Five years after the Arab Spring, Egypt must #DetainNoMore
Jan 26, Cairo: January 25 marks the five year anniversary of the birth of the Arab Spring, which promised a new era of freedom to the region - a promise that in Egypt, remains sadly unfulfilled.
Hundreds of people are now languishing in prison in Egypt for simply exercising their right to free expression. From speech and publications, to mute public protest, to simply wearing a particular shirt, the Egyptian government has criminalized and imprisoned individuals for a huge variety of ways in which they've exercised their basic rights.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network are asking us to sign their petition to the Egyptian government and foreign ministries across Europe, demanding freedom for five well-known activists and citizens whose experience is emblematic of the oppressive situation facing Egyptian citizens.
Their stories follow below:
1. Mahmoud Hussein, just 18 years old when he was arrested in 2013 for wearing an anti-torture t-shirt, has been held now for almost two years without trial; his detainment has just been renewed for another 45 days.
2. Alaa Abd El Fattah, a key driver of the Arab Spring on social media in 2011, has been successively imprisoned by every Egyptian government since. He is currently serving a 5 year sentence after a trial that was deemed unfair by international observers.
3. Aya Hegazy founded Belady, an organization that assists street children, but was imprisoned on charges of sexual exploitation and using them against security forces. She reports being beaten in detention and threatened with death.
4. Ahmed Said is a surgeon who provided emergency care to citizens during the 2011 uprising. He was arrested after attending a silent vigil on 19 November 2015 commemorating the Mohammed Mahmoud Street protests of 2011, for which he was given a two year prison sentence on 13 December 2015.
5. Ismail Al-Iskandarani is a researcher and journalist who is one of the few to publish on conditions faced by civilians in the North Sinai, where a counter-insurgency operation is underway organized by the Egyptian military. He was detained on 29 November 2015, and is facing charges of spreading the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood and intentionally spreading false information.
The spirit of freedom of the Arab Spring cannot be so easily snuffed out. It is time to show President Sisi's government that the world remembers Egypt's citizens and is standing up for their right to express themselves.
The Oslo Times/IFEX