imprisonment

The colliding stories of Egypt and Argentina

As horrible as this may sound, today (and sometimes other days) I blame my father.

I blame my father for what often seems to me an illogical attachment to country and people.

I blame my father for instilling in me (I’m certain it was deliberate) a very strong sense of national identity, long before I ever even visited the country.

I’ve been reading a book about Argentina’s desaparecidos – the thousands who disappeared during the country’s military rule from 1976 to 1983. It’s a heart-wrenching narrative of real events through fictional characters. And it pains me to my very core that I can relate in some ways to the events and the characters in this book.

I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with what has happened in Egypt in the past few years. I’m one of the extremely fortunate who have managed to come out of it unscathed, if not for an expected amount of post-traumatic stress disorder. My family is all safe for now. The vast majority of my friends are also safe, although I have a few who are very dear to me who are in jail; one with a death sentence on his head.

So many of my friends have left the country, a few literally fleeing it. I left for many reasons, mainly because of my personal family circumstances. But underneath those obvious reasons I know that part of me just can’t deal with what Egypt has become. And another small part of me fears it.

It pains me to have the luxury of sitting comfortably in a nice little house in northern England, drinking my tea and blogging about my all-so-important feelings, while there are so many people back home in Egypt who want to leave but can’t – either because they don’t have the means or because they are literally incarcerated. But because I’m the center of my own world, what probably pains me even more is that I am this fortunate yet I still have an illogical longing and pain for a country and a people now so far away.  (more…)

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When Egypt imprisons the good guys

Within less than 24 hours of each other, two of my former bosses were forcibly detained by Egyptian

Hisham Gaafar

Hisham Gaafar

security forces. Both of their whereabouts are still unknown.

Hesham Gaafar was working in his office in the city of 6th of October in the suburbs of Cairo when armed Egyptian security forces entered the building. He was detained and questioned, money and documents were removed from the NGO’s safe, and all company computers were confiscated. Although the female employees were allowed to leave, the men were detained in the building for ten hours. They were then released and the offices of Mada Foundation were sealed.

Mada Foundation, founded in 2010, is a civil society nongovernmental organization dedicated to developmental journalism. The organization focuses on developing capacity building projects for the media. It also develops projects to empower women and Egyptian families. Hesham Gaafar is the head of its board of directors.

Hossam El-Sayed was at home when armed Egyptian security forces showed up at dawn, frightening his

Hossam El-Sayed

Hossam El-Sayed

young children and wife. Hossam has a serious heart condition that necessitates regular medication. He was not allowed to take his medication with him. Hossam is the managing director of Kenaya Media Partners, a production company that also provides consultation to media organizations.

I have known both of these men for 15 years from when we worked together at IslamOnline.net. It was at IslamOnline.net, where I worked mainly as its health and science editor, that I learned, through people like Hesham and Hossam, lessons in tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, journalism professionalism, and critical thinking.

Both Hesham and Hossam have dedicated their careers to building an egalitarian society through processes of constructive dialogue.

We have reached a critical phase in Egypt if men such as these are imprisoned with no clear charges made against them and no lawyers given access to them.

I owe so much to these men and to other former colleagues at IslamOnline. I owe my free mind to them. Egyptian authorities are imprisoning the builders of society while criminals, terrorists and corrupt officials run loose.

There is something seriously wrong about this.