Jailed blogger Alaa urges Egyptians to celebrate his birthday in Tahrir

Following the extension of the imprisonment of Alaa Abdel-Fattah for a further fifteen days, the prominent Egyptian blogger has sent a message to his supporters from his prison cell, asking them to celebrate his 30th birthday in Tahrir Square on 18 November.

Alaa was summoned by a military prosecutor last month after an article he wrote exploring the death of activist Meena Daniel in October appeared in an Egyptian newspaper, and was returned to prison.

In this message to his supporters, Alaa stresses his fears for the wellbeing of his mother, who is on hunger strike for his release, his concerns for his wife, Manal, and explains that he will miss his “special” birthday and Eid celebrations. The blogger, who blamed the military for Daniel’s death, fears that whilst imprisoned he will miss the birth of his first son:

“I’ve spent Eid away from my family for the past three years due to living abroad. It used to pass like an ordinary day, we go to work late in the morning and if it wasn’t for that one phone call , we wouldn’t even know its Eid.

I was keen on this Eid, the first Eid to spend with the family after we moved back, but the military decided that it is not our right to be happy. I spent Eid in a cell and my family spent it waiting in a queue that lasted the entire Eid day, only for a sample of visitors to be able to go inside accompanied by security officers who outnumber them.

Between making sure my mother , who began a hunger strike to call for my release is alright and the tension of being denied the exchange of letters with Manal, the minutes of the visit finished fast and the first day of Eid was over.

The employees, the guards and the officers had to leave to celebrate Eid and this means that the prison is operating at half capacity, as in they closed the cells for four days in a row: no time out of the cell, no visits, no newspapers, no food from outside, do you want criminals to celebrate Eid for god’s sake?

If it wasn’t for your tweets that arrived in the form of Eid postcards, I wasn’t going to feel that there was Eid in the outside world , thank you for troubling yourself and thanks to the people behind this idea.

Eid is over, but my birthday is coming up, for the last four years, I have celebrated my birthday away from my family, but this time was supposed to be special. My 30th birthday, the beginning of my realisation that I have entered adulthood with no going back. It is also a few days before Khalid is born.  On the 18th of November, we will return to Tahrir, I wanted to celebrate with my fellow revolutionaries at Tahrir square and then, with my family at night. But of course, Friday is not a visiting day and they wouldn’t open our doors.

I ask you to celebrate on my behalf at the square, when I receive news of your solidarity with me, they are the only moments that make me happy. From the protests in front of the Appeals Prison ( sadly, I have not felt them since I’m locked in the other side, but I’ve heard about them from other prisoners) to the protests against military trials from Luxor to Alexandria and even in Oakland and San Francisco , two cities I have visited for a short while but have entered my heart after attending their meetings and lectures.

The Eid has passed, my birthday will pass and I will be used to spending them away from my family, but the birth of Khalid, my first son, how can I miss it?

How can I tolerate not being next to Manal all this time? How can I wait for the news to find out whether they are alright or not? How can I tolerate not seeing his face?

How can I not see his mother’s face when she sees his face? How can I look at his face after I’m released even though I promised him to be born free?

We called him Khalid because we are endowed to Khalid Said and instead of imprisoning his murderers, we are imprisoned?”

Special thanks to Reem Abbas for the translation. 

Blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah: A return to Mubarak’s prisons

Cross posted from Felix Arabia

I did not expect that the very same experience would be repeated after five years. After a revolution in which we have ousted the tyrant, I go back to jail?

The memories of being incarcerated have returned, all the details, from the skills of being able to sleep on the floor with eight colleagues in a small cell (2 x 4 metres) to the songs and discussions of the inmates. But I am completely unable to remember how I secured my glasses while asleep. They were trampled upon three times in one day. I realise suddenly that they are the very same pair I had when I was jailed in 2006, and that I am imprisoned, now, pending investigation under similarly flimsy accusations  and reasons of that incarceration. The only difference is that we have exchanged state security prosecution with military prosecution: a change fitting to the military moment we are living in.

The previous time, I was joined in detention by 50 colleagues from the Kefaya movement, but on this occasion I am alone, together with eight wrongly accused.

As soon as they realised that I was from the “Youth of the Revolution” they started cursing at the revolution and how it failed in “sorting out” the Interior Ministry. I spent the first two days listening to stories of torture by the police force, which is not only adamantly resisting reform, but also seeking revenge for being defeated by the downtrodden, the guilty and the innocent.

From their stories I discover the truth of the great achievements of the restoration of security. Two of my colleagues are in jail for the first time, simple youth without a grain of violence. And what is it they are accused of? Forming a gang. Now I understand what the Interior Ministry means when it reports that it has caught armed gangs. I congratulate the country for the restoration of security then.

In the following few hours, sunlight will enter our always dim cell, we read the creative Arabic engravings of a former colleague, four walls from floor to ceiling covered in Quran, prayers, supplications, thoughts and what appear to be the will of a tyrant to repent.

The next day we discover in the corner the date of the inmate’s execution and we are overwhelmed by tears.

The guilty plan on repenting, but the innocent do not know what to do to avoid a similar fate.

On the radio I hear the speech of his Excellency the General inaugurating the tallest flag pole in the world, one which will certainly enter the record books. And I wonder: Was the inclusion of the name of the martyr Mina Daniel as one of the instigators in my case also a record in audacity? On the basis of it not being sufficient for them to be first to kill the victim and to walk in the funeral but also to spit on the corpse and accuse it of a crime?

Or perhaps this cell can win the record of the number of cockroaches? My thoughts are interrupted by Abu Mailk: “I swear to God Almighty, if the wronged are not absolved, this revolution will not succeed.”

The third day, 1/11/2011Cell 19, Prison of Appeal, Bab Al KhalqAlaa Abdel Fattah