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An open letter to Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson in Los Angeles, California on 19 January 2020 [Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]
Scarlett Johansson in Los Angeles, California on 19 January 2020 [Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]

Dear Scarlett Johansson,

I would like to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude and appreciation for your strong support for human rights in Egypt. You have succeeded in exposing the military regime, making it clear to the world how insignificant it is; that it has no sovereignty or ownership of its decisions.

Your short video message that went viral on social media contributed to the immediate release of the leaders of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). You said that Karim Ennarah, Mohamed Basheer and Gasser Abdel Razek were "the best of us".

Please allow me to point out that there are over 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt who are indeed "the best of us". These include more than 100 Egyptian women and girls who are being held in Egypt's prisons. They are forced to undergo horrific violations that include virginity tests and sexual harassment.

Have you heard about Hoda Abdel Moneim, a well-known lawyer and human rights defender, who is over 60 years old and has serious kidney problems? Or Radwa Mohamed, the young Egyptian woman who dared to criticise Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on YouTube and Facebook before she was arrested and abused? Do you know what the Egyptian authorities did to journalists Solafa Magdy, Israa Abdel Fattah and Sarah Zidan? Have you read about Amal Kilani, Sumaya Maher Khuzaymah, Wardah Jumah, Aisha Khairat Al-Shater and Mahienour El Massry? Or even Sumaya Nasif, Fawzia El-Desouki, Amal Abdel Fattah, Rabab Abdel Mohsen, Mona Abdel Gawad, Samia Jaber, Sarah Abdullah, Manar Adel, Nasreen Abdullah, Hanan Abdullah, Hind Talaat and Rasha Abdel Rahman? The list goes on. All are among "the best of us".

You are one of the most famous and successful of all Hollywood stars. I am sure that you must sympathise with every woman and girl who has been denied the most basic human rights by Egypt's military regime. They are, after all, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends, whose relatives, friends and loved ones are waiting for their release.

READ: Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson calls on Egypt to release EIPR staff

Within Egypt's prisons, prisoners from all backgrounds agree on one thing: they all, without exception, reject injustice but defend human rights and the people's desire for change. In these prisons, you will find Alaa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Douma and Ziad Al-Alimi next to Muhammad Al-Beltagy, Jihad Al-Haddad and Ahmed Aref. You will find Abdel Moneim Abu Al-Fotouh, Muhammad Al-Qassas, Muhammad Al-Baqer and Izzat Ghneim alongside Mohammad Badie, Basem Odeh, Muhammad Saad Al-Katatni and Khairat Al-Shater. You will find Essam Sultan next to Hazem Hosni and Hussam Al-Sayyad next to Ahmed Abdel-Ati. You will find old men over 70 years old with a lifetime of experience behind them alongside young men with their lives ahead of them. I can assure you that all of them, young and old alike, are among "the best of us".

You mentioned in your video that the leaders of EIPR should be celebrated, not imprisoned, and you are right. Indeed, there are thousands of others in Egypt's prisons who also deserve to be celebrated. Inside those cells you will find university professors, doctors and teachers who did not fail to perform their duties diligently. There are lawyers who have demanded freedom for the oppressed. There are outstanding students who ranked highest in their classes. There are children under the age of sixteen. There are politicians, journalists and activists. There are 60,000 of "the best of us" who do not deserve to be imprisoned.

READ: Egypt releases EIPR staff after international outcry

Egypt's prisons are full of examples of human determination, love and compassion of a kind that would win Hollywood scriptwriters many Oscars. Young men not yet 30, for example, who have been given life sentences simply for standing up for justice and human rights. Their loved ones wait and hope for the day that they will be free. Letters have to be passed in secret, otherwise the guards can (and do) ban visits.

You have succeeded once and helped to expose the injustice against three of the 60,000 who are oppressed. The others also need your support and the support of others, as long as Egypt is governed by a regime that does not respect human rights except when a star like yourself raises the issue in public. The regime listened and acted once; it can do so again. You also listened and acted upon what you heard; please do so again.

This article first appeared in Arabi21 on 05 December 2020.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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