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Telephone interview with Rawdah Shalabi, the youngest nuclear scientist in Egypt

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Below is a transcript of the interview broadcast on the Al Jazeera TV Channel, published on Youtube on 7 December 2013


Presenter: World public opinion would like to know, how did you manage to remain steadfast and keep smiling as you stood behind bars?

Rawdah Shalabi: First, of course it was a gift from God who enabled us to remain steadfast. The second was also a gift from God; when we were in prison all we heard was that things were fully under control, that security had been established and that nothing was happening. At times, inside prison, we worried that things had suddenly gone quiet. But when our families visited us they told us that far from it, things had not gone quiet. They warned against watching Channel One [the official state-owned Egyptian TV.] They assured us that things on the outside were boiling and that we would, God willing, be released. This invigorated us and helped keep us going.

Presenter: So, news of the protests used to reach you from the outside but you did not yourselves watch this news on television?

Radwah Shalabi: No we did not watch that news. All that channel one said was that things were under control, but when our families came they told us that things were on fire.

Presenter: Was there nothing apart from channel one?

Radwah Shalabi: Yes?

Presenter: Was there nothing apart from channel one for you to watch?

Radwah Shalabi: Yes, that was all.

Presenter: Regarding the sentence against you, it is now considered suspended if one may say so. I know that this is not what it means in the law; it is suspended in the sense that it is on your record and that it will impact your future. It is also connected to your conduct afterwards.

Radwah Shalabi: This is injustice. The fact that it was an 11 year sentence and now it has been shortened to one year does not make it any less unjust. We have done nothing wrong to be given a one year suspended sentence. We should have been completely exonerated and even compensated.

Presenter: Well, you have been sentenced to one year because apparently you have been charged with acts you have been found guilty of doing. If one were to go into the details of the sentence, you were caught in the possession of arms and such things.

Radwah Shalabi: We were in possession of weapons which they could not seize. What does it mean to be in possession of weapons that never existed? Prove to me that I was in possession of weapons. Where are those weapons? Why did they not exhibit them in court if I had them in my possession?

Presenter: Tell me Rawdah, what would be the moment you will not forget whether upon your release or when you were in jail or when you were in the docks inside the court?

Radwah Shalabi: I shall never forget the moment when I was sentenced to 11 years. At that moment I felt that God's victory was very close. All I did then was laugh. I wondered what state the judiciary had deteriorated to when it issued sentences that were irrational. Being sentenced to 11 years is something I cannot imagine I'll ever forget. I shall not forget the extent to which the judiciary was so unjust and that at that moment I felt victory from God was very close.

Presenter: But what you are saying is a bit strange and warrants some explaining. I know I am talking to a nuclear scientist who has the potential to be a very great person. But explain to me why, despite having been sentenced to 11 years in prison, you felt deep within you and actually believed that the victory was close. To the contrary, there are people who were deeply depressed by the sentence and despaired and who became profoundly pessimistic. They said to themselves: that is it; it is over, what more can happen after that?

Radwah Shalabi: God would not approve of injustice especially when it reaches such a level of severity, and [in our case] it was so severe. I have absolute belief that when injustice reaches such a level God's victory will be close. Had they given us a one or two year sentence I might have said I could probably live with it. But with an 11 year sentence I had no doubt in my mind that we were about to be released within days. In fact I thought we might be free within months not days.

Presenter: Indeed, you were smiling so confidently. That was amazing taking into consideration that people who have causes do not usually show it. All the people were talking about you. When you get out and see the details for yourself you will be amazed. The entire world spoke about you, including international human rights organisations. Even the U.S. government expressed concerned and communicated with the current [Egyptian] government regarding your case. The whole globe was upside down. All were asking, why?

Radwah Shalabi: As I told you earlier. Our steadfastness first and last was a gift from God. I personally did not know how I managed all that steadfastness. Nor my friends, the girls, knew how we ended up feeling calm and steadfast. We imagined we might collapse. Yet this steadfastness came from God and from Him alone.

Presenter: Did you know that many men from all over the place came, asking to marry you?

Radwah Shalabi: [laughing] We have not seen them yet.

Presenter: Did you know or did you not?

Radwah Shalabi: We knew, but we are waiting to get out and see for ourselves.

Presenter: Congratulations Radwah Shalabi, the youngest nuclear scientist. This is the testimony of the experts and not ours. A thousand congratulations to you.

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