An imprisoned Egyptian activist who has never stopped campaigning for his country’s future

In the summer of 2011, a few months after the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I participated in a program on Al Jazeera English-language channel called: Cafe:. The creation was intended to reflect the atmosphere of street cafes in Egypt at that time, which was enlivened by political debates, with a new opening that sparked the revolution. Eight of us participated, representing different segments of society, different points of the political spectrum, and we filmed in a few hours in a real cafe 10 minutes away from Tahrir Square. The most famous of us was Alaa Abd al-Fattah, a blogger, computer programmer, and activist currently imprisoned in Cairo’s infamous Tora prison.

For the past 10 years, most of whom have seen Alaa (who is a friend) imprisoned or on parole, he has written essays, newspaper columns, letters, Facebook posts, tweets, and his works are now collected in You have not lost yet. The book offers a kaleidoscopic view of his thoughts and interests, touching on various topics such as the threat of robots taking our work, the Gaza conflict, Game of Thrones: (he loved it) և Climate change. His descriptions of prison life over the past decade, such as hunger strikes, the loss of a father, the imprisonment of a sister, the birth of a son, the torture of prisoners, and death, are horrific, but so is his book. A record of the key points where the revolution began to lose its position, the elections made by the movement, which failed to maintain a united front. Alaa, who grew up in an activist family, has been thinking about human rights and democracy since she was a teenager. But he wrote on topics such as the dangers of capitalism, the impact of powerful technology companies on citizens. .

In 2011, Alaa turned 30; she had already spent 45 days in prison protesting for an independent judiciary. During our conversation with Al Jazeera, he was cautiously optimistic about Egypt’s future; At the time, Egyptian society was divided into political parties, many of which probably had similar mandates but had strong, conflicting views on how to achieve them. The Muslim Brotherhood emerged as a divisive political force, and debates over whether elections or a constitution should take precedence were so fierce that they split political parties.

Alaa believed that the process of drafting a new constitution for Egypt was crucial, that the election of a representative body should be the first step in creating an inclusive national document. He understood that too how The constitution that was created will have the greatest impact on the path of Egypt. In one of the columns in her book, Alaa asks: “What is the value of a constitution made without real popular participation?”

In another article in a July 2011 newspaper column, he set out more detailed parameters for the election of a constituent assembly to draft this constitution. His proposals included “the proportional representation of women, youth, religious minorities, as well as representation of trade unions, workers ‘and farmers’ unions, activists, ombudsmen, artists, etc.” He was thinking about how this congregation would function. its discussions should be public, subject to the input of civil society. This regressive return to the idea of ​​an inclusive government և process singled out Alaa as a political thinker. he understood that pluralism was the key to stability.

Alaan believed that street protests, which had revitalized the country earlier that year but weakened in the summer of 2011, should continue. He saw the protest movement as an integral part of changing the social order and forming a government representing the people. because the government was afraid of it, it was a potential point of pressure. I strongly disagreed with him at that time. The protests that have been going on for the last six months have failed to achieve our goals. The “fatigue of the revolution,” as we called it, had begun; I thought we should organize, coordinate, and penetrate the system through appointment.

Even the closest friendships, such as nuclear families, were strained by such debates. The army was well positioned to take full advantage of the disunity of civil society, it արագ quickly consolidated ացրեց it consolidated its power. In October of that year, a few months after our conversation with Al Jazeera, soldiers opened fire with tanks and then trampled on civilians protesting outside the state television and radio building in solidarity with the persecuted Christian community in Egypt. : At that time it was the most outrageous statement of the army against the revolutionaries.

That night Alaa went to the hospital morgue. He knew there would be corpses, that autopsies would be crucial to holding the army accountable. A few days later in an article in an Arabic daily Al-Shoruk, he recounted his experience, remembering the bullets, the footprints, the autopsies, which were eventually performed as a result of his own persuasion. Published with translation You have not lost yet, the column condemns the euphemistic language of the morgue reports. Why does the report say that they were hit by a “heavy vehicle” when we all know that it was a military APC? What is this “explosive projectile”? “Why not write ‘military bullets’?”

Due to his open criticism of the army, Alaan was summoned for questioning by the military prosecutors, and on October 30 he was imprisoned again. The false accusations against him – “illegal gatherings, theft of military equipment, damage to military property, attack on a soldier” – could be punished with the death penalty. In his first post from his cell, he wrote: Abu Malek [my cellmate] interrupts my thoughts. “I swear to God, if this revolution does not get the rights of the oppressed, it will collapse without a trace.”

Egypt is at its most politically pressing point in decades. Free speech is no longer protected, citizens have been arrested for expressing their views on Facebook and TikTok, and protests have been effectively banned. Mass executions without trial have become alarming, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions. Facts are hard but appreciated There are 60,000 political prisoners in Egyptian prisons, many of them without trial, some without a trace. Among them, of course, is Alaan, who was arrested in 2019 as part of widespread government repression, but received his official sentence only in December. he was sentenced to five years without trial “Dissemination of false news undermining national security»: Alaa is in the second month of her hunger strike in protest of prison conditions, and last week, looking exhausted, she said goodbye to her family, unsure if she would see them again.

Abu Malek was right. The revolution really collapsed, I now understand what Alaa saw, less clearly than anyone else. Along with an inclusive constitution, the only way to achieve a complete reshuffle of the government would be to put up a steady pressure, in the form of protests over which I strongly disagreed. These were the keys to the necessary unity of accountability, which Alaa often calls the “condition of change.”

Although there are no signs of growing national unity for a long time, no sign that Alaa will be released, he continued to solve the problems of the future until the end of last year. In one of his last articles in 2021, he again called for an inclusive national agenda. “Can we, under these pressures, engage our minds and imaginations to imagine a future that will unite us around special programs to develop the country?” Economy, reform the state, develop the society, liberate the individual? ” Writings from Alai’s prison, even if they fell on deaf ears, were a way for him to stay involved and resist. But because he was saved isolatorHis family, deprived of the opportunity to use books, pens and paper, said that he had almost reached his breaking point. his hunger strike became his only means of resistance. Ours should be the words that we still have to pay attention to his unjust imprisonment, to continue his tireless work.

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