To raise awareness of December’s Write for Rights global writeathon, former prisoner of conscience Musaad Abu Fagr tells how letters lifted his spirits while in detention
The struggle of the Bedouins in Sinai to demand their rights started on 25 April 2007, with a continuous series of sit-ins, demonstrations, and conferences. In this context, the Bedouins agreed to a protest on 1 January 2008.
I wrote a report about the protest on my blog and announced my intention to participate in it. On the night of 26 December 2007, less than six days before the date of the protest, Ranad had a high temperature, and my wife and I were making cold water dressings for her. We have always tried to use traditional methods of treatment and avoid anything chemical as much as possible.
I forgot to say, Ranad is our daughter. She was three years old at the time. We spent a long time looking for a name for her. We had two conditions: that the name does not relate to any culture, and that it can be written in all the languages we know without changing a single letter. The name is derived from the rand, a small, sweet-smelling tree that sprouts in the desert. Our ancestors, Bedouins in Sinai for more than 2000 years, made wreaths from it and put them on the heads of their horsemen.
Ranad succumbed to sleep, and at about two in the morning, I heard violent banging at the door. I opened it and dozens of plain clothes security officers stormed into the house.
I said: “Please! There is a sick child sleeping inside.” They gathered everything: the computer, CDs, and my files. They left no stone unturned. They put the things in a sack, twisted my hands behind my back, and bound me with iron handcuffs. Then they led me away…
Around six in the evening on 13 July 2010, they released me. Between my arrest and the date of my release, I spent 30 months and 17 days as a high-risk prisoner. I was moved between more than seven places, three prisons and four places of detention, one of which was a storage room in the basement of one of the police departments. I spent 10 days there and it was the worst cruelty I have suffered in my life. I was moved around more than 20,000km in the back of a truck while my hands were bound behind my back with an iron shackle. My government disregarded 21 court rulings to release me. I caught several skin diseases, some of which I still haven’t recovered from.
The Egyptian prisons are not of our time, and we would be unfair to the Middle Ages if we said they belong to that time. More than 40 of us sleep in a prison cell designed for eight. I did not see the sun at all, except for the few minutes every 21 days when my family came to visit me. In this inhumane situation, which aims at cutting off the prisoner from the world, the attention of the world becomes a remedy to alleviate the pain. What truly delighted me, lifted my spirit, and strengthened me to face my prison guard, was the thousands of letters which came to me through the organization Amnesty International, from all corners of the world, their concern, and that of other civil society organizations around the world, about my case. I was heartened by your persistence to keep my case alive and your relentless pressure on my government to secure my release.
As originally posted on Livewire