Alaa is alive: Family receives letter from Egyptian activist

Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied visits to Alaa’s family members even as reports of him being force-fed have emerged, raising concerns about his life. Alaa is incarcerated in the Wadi al-Notrun prison near Cairo

November 14, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah
(Photo: via @englishpen on Twitter) 

Egyptian authorities on Monday finally allowed the family of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to receive a letter written by him, proving that he is still alive. 

Alaa’s family members had earlier expressed apprehensions about his life as they were unable to confirm his condition eight days after he stopped taking water. The Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied his family and lawyers permission to visit him in prison. 

On Sunday, authorities at the Wadi al-Natrun prison refused to allow Alaa’s lawyer Khaled Ali to visit him in person for the second time, despite Ali having all the necessary clearances. 

Alaa’s mother Laila Soueif had demanded proof that Alaa was alive on Thursday, claiming that the prison authorities did not allow her to see her son nor did they agree to deliver her letter to him.  

News of Alaa being force-fed was confirmed by the Egyptian authorities last week. Alaa’s sister Mona Seif also said that he was subjected to “medical intervention” almost five days after he stopped taking water completely. 

Alaa has been on hunger strike against his imprisonment for months now, consuming only 100 calories a day. In the context of the COP27 meeting currently ongoing in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh (November 6-18), when a large number of political leaders and human rights groups and activists from across the world are in the country, Alaa announced an escalation in his hunger strike in the first week of November to push the issue of political persecution in Egypt. He stopped eating food altogether and even stopped taking water from Sunday, November 6.

Days after this escalation of his hunger strike, concerns about his deteriorating health and imminent death were raised by his family members and others, who appealed to the Egyptian authorities to release him.

Several human rights activists and groups participating in the UN climate summit have expressed solidarity with Alaa’s hunger strike and demanded his immediate release from prison and the end of political persecution in the country. 

Various governments including the UK’s, who have been under immense pressure from activists, expressed concerns about Alaa’s health and also asked for his immediate release. 

On Saturday, Mona Seif stated that she had appealed to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon him. She also said that the brother of Muhammad Ibrahim, who was also sentenced in the same case as Alaa, had also applied for presidential pardon. 

Alaa played a significant role in the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt which forced out the regime of long-term authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. However, since the al-Sisi government came to power through a military coup in 2013, Alaa and thousands of other human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and political activists, have been subjected to political persecution. Alaa has spent eight of the last 10 years behind bars. He is currently serving five years in prison for “spreading fake news” after being convicted in December 2021. The charges against him as well as his trial have been questioned by activists who claim that they were concocted.