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Egypt

    March 09, 2016

    Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as “Shawkan”) has spent nearly 1,000 days in jail after photographing the violent response of security forces to a sit-in protest in Cairo. He has been tortured in detention and now faces trumped-up charges which could lead to life imprisonment. Ahead of his trial on 26 March, he sent Amnesty this letter about his experiences in prison.

    At 7:45am, a tall, hard-hearted and thick-minded informant with barely recognizable facial expressions shows up; his accent betrays his countryside origins. His mission and assignment inside the prison, like his other “team” members of informants, are to stand near your head and shout the following: “Stand up buddies, all of you; it is inspection time”. 

    January 27, 2016

    By Nicholas Piachaud, Egypt Researcher at Amnesty International

    Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat.

    Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone.

    He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record.

    Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.

    January 22, 2016

    By Mohamed Lotfy, Executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and former researcher for Amnesty International. 

    Never before in my 10-year career has working on human rights in Egypt been so dangerous. 

    Today in Egypt, human rights activists, lawyers, political activists and independent journalists, all have to live with their phone calls being tapped, endless smear campaigns and hate speech from state-affiliated media as well as continuous harassment and intimidation from the authorities. 

    For some, this relentless persecution can even lead to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, harsh sentences after unfair trials and sometimes even torture, enforced disappearance at the hands of the state or death in custody as a result of medical negligence. This is pretty much the same list of human rights violations suffered by the people whose rights such defenders are meant to be protecting through their activism and work. 

    December 02, 2015

    Photojournalist, Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan), is passionate about taking pictures. He is now paying the price for his peaceful work and faces life imprisonment.

    Police arrested Mahmoud Abu Zeid in August 2013 after he photographed security forces’ violent dispersal of street protests in Cairo. Mahmoud Abu Zeid has been in detention ever since, in violation of Egyptian law that sets the maximum period for pre-trial detention at two years. He is the only Egyptian journalist to have been held beyond the two-year cap on pre-trial detention.

    Shawkan has been referred to Cairo’s Criminal Court to face trumped-up charges in a mass trial of 738 defendants. The first court session is set for December 12, and his lawyer has yet to be given access to the full casefile. Amnesty International considers Shawkan to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release. 

    This is his latest letter from prison:

    September 25, 2015

    Media workers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free. Just weeks after a court sentenced them to another three years in prison, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has cut short the rest of their sentences and released them under a presidential pardon.

    For more than a year and a half they have been persecuted by Egyptian authorities – forced to endure two drawn-out, politically-motivated trials and months in prison – simply for their work for news channel Al Jazeera English.

    Their release is very welcome news, although they should never have been jailed for the ludicrous charges of ‘broadcasting false news’ and operating as journalists without authorisation. We continue to call on Egyptian authorities to drop all criminal charges against them and their colleague Peter Greste.

    September 18, 2015

    Tarek Tito's brother Mahmoud Hussein has spent over a year in an Egyptian jail, simply for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt. On the anniversary of Mahmoud's 600th day in jail, Tarek writes his younger brother a letter.

    My little Mahmoud, 600 days have passed and you are not yet home.

    I can no longer stand your absence.  The bitterness of separation disrupts our small family. Mother makes your bed every morning while she hides her tears from us, and Father stares at your face in the photos that now cover his room. It’s as if he is getting to know you all over again. We miss your laughter and await your freedom with every sunrise.

    The day I almost lost my mind

    You have been detained for more than 600 days for wearing a t-shirt that said “Nation without Torture”. That was our dream following the 25 January Revolution – the dream of a country that respects and honours the human body and protects it from torture.

    April 29, 2015

    In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.

    These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.

    April 10, 2015

    Today will be a nerve-wracking day for Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old US-Egyptian activist who has been languishing in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, where he has been on hunger strike for more than 14 months.

    The court sentenced his father, Salah Soltan, and 13 others to death on 16 March. Their sentences may be confirmed after consultation with the Grand Mufti.

    Tomorrow, Mohamed and 36 others will face the same court on charges including “funding the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in” – a mass protest in Cairo in August 2013 that was forcibly dispersed by security forces – and spreading “false information” to destabilize the security of Egypt. They are part of a group of 51 individuals arrested after the sit-in as part of a sweeping crackdown on supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.

    Mohamed’s sister, Hanaa, is incredibly anxious about what the future might hold for her family. Below is a harrowing letter she wrote to her brother:

    Dear Mohamed,

    April 07, 2015

    By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty Internationa. Follow Hassiba on Twitter @HassibaHS.

    For 600 days Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, a 27-year-old Egyptian photojournalist, has been holed up in a small cell in the infamous Tora prison. His crime: taking pictures of the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. He is one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013. Six have been killed since then.

    Here’s a harrowing letter that Mahmoud Abou Zeid sent from his cell:

    “My life changed forever on the morning of Wednesday 14 August 2013. I was taking pictures of people protesting on the streets of Cairo when police came and locked down the streets. Thousands of people were immediately arrested – not only Morsi supporters, but also dozens of people caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    January 25, 2015

    By Tarek Chatila, Montreal-area activist and writer for Amnesty Canada’s Isr/OT/PA co-group

    “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote French critic Alphonse Karr in 1849. Turbulent change, he observed, has a counterproductive tendency to reinforce the status quo.

    A truism which precisely reflects the state of human rights in Egypt today.

    Four years after electrifying scenes beamed around the world from Tahrir Square - a vast ocean of people congregating and chanting defiantly for democratic reform - the aspirations of the Egyptian people and the ‘January 25 Revolution’ have yet to be realized.

    And while the Egyptian popular uprising succeeded in deposing long-serving President Hosni Mubarak, successive administrations have failed to adequately address the endemic human rights violations which continue to plague the country.

    The faces have changed, but the policies remain much the same.

    January 25, 2015

    By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program

    The streets are empty. The prisons are full. The fourth anniversary of Egypt’s “25 January Revolution” is passing largely in silence, with many of the young activists who led it now firmly behind bars.

    For many women in Egypt, this Sunday will bring back particularly bitter memories – of a brief moment when it seemed that a better future was finally within reach.

    Women stood alongside men throughout the 2011 uprising. However, in the years since they have faced a rising tide of violence and discrimination.

    And nowhere is safe.

    Shocking testimonies uncovered by Amnesty International show women enduring violence at the hands of their partners, the public and the police.

    Women are not safe at home. One woman told Amnesty International of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband:

    November 25, 2014

    Widespread student protests against the repressive practices of the current government have rocked Egypt since the academic year began on October 11th. The subsequent crackdown by the authorites has been marked by arbitrary and excessive use of force resulting in hundreds of arrests and injuries.

    Amnesty International Canada and the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy have co-authored the following statement of solidarity:

    We, the undersigned student associations and clubs, are following closely the situation in Egypt and the violation of the basic human rights of Egyptian students in universities all over Egypt since the start of the school year there in October.

    November 28, 2013

    Ahmed Ezz, a mechanical engineer, talks about his voluntary work with Operation Anti-Sexual Harrassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), an activist organization based in Cairo, Egypt, known for intervening in sexual assaults by mobs in Tahrir Square.

    When people find out that a woman has been sexually harassed and assaulted, their first reaction is “what was she wearing?”. They always lay the blame on the women themselves. I’ve witnessed this so many times.

    It is not safe at all in Cairo for women and girls. Their freedom of movement is constantly constrained. Some avoid using the metro, and spend more money on taking taxis or multiple buses, simply to minimize the risk of harassment and assault. If women and girls complain about sexual harassment, people around them just try to calm them down, belittle their concerns or accuse them of unjustly pointing the fingers at harassers.

    Finding a solution

    November 13, 2013

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

    For months, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have been sounding the alarm bell about the erosion of women’s human rights in Egypt. The issue received media coverage in June and July of this year when a large number of women were attacked while protesting in Tahrir Square, but otherwise media and public attention to this issue has been scant.

    July 03, 2013

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Egypt researcher, blogs from Cairo

    While the world is focusing on the political fall-out of millions of people taking to the streets in Egypt, with widespread calls for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, and the army taking over, other stomach-turning developments have passed virtually unnoticed: Women and girls protesting in the vicinity of Tahrir Square are, time and time again, being sexually attacked by mobs, with authorities remaining idle.

    This is not a new phenomenon.

    Testimonies from women caught up in the demonstrations, survivors from previous protests and those trying to help, point to a horrific chain of events: tens if not hundreds of men surround their victims, tearing-off their clothes and veils, unzipping trousers, groping breasts and backsides. Sticks, blades and other weapons are frequently used in such attacks.

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