Around 50 people took part in a half-day workshop organised by Egypt Solidarity Initiative on 24 May, launching a new drive for international solidarity in the face of escalating repression in Egypt. A powerful appeal from novelist Ahdaf Soueif and human rights campaigner Aida Seif el-Dawla was read out at the event, calling for signatures on a petition to save the lives of political detainees Abdallah al-Shamy and Mohamed Sultan, who are close to death on hunger strike. You can read the full text below, and sign the statement here.
The workshop participants voted to send the message below condemning the repression and pledged to mobilise support for a protest at the Egyptian embassy in London on 5 June.
This meeting of Egypt Solidarity sends greetings to those struggling for their freedoms in Egypt.
We condemn intensification of repression against students, academics, lawyers, journalists, workers and others who aspire to secure their basic rights and their demand for “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice”.
We are appalled by the recent jailing of Alexandria lawyer Mahienour El-Masry and eight others under new laws which deny freedom of assembly and inhibit public protest. We demand the immediate release of Mahienour and her colleagues.
We call for the release of all political prisoners in Egypt and for international solidarity with those working to secure the gains of the Egyptian revolution.
An appeal from Ahdaf Soueif and Aida Seif el-Dawla
We’re asking you to sign this petition to try to save the lives of Abdallah al-Shami (24) and Muhammad Sultan (26) who are on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison. The petition itself will tell you the details of their cases. But their cases matter beyond even their individuality.
They matter because they highlight several of the extremely dangerous characteristics that are coming to define the current regime. One central feature is how the judiciary has been brought into the service of the regime and now functions, mostly, as an accomplice of the police and security establishment. Take, for example, the regime’s use of “precautionary detention” as a punishment, subjecting people – unconvicted, and sometimes uncharged – to long periods in prison “pending trial”. Needless to say, the state never compensates them for these months if/when they are found innocent.
Another feature is the regime’s habit of punishing people for the perceived crimes of others. These 2 young men are clearly being made to pay for the regime’s quarrel with – on the one hand, al-Jazeera, on the other with Mr Sultans’ father.
A third is the regime’s utter brutal inefficiency. An example: the prison doctor attempted to break Mr Shami’s strike of more than one hundred days by trying to force-feed him a chunk of tuna.
Many Egyptian professionals and activists have been working against all this. They are now under unprecedented attack through smear campaigns, through arrests, torture and detentions. This is why we now need your voices.
The current regime in Egypt seems to think it is unaccountable. We need your help to show it that is not.
Our first aim is to save the lives of these two young men.
Our second is to impress upon the Egyptian authorities and judiciary that they cannot disregard justice, the constitution, human rights and public opinion with impunity.
We probably have a long way ahead of us. We hope that you will be with us. This is the start.
Aida Seif e-Dawla and Ahdaf Soueif
Read the petition and sign online here