The families of the 21 girls from Alexandria who oppose the military coup received the news that 14 of the girls were sentenced to 11 years in prison and the other seven minors were sent to juvenile detention centres in a state of utter shock. The families described the sentences as "harsh and unfair". However as one of the girls, Sumaya, also stressed, the sentencing will never break their will.
The Sidi Jaber Criminal Court sentenced the girls, who are members of what is known as the 7am movement, after being found guilty of the charges of obstruction, thuggery, and damaging public property while participating in anti-coup protests last month.
Al-Jazeera.net was able to talk to one of the girls, Sumaya Bishr, before the sentences were issued, in order to learn about their prison conditions and the suffering they have been subjected to, which she described as inhumane.
Sumaya also added that: "I am a first year student in the faculty of arts, and myself, as well as some of the other girls, requested to be allowed to attend our examinations so we do not miss the school year, but our request was never answered. This is especially important to the girls in the faculty of sciences."
She also said: "All of the pressure the coup authorities are putting on us by imprisoning us and sentencing us to years in prison only increases our determination and steadfastness to overthrow this brutal coup, especially because all we did was to express our opinion in a civilised manner without violating any property or people."
Shock and anger
The engineer Fahima Adel, who is the mother of Ola Ala'a, one of the imprisoned girls who is a first year engineering student, reacted to the harsh sentences by saying: "Allah is sufficient for us, and He is the best disposer of affairs for us." She pointed out that the case against her daughter and the others is "politicised".
In her interview with Al-Jazeera.net, she asked: "How would any mother feel when she sees her daughter far away from her and behind bars? How do the oppressors sleep at night after doing such a thing?"
She added: "These unjust sentences will not stop us from demanding our right to release all of our detained daughters. I urge the Egyptian judiciary to fear Allah when issuing their sentences; fear Allah and deliver justice. Live up to the responsibility given to you by Allah because you will be judged by Allah on the Day of Judgement."
With a saddened and pained expression on her face, Aisha Abdulrahman, a relative of one of the prisoners, spoke about her shock and astonishment over the sentencing issued against the girls. She wondered, "How can young girls be sentenced to 11 years in prison while the killers of Khaled Saeed were sentenced to much less?"
Holding back her tears, Aisha went on to say: "I try to imagine how tonight will go for the girls, after this harsh sentencing and after having already spent a month in jail, away from school and university. I pray to Allah to ease their nights in jail."
Hager Ibrahim, a friend of one of the detained girls, explained to Al-Jazeera.net about the conditions of their detention and the charges made against the girls, as she had visited them several times in prison. She asserted that: "all the charges against the girls are false, as the lawyers in the hearing stated. They include vandalising shops, belonging to a banned group, and committing acts of thuggery. I was surprised and thought, 'How could these innocent girls commit such acts?' They are all fabricated charges."
Escalation faced by challenge
Abeer Talaat, one of the girls' lawyers, noted: "It is clear that the coup authorities are dramatically escalating their crimes and they are clearly retaliating for their political losses and taking it out on these young girls by imprisoning them under inhumane conditions, fabricating charges against them, and issuing unjust sentences that cannot even be issued by a misdemeanour court."
The lawyer confirmed that these sentences will not discourage them from exposing the regime as they plan to appeal this unjust ruling. They will also call on international human rights organisations to release the young girls imprisoned under inhumane conditions with actual criminals. They are also being denied their basic right to education, as a number of the students have missed their exams, which is threatening their educational future."
On his part, Dr Amr Abu Khalil, a psychiatric consultant, said that "the sentences issued are a message to terrorise those participating in the anti-coup demonstrations, and it especially targets young men and women in their various educational stages," after their clear role in the popular movement in the streets and Egyptian universities against the military coup.
Abu Khalil told Al-Jazeera.net that after seeing the determination of the girls inside the defendants' cage, he expects there will be more sympathy towards them and respect for their steadfastness, especially by their younger colleagues. He also expects that there will be a call for a second revolution against the ongoing injustices inflicted on the Egyptian people. However he warned against attempts to frame the civil resistance as violent or armed in an effort to discredit their peaceful movement.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.