An outspoken Egyptian revolutionary living in exile in Turkey has refused requests from the Turkish authorities to stop posting on social media.
Last week her husband, Egyptian opposition journalist Hesham Abdalla, was called to the Turkish president’s office for a meeting.
Sources told MEMO that when Hesham arrived authorities politely, but firmly, requested that he “help” the Turkish authorities by not going back to his job at Al-Sharq TV station and that his wife, Ghada Najibe, stop posting on social media.
Several famous Egyptian presenters including Mohamed Nasser and Hamza Zawba were asked at the same time as Hesham to shut down their programmes as Turkey seeks to mend relations with Egypt after eight years of hostility.
Earlier this year Ankara instructed the three top Egyptian opposition channels, Mekamaleen, Al-Sharq and Watan to tone down their criticism of the administration in Cairo and shut down Moataz Matar’s famous TV programme.
Millions tune in to the TV stations based in Turkey which tackle human rights violations in Egypt.
Ghada and Hesham were major players in Egypt’s 2011 revolution and outspoken critics of the regime. They have lived in exile in Turkey since 2015, after an Egyptian intelligence officer warned Hesham to take his wife and leave.
In response to the “polite” request from Turkish authorities, Ghada posted on Facebook: “I am a member of the political opposition, not a bargaining chip or someone to blackmail. I will not give up my freedom, I will defend it until my last breath, no matter the cost.”
However, her husband Hesham has shut down his programme.
In the president’s office, Hesham reminded the Turkish official that being silenced by a government was not dissimilar to how he left Cairo. This is not just me helping you, he said, this is interference.
Late last year Ghada was stripped of her Egyptian nationality by authorities in Cairo as a punitive measure against her activism abroad using the false claim that she is originally Syrian, even though she was born in Cairo where she grew up.
The Egyptian consulate in Istanbul has refused to renew Hesham’s passport since 2018 and their humanitarian residency expired last September. Despite applying to renew it in October it has not been granted until now.
In 2018 Hesham was arrested because he had overstayed his visa and had been placed on a terror list by Interpol. After four days he was ordered to be released under a presidential decree, but his release was delayed, sparking questions over who could override a presidential decision.
Back in Egypt Hesham was a film star and since arriving in Turkey has become a prominent media personality. However, other top media anchors have been granted the Turkish nationality, unlike Hesham.
Hesham even asked the Turkish authorities for help with his papers during that meeting on 24 June, but they did not reply, raising further questions over the family’s fate and ultimately stopping them being able to leave the country legally.
This development is just the latest tragedy to hit this outspoken family. Back in Egypt, in the summer of 2018, two of Ghada’s brothers were arrested and one of Hesham’s.
Then in late 2020 five of their nephews were detained, all because Ghada and Hesham refused to give up speaking out about rights abuses back home.
Ghada has received direct threats from Egypt including, “we will get you here from Turkey in a body bag;” “we will hang you;” and “we are waiting for you.”
Earlier this week a group on the Clubhouse app, believed to be members of Egypt’s intelligence services, debated why Ghada was continuing to post on social media despite being warned by the Turkish government.
“They will come soon and arrest her,” one of them commented.