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2 years after he disappeared in Egypt, no signs of Abu Bakr

Egyptian student Abu Bakr and his friend Ammar Mahmoud Al-Nadi were forcibly disappeared in 2014
Egyptian student Abu Bakr and his friend Ammar Mahmoud Al-Nadi were forcibly disappeared in 2014

A 21-year-old Al-Azhar student has been forcibly disappeared by the Egyptian authorities for two years, despite desperate attempts by his family to establish his whereabouts.

"We never visited him, not even once," his sister tells MEMO from Egypt. "We don't know where he was taken, nor where he is now."

Egyptian police started hounding Abu Bakr Al-Sanhouti in 2014 when he was just 16 years old and still at school.

"He wasn't accused in any case," Sara says, "and he didn't commit any crime. He wasn't even involved in anti-government activities."

His sister confirms that Abu Bakr was not involved in the 2011 uprising, the Rabaa sit-in and was not a part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

For four years Abu Bakr managed an unstable life, moving from one place to another to hide from the police.

READ: Uyghur student arrested in Egypt still missing two years on

But he became tired of the pressure of living on the run and made a plan to leave the country with one of his friends, Ammar Mahmoud Al-Nadi.

Ammar and Abu Bakr headed to the southern city of Aswan where they planned to cross the border into Sudan, circumventing a travel ban which meant that leaving via the airport wasn't an option.

But the two friends were arrested at the border on 14 December 2017. Both have been forcibly disappeared since then.

Abu Bakr's family has heard from him once since he disappeared. "He called us once on 16 March 2018 from an unknown number," recalls his sister.

"He told us that the army detained him and that he was travelling with them from one place to another, but he didn't know where he was, nor where they were taking him. We didn't hear anything about him since that call."

Because Abu Bakr hasn't been officially listed on any case, the family's lawyer has told them he cannot follow an official procedure to get him released.

The forcibly disappeared are outside the protection of the law which leaves them at high risk of being tortured and living with the constant threat of being killed.

READ: At 14 Haitham was one of Egypt's youngest political prisoners: 'They forgot I was a child'

"I wish my brother was detained," says Sara. "At least we would know he is alive."

The Egyptian government systematically carries out enforced disappearances and regularly deny they have done so, often publishing misinformation to divert attention from cases.

Between August 2017 and August 2018 1,989 people were forcibly disappeared in Egypt, according to the Geneva-based human rights organisation Committee for Justice.

Lawyers and activists aiding the families of the forcibly disappeared are pursued, intimidated and prosecuted by Egyptian authorities. Meanwhile, families and communities are left devastated by their loss. "My brother, the closest person to my heart. My brother was my life," says Sara.

"Abu Bakr's disappearance has greatly affected my mother's health."

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