The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms is one of the few human rights organisations still operating in a country which has waged an orchestrated campaign against independent civil society groups. Egypt is becoming increasingly hostile to dissent, but ECRF continues to provide advocacy, legal support and campaign coordination, drawing attention to the many ongoing human rights abuses under the autocratic rule of President Abdel Fattah-el-Sisi. Their work has seen them subject to state harassment, their headquarters have been raided and staff members arrested. ECRF are committed to carrying on with their work regardless of the challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured being with you this evening, no words can explain my gratitude to Index on Censorship for such an opportunity to speak in front of you and for having this valuable prize on behalf of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Such international recognition makes us stronger.
No matter how dark is the moment, love and hope are always possible.
And when I speak of love and hope, I have to speak about Hanan Badeldin, the young lady whose husband Khaled Hafez disappeared five years ago, and she persistently kept looking for him all this time through visiting all prisons, asking forcibly disappeared people who reappeared if they saw her husband in any detention facilities they had been to. During one of these visits, almost a year ago, Hanan was arrested and detained on charges of smuggling an illicit item into prison. This illicit item was a paper with the name of her husband and the date of his disappearance, asking to be circulated among prisoners so that anyone who might have seen her husband could give her any information about him
Did Hanan surrender? No, in every renewal of her detention session, she took the photo of her husband with her, raising it in the hope that any other prisoner there might identify where he was.
And when I speak of love and hope, I have to speak about Ibrahim Metwally, whose son Amr disappeared in 2013. Ibrahim kept looking for him for more than four years and Ibrahim is now in jail. Why? Because he formed the association of the families of the forcibly disappeared, and this has been sufficient reason for the authorities to lock him up in solitary confinement in a cell full of garbage for more than a year.
And when I speak of love and hope, I have to speak about Paola Regeni and her son Giulio, an Italian PhD student who lived in Egypt, who disappeared and was killed in Egypt in 2016. For more than two years she has sparked waves of hope and persistence both in Egypt and Italy, speaking each and every time about enforced disappearances in Egypt, speaking out for the truth for Giulio and the disappeared in Egypt.
And when I speak of love and hope, I have to speak about the great lawyers who spend a lot of sleepless nights trying to help victims in Egypt and the wonderful researchers and campaigners who remain the voice of the voiceless victims.
Love and hope were my cell mates when I was kept in solitary confinement at this time almost two years ago in a dark cell where I was deprived of even having a pillow and let me tell you, they were the perfect companions.
Love and hope are our sole weapons against our greatest enemy fear. Together we will conquer it, and it is not an anticipation, it is a promise.
Truth for Giulio Regeni and every Giulio in Egypt.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s an honour to be here with you tonight. Thank you so much.