It is nearly November 9 in Egypt and my friend Alaa is still in prison. It’s now been 10 days, five fewer than the 15 that he was assigned by a court run by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which has illegitimately tried more than 12,000 Egyptian civilians since January.
Alaa and his wife Manal, and their soon-to-be son, Khaled (named, of course, for Khaled Said) have been in my mind every day these past ten days. It so happens that I’ll be in Cairo around the time of his due date, and thus have been preparing some gifts, each purchase reminding me of their friendship, and my excitement for the birth of their child…which Alaa may not get to witness. Last night when I came home, Anas gave me the gift Alaa had brought me from Cairo when he was here last month–I’d been traveling and thus hadn’t seen it yet–and was again reminded of the kindness of my friend who has never hesitated to spare a moment for advice, or to educate me about the Egyptian revolution, or to be an open ear for whatever existential crisis was happening that day.
I suspect that anything I write here will be speaking to the choir. I suspect that if I told you that SCAF has hijacked the revolution and doesn’t give a damn about free expression, or that the US government’s $1.9 billion per year funding of the Egyptian military is despicable, you would agree. I suspect that if I told you how much it hurts to see someone as amazing an activist, husband, and soon-to-be father as Alaa behind bars, again, for speaking his mind, you would sympathize.
Therefore, there is little new to say. I am writing this not, then, to say something new, but to keep you from forgetting…about Alaa, about Maikel Nabil Sanad, about the other Egyptian activists, journalists, and bloggers who are wrongly imprisoned, wrongly convicted, and wrongly accused.
On the other hand, if you have stumbled upon this blog post with no idea who Alaa is, then rest assured: His family, his friends,
his wife, have said all there is to be said. He has used his own words, from behind bars, to tell us what he’s going through. All of that, and a little bit more, is at your fingertips:
- Alaa’s first letter from prison (English translation)
- Alaa’s second letter from prison (English translation)
- A letter from Alaa’s sister, Mona (Arabic)
- English coverage of Alaa’s mother’s hunger strike
And if you want to take action, you have choices. Access Now has a campaign aimed at the US government’s funding of the Egyptian military. The ‘No to Military Trials’ campaign has online actions scheduled for tomorrow, November 9.
Edited to add: