On Friday 25 September Amr Abn Hashad went to the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul for his tawkeel, or power of attorney. They gave him a receipt and asked him to come back and get his documents the following Monday at 12pm.
Amr remembers thinking that was strange, because many people are offered appointments on the same day. Still, he went back on Monday and they asked him to wait outside. For an hour and a half, he watched other people entering and leaving.
“No one else apart from me had to wait outside,” he tells me.
Eventually, when everyone else had left, a staff member approached him and asked him to hand over his passport, despite the fact that he had seen everyone else retrieving their documents with only their receipt.
“You have to do this so the consul can sign your documents,” the security officer told him.
“At this moment, I felt something abnormal was happening,” recalls Amr. “So, I asked a friend to take a video of me handing my passport to the officer. I waited for some time, and then the officer asked me to go inside and talk to the consul.”
Amr refused to go inside, and asked instead for them to return his passport. He had a job to get to and he was running late. But the consulate staff kept insisting.
“Okay,” said the officer eventually. “You can speak to the officer on the phone.”
“How are you?” the consul said, when the line connected. “Do you have a political problem in Egypt? Your passport is forged.”
“How can it be forged?” Amr asked him. “I left Egypt through Cairo airport. This proves my passport is official.”
“The authorities in Egypt say your passport is forged,” the consul replied. “I sent your papers to Egypt and they tell me you have political problems with Egypt.”
Roughly one year ago Amr was released from a five-year prison term after being arrested for participating in protests against the government. Over the half decade he was detained, he was moved between nine different prisons.
In the past year, Egyptian security forces have visited his family home in Menoufia, 80 kilometres outside Cairo, seven times and detained his younger brother, an amputee, as a punitive measure against Amr’s political activism.
“You are on Egyptian land and since you are inside the consulate it’s like you’re inside Egypt,” the consul continued. “You have political issues with Egypt.”
Again, he tried to put pressure on Amr to come inside the building to see him. “We can’t help you with your documents, it’s not like you are a citizen, you can’t deal with us. You have to come up and see me.”
Amr stayed where he was. “At that point I was thinking about [Jamal] Khashoggi,” he says, in reference to the late Saudi journalist who was tortured to death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago.
He grabbed his friend’s phone, scrolling to find the video of him handing over his passport. He played it to the security guard at the door. “I could see that he was shocked I had a video of him. He tried to grab my phone but I ran away.”
He stood outside with his friend and watched for 15 minutes as the officers at the gate made phone calls. Eventually they threw his passport over the fence of the consulate.
Now,” he says, “as an Egyptian youth of 27 years old, when I need something from my country’s consulate or embassy, what should I do?”