Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Esraa El-Taweel says She is disappointed with Egypt

Freelance Photographer Esraa El-Taweel has sent her first letter from detention earlier this month and she requested her friends and family to spread it as much as they can.She recounts what happened to her and how she feels. It is very sad letter.
El-Taweel is detained pending investigation for 45 days after forcibly disappeared for more than 15 days. She is now facing charges of joining the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news.
Here is the letter translated in English by “Where is Esraa El-Taweel Facebook page ?”
1) "Among us, there is a friend who never feels tired; a friend who is always faithful, delicate, and if he says, he does."On Monday, 1st of June, Sohaib’s trial session was in court. I was talking to Umar on phone telling him about my fear for Sohaib wishing I could bear what he might face of unfair verdicts. Umar said that we will never undergo anything except what we have been destined to and what God has written to us. Umar told me we have nothing to do but to support him. Then he said, "let’s go out" and added “I will finish my work and then we can go horseback riding.”
2) In Time
On the same day in the morning, Umar suggested that I watch a movie called “In Time”. After watching it, I told Umar “Thanks God that we do not know what is hidden for us and that we do not know when we will pass away or what will happen. I tried to imagine if I ever knew the unseen/unknown/destined, I would be terrified.” When we were riding horses, I went absent minded, Umar asked me what I was thinking of; I said I was afraid that time will pass and we will not be together anymore.
Esraa and her cat woody

3) The Last Supper..After getting off the horses, we were clueless; where should we go for dinner? One of the things I love most about Umar is how he was always eager to experience new cuisines; every week, we tried eating in a different restaurant. He has never eaten at "Chili's" restaurant before, and the nearest Chili's branch was in Nile City in Zamalek. We sat at our table and happily ordered our meals. Sohaib called Umar saying "I am on my way to you, I will only order a salad". After finishing and exiting the restaurant, we found a big mirror and stopped to snap some photographs together. We took a lot of photos. Suhaib stood nearby to pray the evening prayer. We went out of Nile City once he was done. Suddenly, three men stopped us asking for our ID cards and our mobile phones, and then they forcefully pushed us into a micro bus. At first, I thought we were being kidnapped. I asked them repeatedly that I want to call my family but they refused. I looked behind me to find both Suhaib and Umar blindfolded. I asked one of the kidnappers who seemed to be their boss (the oldest) “Who are you sir?" He said “I am Hussam Farag “. I asked him "and What is the title of your Excellency?” He laughed and told me "I am an officer, and you'd better remain silent". After two minutes he ordered me to use my headscarf as a blindfold but it was short. Suhaib took off his T-shirt and the officer ordered him to hand it to me to cover my eyes with it.

4) 15 Days at the State Security Premises
I stayed locked up for 15 consecutive days at the State Security Premises; day-long investigations, hearing voices and screams of tortured victims, men crying out loudly. Sohaib and Umar were taken away and I was alone. I was the only girl there. For the length of the fifteen days I was kept blindfolded; hearing threats and getting horrified. Actually, I do not know how to tell what I was going through but it was a horrible and terrifying experience. During the first five days, I would tell myself "Today, they will release me and send me home". By the sixth day, I lost all hope and fell into despair. All that time, I was weeping and crying, thinking "this must be unreal", comparing it to torture in the grave. I would almost lose my mind when I thought about my family "Did anything bad/wrong happen to Dad or Mum?". I kept on praying and praying all the time. I had nothing to do but pray and weep with rivers of tears. In fact, I am unable to account for what was happening to me.

On the fifteenth day, they got me out to the deportation vehicle/wagon. I found myself at the building of the Supreme State Security Prosecution. The first round of investigations lasted for eighteen consecutive hours and it literally covered my whole life since the moment I was born. I could not understand anything of what was happening. I had been staying for sixteen days without having a shower. My legs were unable to carry me because of the injury that almost handicapped me ( I was shot with a bullet in my back on the 25th of January 2014, a fracture of the bullet hit and remained in my backbone causing temporary paralysis of which I am still suffering till this moment and can’t walk normally). I begged the prosecutor to only allow me to call my family but he refused. "You will be sent back to prison today, and tomorrow we will resume investigations".
5) Al-Qanater Women's Prison
I have been wearing a pair of trousers, a blouse, a cardigan and a short headscarf, and kidnapped with two young men. Their false accusations to me were: joining Al-Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood "MB") , supporting the MB, fabricating news and spreading them inside and outside Egypt. How crazy and stupid is this?! Who am I?! All of those accusations never happened and nothing of this has been proved. I found myself in prison. This was the first time in my life to see such great number of people and a lot of ladies. They put me in the "newcomers" cell. I did not have any clothes except that filthy galabia (female prison garment), the prosecutor told me afterwards that they call it “ Shoull”. I am in a continuous state of nonstop crying. In reality I am very weak and I am weeping all the time. I am fine with this, tears can sometimes become a beautiful soothing thing. My whole body is itching, 17 days have passed with no single shower. My family knew that I was in Al Qanater Prison and came to visit me on the first day of the Ramadan. Thanks God.. Thanks God.. Thanks God. I felt as if I stepped out of my grave. I kept on crying and feeling that my faith in God has been restored. I experienced very strange feelings and strong emotions.. as if I have been resurrected. The prison is a scary and horrible place. A whole new world different than what I know; I met detainees who were accused of drug abuse, some for being prostitutes, some for pickpocketing , some for stealing public funds etc. I have encountered their very strange people who are nearly monsters and heard very strange stories. People inside are always ready to tell lies, backstab and fabricate stories about one another; an unhealthy environment packed with many problems and much hate. All ladies inside are constantly smoking which made me almost choke and lose breath. Jail is a despicable place, I hate it very very very much. Whenever I feel exhausted, I fall asleep and wake up horrified asking "Where am I?". All that time I have the feeling I am in the middle of an endless nightmare. What brought me here? How did all of this happen and still happening? I want to go back home to mum and dad. I was kept for 9 days in the newcomers' cell, then I was transferred to the MB/ Ikhwani (Islamists) cell. Everyone knows I am not an MB member, never was and no one in my family is. The most important thing in this new cell is that no one smokes here since I was almost dying short of breath in the other one. This cell is disgusting, full of cockroaches. Everything here is very difficult. I miss my home, I miss my family and my friends, I miss my cat Woody. I badly miss everything and want to go back home.

6) "At the end of the tunnel, life gives us light. It calls us to forget the pain we once suffered greatly."I do not know what is happening. I am praying all the time, asking God to end my torture and misery in captivity. God is generous. I am very disappointed with Egypt, and everything in it. As everyday passes, I wait in my cell expecting them to release me at any moment. Really, I am full of anger and disappointment. Oh God, when will this nightmare come to an end? I am actually very weak and I know that I am not good at writing. I just want to talk and let out my thoughts and feelings, although I do not understand till now why all of this is happening. However, I am waiting for anything; for any miracle to happen and make me happy. I love my father mother and my sisters so much.. as well as all my friends; I love them dearly too. Oh God, I pray for everything to get better.
7) Release
While I am writing this right now now, news came that Summar El-Najjar and aunt Farida (2 of my cellmates) will be released. I am very happy for them. I feel that I will be released soon too. Thanks God. I am waiting for my good news. Enough is enough.

*Ah! By the way, anyone who dares call me a "Hara'er" (Arabic word for "free women" Islamists in Egypt use to iconize women and girls detained or imprisoned nowadays); I swear I will make him regret it really bad, once I am out! smile emoticon
Al Qanater Women's Prison
Esraa El-Taweel


  1. Al Jazeera published summary of the letter
    It is very sad to see all this unjustified Egyp t

  2. Also disgusting that the terroristic Egyptian dictatorship is aiding the spread of famine and vast infrastructure destruction in Yemen. Its apologists are mostly silent on the subject of its terrorism in Yemen.

  3. But, Orange Ketchup, I must disagree about Egypt's involvement in Yemen. One may reasonably oppose the actions, but they are not terrorism. It's a war being fought, in which Egypt is involved through its regular, uniformed, armed forces, in support of the long-standing government of Yemen (albeit a pretty bad one I admit), in the interest of regional stability (I suppose).

    Sorry for the run-on sentence, but the point is, it's a war. Unfortunately civilians always die in wars. Just because it's a war doesn't make it terrorism.

    1. It was a mockery of the Egyptian state's arguments about terrorism and wanton tossing around of the "MB" label. The Egyptian government normally labels everyone other than ex-regime figures as "terrorists" and "MB supporters" in post-revolution countries, even to the point of accusing post-revolution governments of being terrorist-led/MB states. If Egypt was consistent, it would have to argue that it is itself sponsoring terrorism and backing the MB/Ikwan in Yemen by fighting against Saleh's military units and the Republican Guards. Yet in Yemen, it is hypocritically not applying this standard; even to the point of backing very radical forces, including extreme Islamists. They allied with Qatar in this endeavor and have tepid verbal backing from Turkey.

      What Egypt is doing in Yemen discredits its views toward Libya and Gaza. They want ex-Qaddafi figures to be prominent in Libya, Mahmoud Dahlan in Gaza/possibly also the West Bank, and ex-NDP/military figures to dominate Egypt itself yet suddenly are taking a very different tack in Yemen.

      At the very least, the aerial attacks on civil infrastructure like hospitals and other facilities, as well as the starvation tactics, need to be acknowledged as war crimes. The war is Saudi-led, but it has further exposed the duplicitous and hypocritical nature of Arab dictatorships.

    2. Though it applies more to Saudi Arabia and the UAE than to Egypt, another facet of the hypocrisy is that all sorts of Yemeni political parties and factions were being declared to be terrorists by the GCC states, yet suddenly when they feared Yemen was escaping their grip, they delisted the "Islamist" Islah movement. Islah is now a major force in supporting and fighting for the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition appears also to have accepted al-Qaeda linked forces joining in some of its offensives as well. The GCC states can't seem to makeup their minds whether supporting MB-allied movements is equitable to terrorism or not.

      The Houthis and Saleh claim to be waging a "war against terrorism" and have defined a vast array of domestic opponents as terrorists, just like the Egyptian regime did. Egyptian propagandists claimed that a "Free Egyptian Army" was being setup to fight in Egypt, but instead Egypt itself is actually contributed to something like that in Yemen.

      Basically, the Egyptian regime claims all sorts of absurdities but is violating its own rhetoric and claims in its foreign policy conduct. Saleh is scum and the Houthis pushed things too far, but the coalition is barbaric and obsessed with dominating Yemen. The real point of the Yemen war is to help Saudi Arabia maintain control over yet another part of the Arab world.

      The Arab world will have trouble progressing as long as Arab leaderships continue to destroy and tear apart said world.

    3. Thank you, Orange Ketchup, for the detailed explanation. I agree with everything you say.


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