Egypt: Hunger Strikes for Detainees, Mass Arbitrary Arrests & Tens of Thousands in Jail


156 people are now on hunger strike in Egypt, 82 inside Egyptian prisons and 74 outside, in solidarity with all those who have been arrested by the Egyptian military and police forces. Estimates say around 41,000 people have been arrested in Egypt since the ousting of Mohammed Morsi in July 2013. Human rights groups report at least 25,000 people have been arrested this year and many have died while in custody. Reports indicate that torture is still widely used on prisoners.

Student defendants locked in the cage June 16, 2014. Photo: Patrick Kingsley

Student defendants locked in the cage June 16, 2014. Photo: Patrick Kingsley

While many in Egypt and abroad are elated with today’s news of the Shura Council detainees being released on bail, there are still way too many people locked up in deplorable conditions for ridiculous reasons in Egypt. It is difficult to keep track of who exactly is in Egyptian jail but here’s a list of some recent arrests.

1. Ultras White Knights (#UWK)

Members of Ultras White Knights had their homes raided August 19 and between 14-20 members were arrested and charged with the alleged attempted assassination of Zamalek Sporting Club President, Mortada Mansour. Sources have told us that UWK members were being held at a police camp, had been beaten and tortured with electricity and advised that some family members were also arrested and being forced to turn in their children to police. UWK members claim their colleagues have been arrested on trumped up charges and that Mansour serves the current regime.

UWK held a protest on August 28 to denounce the arrests of their members. Daily News Egypt reported at least 30 members were arrested at the protest but some reports in social media indicated that possibly up to 70-100 people had been detained. Al Tahrir published a partial list of known names for arrested UWK members here. Birthdays published on lists that were tweeted by supporters indicate that some of the members arrested are as young as 16-17 years old.

Video of UWK protest August 28 2014:

Lists of detained UWK 

2. 6 of April Movement

Egyptian police said it arrested 4 members of the April 6 Movement on September 1st at a memorial for deceased April 6 member Ahmed El-Masry, although April 6 facebook page released a statement saying at least 30 of its members had been arrested including leaders Mohamed Kamal and Ramy El-Sayed.

Egyptian courts banned the activities of the April 6 youth movement in April 2014 and the group has been accused of espionage and tainting the state’s image. The group has been accused many times of receiving foreign funds, accusations which the members vehemently denied. In a statement released by the group’s facebook page in April they advised:

“All of the group’s activities are peaceful expression of opinion… The key goal of the movement’s activities is to object to any move made by the regime that could lead to sabotaging of the state. April 6 is a vital part of this generation’s dream and voice. We will go on, and our activities, opinions and voices will be expressed as we please.”

3. Street artists

A proposed draft law banning so-called “abusive graffiti art” if passed will censor free speech & artistic expression. Under the draft law, violators could face a prison sentence of up to four years or a fine of up to 100,000 Egyptian pounds. Street artists not only face imprisonment for art critical of the current regime, they also face dangers of mob violence from fanatical military supporters. Index on Censorship reported:

A nationalist fervour sweeping the country has however made it dangerous for graffiti artists to express themselves freely. Those who dare criticize government policies are often accused of being “traitors” and “terrorists” by self-proclaimed “patriots”.

19 year-old graffiti artist and member of the April 6 youth movement Hisham Rizk was found in a Cairo morgue last July, a week after his family reported his “mysterious disappearance”. A forensic report found that the artist had drowned in the Nile River but sources told Revolution News that no one swims in the Nile where his body was found and Rizk’s art and facebook posts which were highly critical of the military regime made him a target.

Artwork by Hisham Rizk RIP

Artwork by Hisham Rizk RIP

In May 2014 Egyptian TV show “Al Raees Wel Nas” accused world renowned artist Ganzeer of being a terrorist so the wheels have been in motion for several months to criminalize art and artists who are critical of the current regime.

4. Attorneys defending political activists

3 lawyers defending political activist Ahmed Douma along with 269 others accused of allegedly assaulting police officers and illegal assembly, among other charges in what is known as the Cabinet clashes trial have been referred to the prosecutor. Mada Masr reported that attorneys Osama al-Mahdy, Mahmoud Bilal and Basma Zahran objected to not being able to see their client, Douma in the cage due to dark glass and that the rest of the defendants were not allowed in the courtroom for their trial. The attorneys also claimed their requests to summon witnesses and add reports to the case were refused.

Al-Ahram reported that a verbal altercation broke out between the attorneys and the judge at the beginning of the court session on September 3 so the entire defense team has been referred to the prosecution with accusations of causing unrest in the courtroom.

5. Alexandria University professor & witness for HRW report on Rabaa massacre

Mohamed Tareq, adjunct professor at Alexandria University was arrested on Saturday August 29. Reports are conflicting as to where he was arrested, some said he was arrested in his home while private run media Al-Masry Al-Youm said he was arrested at an anti-regime protest in Alexandria. Mada Masr reported:

Judicial sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he was arrested initially on accusations of running several pages on social media inciting against police and military forces. However, the sources said that he will be also charged with providing false testimony for the HRW report.

Tareq provided eye witness testimony for Human Rights Watch in a report on last year’s massacre at Rabaa square in Cairo which concluded the dispersal of protests by Egyptian police and military probably amounted to crimes against humanity.

Tareq is interviewed in this video from HRW about their investigation:

6. Ahrar movement

6 people were detained on August 30 in a protest to commemorate members killed in a protest August 2013. The march began at Al-Bohoos Square with familiar chants of “down with the regime” and ended in clashes with security forces, tear gas and rubber bullets. Members of the movement said police detained random people who were just passing by and not involved with the protest.

Video of security forces attacking Ahrar protest August 30 2014:

7. Student arrested in error – held for 8 months without charges

A dental student named Asmaa Hamdi Tarabeek was arrested on December 24 while on her way to take an exam at Al-Azhar University when the Egyptian police arrested her along with other female students, accusing them of being participants in an anti-regime protest. Asmaa pleaded with police officers at the time of the arrest insisting she was not protesting but they beat her and took her to a nearby police station. Asmaa was given a five year prison sentence and fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($13,984) fine despite the fact that no charges have been filed against her. Her father gave the following statement:

“Over the past six months, the court has postponed Asmaa’s appeals nearly eight times and deported her to Al-Qanater prison. We are only allowed to visit her once every two weeks for 45 minutes.

We plead with the prison wardens to treat her politely and respectfully, but instead they beat her and burnt her clothes, then the prison administration deported her to Damanhur prison.”

8. 7 men arrested for alleged gay wedding video

7 men were arrested on September 6 for appearing in a video of what is allegedly the first gay wedding ever in Egypt. “Nine of the 16 participants were identified in an investigation and seven were arrested,” state news agency MENA reported. The video and ceremony supposedly took place in April but didn’t go viral until August prompting authorities to investigate. The 7 men arrested are accused of incitement to debauchery and publishing indecent images.

“One of the men involved in the incident reportedly phoned in to an Egyptian television news programme to deny that he was homosexual or that the filmed event was a gay marriage,” HRW said.

Reports released shortly after the arrests indicate the men had been subjected to humiliating anal examinations reminiscent of Sisi’s virginity tests while in custody.

9. Too many political activists to name

Political activists have become a prime target under President Sisi and too many are in prison right now serving jail sentences. Some very well known activists have received media attention such as Alaa Abdel Fattah (recently released on bail) but many others are still locked up such as Mohammed Soltan, currently on an epic long hunger strike over 220 days, Sanaa Seif, sister of Alaa is in jail for violating the protest law, Mahienour El-Massry is serving 2 years for protesting without a permit and assaulting police forces, photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zaid “Shawkan” was arrested for taking photos at the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in last August and has been held over 1 year without charges, Yara Sallam was arrested in June 2014 along with 22 other peaceful protesters, accused of violating the protest law. There are so many activists in Egyptian jails at this point it is obvious the current regime is looking to silence any and all voices of dissent and especially targeting activists with leadership roles in their communities.

10. Anti-coup protesters have never really stopped and people are arrested on a regular basis for violating the draconian protest law. At least 24 protesters were arrested on September 9 for violating the protest law. The anti-coup alliance called for the Sept 9 protest under the banner of “revolution of the poor.”

11. Hany Amer – computer programmer sentenced to death

Hany was arrested while applying for a permit in one of the governmental institutes in Egypt. He was placed in a military prison, held for 8 months without charges and according to his brother he was beaten and denied access to defense attorneys. Hany has been sentenced to death for participating and organizing a terrorist attack that occurred while Hany was in custody.

Computer programmer Hany Amer

Computer programmer Hany Amer

12. Muslim Brotherhood members

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been subjected to arrests en mass for the past year and there are simply way too many to name here. Estimates say around 41,000 have been arrested but the figures are probably higher. Sentences for mass executions were handed down this past summer in record breaking numbers.

13. Al Jazeera Journalists

3 Al Jazeera journalists are still in jail. Peter Greste, an Australian, Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian – were detained in Cairo on Dec. 29. We blogged live tweets from one of their trial sessions in April 2014 and the evidence that was used against them was just as arbitrary as the evidence used against Alaa Abdel Fattah who was released on bail today. Random videos, photoshopped pictures… this is how the Egyptian judiciary apparently works.

We hope the release of the Shura Council detainees is a sign of a new trend for all those currently held in Egyptian jail but until we hear more good news it’s very important to keep those in prison in mind and in the media. For every name we know there are hundreds that are unknown.

Al Jazeera
Mada Masr
Daily News Egypt
Ahram Online
Al Tahrir
Middle East Institute
Middle East Monitor
Index on Censorship

About Author

Erin Gallagher is a multimedia artist, translator and writer for Revolution News.