Alaa Abd El Fattaha jailed writer and activist whose calls for democratic change in Egypt have frightened four successive authoritarian governments into prosecuting him for just attend demonstrations or by posting critical comments on Facebook, Friday entered the 56th day of a hunger strike. His deteriorating health has added urgency to calls for his immediate release from rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Britain.
Abd El Fattah, known to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers as @alaagained international prominence as one of the most compelling voices to emerge from Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Two Democratic lawmakers in Washington, Representatives Don Beyer of Virginia and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, required the immediate release of Abd El Fattah. Lawmakers also urged the Biden administration to impress on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former military leader who took power in 2013, that the ‘criminalization of peaceful dissent’ by activists ‘jeopardizes the partnership security that Egypt wants with its Western partners”.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden promised that he would indeed condition $1.3 billion in US security aid to Egypt on respect for human rights. man by el-Sisi, who had been pampered by President Donald Trump. “Arresting, torturing and exiling activists…or threatening their families is unacceptable,” Biden said. tweeted. “No more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator’.”
But in September, administration officials would have told Egypt that only $130 million in aid would be withheld until the country dropped charges against a range of non-governmental organizations and dropped charges against or released just 16 of the estimated people. 60,000 political prisoners in Egyptian prisons. (A new report published this week showed nearly 6,000 Egyptians were imprisoned for political activities during Biden’s first year in office.)
While there is little hope that the United States will use its influence to free Abd El Fattah, the dissident’s family has focused their efforts on urging UK lawmakers to have their government intervene to save his life. Abd El Fattah recently acquired British citizenship through his mother, London-born mathematician and activist Laila Soueif.
During an interview in London on Tuesday, Abd El Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif, who founded the group No Military Trials for Civilians, told the BBC’s main morning news program that the British government could demand his release during meetings with the Egyptian government on plans for the COP 27 Climate Change Conference, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. With just a phone call, Seif said, “Alaa will be on a plane. Tomorrow, if they want him, he will be free here with us.
“I don’t think things are moving fast enough,” she added, given that her brother had decided to continue his hunger strike despite being transferred to what el-Sissi had proudly called a new “American-style” prison. (A soft focus promotional video because this prison, in Wadi el-Natrun, north of Cairo, has been ridiculed by Egyptians for offering a vision of a warm and nurturing environment totally at odds with reality for political prisoners like Abd El Fattah, who deprived of sunlight, books, and a mattress for years, without even being allowed to know the time of day.)
In a later appearance at the Frontline Club in London, Seif stressed that the situation was urgent. “We think Alaa decided he wanted to end all of this,” she says. “He wants the ending to be guided by him rather than simply imposed on his body. We feel that he has decided to go on this hunger strike to the end. Either it pushes us enough and triggers enough pressure to get him out of this endless loop of Sisi’s prisons, or it will end his life.
At the same event, another of Abd El Fattah’s sisters, Sanaa Seif, a political activist who was also imprisoned for violating Egypt’s repressive ban on protests, read a passage from a book of writings collected by his brother, “You haven’t been defeated yetwhich includes reflections, smuggled out of prison, on the prospects of popular uprisings in other nations.
“I am in prison because the regime wants to make an example of us,” Abd El Fattah wrote from Tora maximum security prison in 2017. “So let’s be an example, but of our own choosing. The war of meaning is not yet over in the rest of the world. Let’s be an example, not a warning. Let’s communicate with the world again, let’s not send distress signals or cry over ruins or spilled milk, but let’s learn lessons, summarize experiences and deepen observations, may it help those struggling in the post era. -truth.
“We were, he added, then we have been defeated, and sense has been defeated with us. But we haven’t perished yet, and meaning hasn’t been killed. Perhaps our defeat was inevitable, but the current chaos sweeping the world will sooner or later give birth to a new world, one that will be — of course — ruled and managed by the victors. But nothing will constrain the strong, nor shape the margins of freedom and justice, nor define the spaces of beauty and the possibilities of a common life, except well-being, which has clung to its defense meaningful, even after defeat.