Mohanad Abdulrahman dropped his mother off at Terminal 1 of Cairo International Airport last Thursday and made his way to Terminal 2 where he was due to take a flight to Saudi Arabia. The 33-year-old is from Sudan but he was heading to the kingdom where he works as a doctor.
After saying goodbye to his mother Mohanad checked in, dropped his luggage off, then headed through security with his boarding card. On the other side of the gate he called his brother to tell him he was just about to board his flight.
His family tried his phone again but it was dead so they waited until the plane landed to speak to him. They never did. The call he made to his brother in the departure lounge of Terminal 2 would be the last time any of them heard from him.
When they couldn’t get through to Mohanad, his sister and her husband took a flight to the Egyptian capital to try and find out what had happened. Airport staff said they knew nothing so they went to a police station close to the airport to report he was missing, but were told that nothing could be done until 48 hours had passed.
They also tried to get more information from the Sudanese embassy but until now neither the Egyptian nor the Sudanese governments have made an official statement about Mohanad’s whereabouts.
In September last year the Geneva-based Committee for Justice said that the UN has worked on the largest number of cases since its establishment in the eighties. Between August 2017 and August 2018 the Committee for Justice said that 1,989 were reported disappeared.
As in Mohanad’s case, this often takes place when people are leaving or arriving at the airport. In January, Germany announced it was looking into the disappearance of two of its dual national citizens in Egypt on unrelated cases.
Isa Al-Sabbagh, 18 at the time, was set to take a flight from Frankfurt in Germany to Luxor but after he left his family were unable to contact him or determine his whereabouts. His father said a message he had sent appeared to have been read when he arrived in Luxor but that he did not respond to it.
Egyptian authorities later announced that he had been arrested at Luxor airport after they found a map of North Sinai and a compass among his possessions, claiming that he was on his way to join Daesh. He was later deported to Berlin.
Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, who was then 23, was detained at Cairo International Airport ten days after Al-Sabbagh, on 27 December, after arriving on a flight from Saudi Arabia. He came with his brother, though when he arrived airport authorities said he could not enter, then forcibly disappeared him.
It was later announced that he had also attempted to join Daesh but that he would be released if he agreed to renounce his Egyptian citizenship.
Both denied the allegations and, according to their families, neither Isa nor Mahmoud were politically active. Mohanad’s family has also confirmed that he is not involved in politics.
In January 2018 authorities arrested Hazem Hamouda, an Australian-Egyptian citizen, when he arrived in Cairo airport on the seventh anniversary of the revolution. He was later charged with spreading false news and supporting a terror group.
The wife and three children of Egyptian-American national Khaled Hassan were arrested at Cairo airport in June 2018 after arriving to see Khaled who has been forcibly disappeared and tortured on charges of joining Daesh in Sinai.