come very close to ruling the country, ranking high among the strongest candidates; but the ending to his saga was a painful one for the seventy-something doctor.

Even though Alaa AbdelFattah is considered one of the prominent icons of the revolution, he has not once been able to observe the anniversary of the revolution as a free man for more than ten years — from 2014 to this day — spent behind bars

The veteran politician had led a strong election campaign that put him in the ranks of the strongest candidates for the presidency in 2012. He then established a political party after the elections that bore the name of his campaign, the ‘Strong Egypt Party’, and his name (after his resignation from the Muslim Brotherhood) shone as one of the figures open to other political currents.

However, in February 2018, Egyptian authorities arrested Aboul Fotouh and accused him of spreading false news to harm national interests, following a televised interview in which Aboul Fotouh criticized the situation and policies in the country.

Politicians believe that the fact that this interview had quickly spread worried the Egyptian authorities that the man may intend to repeat his attempt to run for presidency again, especially since it had occurred ahead of Sisi's presidential elections in 2018. Thus he was arrested after returning to the country, and in July 2022, the Emergency Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced Aboul Fotouh to 15 years in prison.

The abuse of Aboul Fotouh did not stop at his person, but extended to include leaders and cadres in his party, including his deputy, Muhammrd el-Qassas, who was included in the same case, and received a sentence of 10 years in prison.

Many of those who did not witness Tahrir Square on January 25, but whose hearts stood witness to the goals of the revolution and fell in love with it, were also caught in the burning flames of arrest and abuse

Salah Sultan

Dreaming of the revolution and freedom that he saw in the West bring achieved in Egypt, Sheikh Salah Sultan stood on the steps of the High Court, chanting for the departure of the regime, and marched to enter Tahrir Square on the first day of the revolution, despite the escalating brutality and tear gas canisters being used against the revolts. Even though the intensity of the tear gas smoke at the time did not obscure the man’s voice and presence, prisons and detention centers were later able to conceal even his place of detention, as well as his health condition and information.

Following Mubarak's departure, Sultan was not absent from the evolving scene, and was among the first to oppose the July 2013 military declaration, but this soon dragged him and his family into various forms of abuse.

Sultan's suffering came to the fore after a photo of him and his hunger-striking son, Mohamed Sultan, went viral. The photo depicted the son lying on a bed unable to move or even open his eyes, while the father stood by him appearing confused and bitter about not being able to save his son.

Despite the release of his son (who holds US citizenship) following US pressure, the Egyptian authorities began using the father to twist the arm of the son who has founded a human rights organization in America to defend the rights of detainees.

After filing a lawsuit against government officials who were in office during his imprisonment (particularly former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawy), Mohamed Sultan said that his father, a political prisoner serving a life sentence, disappeared from his cell “in retaliation for my defense of human rights in the United States”.

Oppressed in their love for the revolution

Perhaps ironically, many of those who did not witness Tahrir Square on January 25, but whose hearts stood witness to the goals of the revolution and fell in love with it, were also caught in the burning flames of arrest and abuse. Even those who had not yet reached the age of youth at that time, their eyes were opened to the hopes of the revolution, and they joined the revolution later on, but were not too far behind in having to bear the ensuing state abuse and harm.

Among them are unknown persons in the dark basements of prisons, crammed into small prison cells, sharing their distress and pain, even if their names have not risen to prominence and fame and had their share of the media shedding light on their suffering.



* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22



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