The Story of Alaa Abd el-Fattah
By: Carrie Stewart/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Alaa Abd el-Fattah is a British-Egyptian activist, blogger, and software developer who started a hunger strike more than 7 months ago. According to freealaa.net, he is “a fiercely independent thinker who fuses politics and technology in powerful prose, an activist whose ideas represent a global generation which has only known struggle against a failing system, a public intellectual with the rare courage to offer personal, painful honesty, Alaa’s voice came to symbolize much of what was fresh, inspiring and revolutionary about the uprisings that have defined the last decade.”
- In 2006, Alaa was jailed in Egypt for participating in a peaceful protest
- In 2013, he was in jail for 115 days (without trial), then ended up with a five-year sentence with 5 years of probation
- In 2019, he was arrested and accused of spreading fake news/joining a terrorist organization.
- Since 2019, he’s been in the “maximum-security wing of Tora Prison” (According to International Service for Human Rights, he is among “60,000 political prisoners held in Egyptian prisons in terrible and decaying conditions without any basic rights, sufficient food, or access to health care.”)
- On April 2, 2022 (the first day of Ramadan), he “shaved his head and started a hunger strike” (only consuming 100 calories a day)
According to acessnow.org, “Alaa has faced all manner of torture and inhumane treatment, and his friends and family have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and even detainment themselves. His most recent sentencing does not account for the more than two years Alaa already spent in prison awaiting trial, confined to a small cell inside Cairo’s infamous Tora maximum security prison without a clock, books, or exercise, and only allowed out of his cell for court appearances and visitations. Although he was recently transferred to the new Wadi el-Natrun prison complex where he “slept on a mattress for the first time in years” received books and writing materials, and was allowed to exercise, authorities are still targeting Alaa and denying his basic rights.”
The Hunger Strike
Alaa’s health was deteriorating fast. On November 6th, before COP27 started (the world’s leading climate change summit) in Sharm el Sheikh Egypt, he announced he would stop drinking water – his time was running out.
On the 200th day of his strike, his sister started a sit-in outside the Foreign Office in London, demanding the government release her brother. His family had not been able to communicate with him and he hadn’t had fresh air, exercise, books, or newspapers available. According to acessnow.org, “Over 60 British MPs have also called on UK Secretary of State James Cleverly to free Alaa before COP27. Despite all the pressure, Alaa has yet to receive a UK consular visit, cannot communicate with his UK lawyers, and is still asking for a judge to investigate the complaints he and his family have filed over his unjust detention.”
However, according to a note to his family sent, Alaa ended his hunger strike on Tuesday 11/15/22. He said, “the important thing is I want to celebrate my birthday with you on Thursday, I haven’t celebrated for a long time, and want to celebrate with my cellmates, so bring a cake, normal provisions, I’ve broken my strike.”
The hashtag #FreeAlaa has become a cry against the government. People have been using it frequently on social media platforms such as Twitter. Even though one tweet may seem like a small thing, millions can certainly make an impact. Alaa believes in the power of communication, and it might be able to help him. Below are some examples of popular posts about him.
If you feel strongly about this situation, you can donate to the cause, start your own form of protest, write to MPs in the UK and urge them to intervene, sign petitions, or even speak out on social media!
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