The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has revealed that five Egyptian women’s prisons “neither abide by the minimum standards of human life nor meet the minimum conditions for the treatment of prisoners.” They also stated that the prisons are not subject to accountability. The Women Against the Coup movement has published the names and reports of 145 female prisoners detained in Egypt due to their political affiliations or orientations, which are against the Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi regime. Its report talks about the psychological, health and physical violations they are subject to, which violate international conventions and the constitution.
Below I have outlined the stories of some of the detainees, it is regrettable I couldn’t write about each and every one.
Mona Mahmoud, 58, famously spoke to the BBC about her 26-year-old daughter Zubeida Younis’ forced disappearance at the hands of the security forces how they raped and tortured her. The regime arrested her in 2018 on charges of spreading false news and joining a terrorist group. Mona has spent about a year and a half in Al-Qanater prison, despite three court orders for her release, the most recent of which was in July 2019. In protest against her continued detention, Mona launched a hunger strike and cut off all her hair.
“Look for me, Mum,” was the unforgettable sentence said by Sumaya Hazima, 27, a chemist and the daughter of a former parliamentarian, who, along with her mother, were arrested from their home days before her wedding. Her mother was released by the state security prosecution, while Sumaya was forcibly disappeared and her lawyers were not allowed to know where she was held, or the charges brought against her. Then, 11 months later, she appeared in Al-Qanater prison, where she has been held in solitary confinement on charges of collaborating with Turkey for over two and a half years. Sumaya has not seen her family, nor have they seen her.
Samia Shanan, 65, is the longest-serving prisoner in the coup-led regime’s prisons. She was arrested in 2013 as part of the Kerdasa events case and was sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment. She says:
Let them know that I did not commit a crime, and tell them I was never what they say I am.
Naglaa Al-Qalioubi, 72, is a doctor and the assistant secretary-general of the Istiqlal Party, as well as the wife of the party’s leader who has also been detained. She was blindfolded and taken away in 2019; forcibly disappeared for two weeks. She was deprived treatment and subjected to medical neglect.
Aisha Khairat Al-Shater was arrested in 2018 as a means to settle the score with her imprisoned father, Khairat Al-Shater, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. Aisha was forcibly disappeared and after her reappearance, she was transferred to Al-Qanater prison, where she was kept in solitary confinement for a year and a half. She was deprived from going outdoors and visits and due to the harsh conditions of her detention and torture, she suffered bone marrow failure.
Ola Al-Qaradawi, 59, was arrested in 2017, on charges of being the daughter of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the former president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. She is suffering from deteriorating health due to being held in solitary confinement.
Hoda Abdelmonem, 61, is a lawyer and human rights activist, who was imprisoned in Al-Qanater on charges of joining a terrorist group. She was deprived of medical treatment and visits and suffered a blood clot in her leg and severe pain in her knee that hinders her movement. She said that was a member of the National Council for Human Rights but is now being deprived of all her rights at her age.
Solafa Magdy is a journalist who was arrested in November 2019 and held in Al-Qanater. She was beaten and tortured and accused of participating in the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities. She has since launched a hunger strike.
Alia Awad, a 33-year-old journalist, was arrested twice, once in 2017 and held for a year and a half, and then again in 2018. Her health deteriorated as a result of continuous bleeding and frequent fainting. She suffered a benign tumour on the uterus, so the prison administration decided to remove her uterus completely. She cried before the judge and asked that only the tumour be removed, but the prison administration threatened her and performed three operations, and she now needs a fistula operation. In Alia’s previous letters, she wrote: “I have tumours and I don’t know what is happening to me anymore, I want to leave this cemetery. I tried so hard to live with the current situation, but I failed. I am tired and I can no longer bear even a second more in prison.”
Inas Hammouda, 41, is a mother of four. She was charged in 2019 with joining and financing a terrorist group. Her health is deteriorating and the prison administration refuses to provide her with treatment.
Alaa El-Sayed, 21, is an Arts student who was arrested at her university in 2019. She was forcibly disappeared for 37 days, and then reappeared in the State Security Prosecutor’s office and was charged with joining a terrorist group. She was imprisoned in Al-Qanater prison and her imprisonment is continuously renewed without any legal basis.
Ayatollah Ashraf, 25, was arrested in 2018 and forcibly disappeared for four months. She reappeared at the State Security Prosecution’s office and was accused of joining and financing a terrorist group.
Basma Rifaat is a physician who has two children being raised by her elderly mother. She was arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, while her husband was sentenced to life imprisonement. She was framed for assassinating the attorney general and suffers from breast tumours. She says: “My infant child no longer knows me.”
Mahienour El-Massry, a human rights lawyer who was arrested in 2014 for a year and a half, was arrested again in 2019 in a fabricated case.
Sarah Al-Sawi is a 28-year-old doctor, who, in 2015, was subjected to torture and electric shocks during interrogation, was sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment.
Amina Thabet was arrested in 2019 and released in February 2020 with precautionary measures that were cancelled in March. She was then then charged with new accusations of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news and is still forcibly disappeared.
Aya Kamal Al-Din, 25, responsible for medical services at a charity, was arrested on 25 March 2020 for a Facebook post criticising the way the government is deal with the coronavirus outbreak. She is being held in solitary confinement in the Alexandria Security Directorate, and is refused blankets, treatment and visits. The prison administration has refused to receive her until she is tested for the coronavirus, tests the security authorities are not forthcoming with.
Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the regime has not stopped its arrests. Kholoud Saeed, a translator and researcher, who is not involved in any political activity, has been forcibly disappeared for a week. Meanwhile, Marwa Arafa, 27, a human rights activist and translator, who has an infant, was forcibly disappeared for two weeks. As usual they re-appeared in the state security prosecution office.
These were just some of the stories of the women detained in Al-Sisi’s prisons, and I am ashamed that I cannot devote more space to narrating the details of their suffering, and that I cannot extend a helping hand to them, or even comfort them to relieve them of the bitterness of the life they are now living.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.