By: Dena M. Zaki
Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice” these were the demands mostly heard during the 25th of January revolution. Mubarak stepped down on the 11th of February 2011. This ushered a new era of freedom and justice for Egypt or so the people thought. Soon the hopes and dreams of the youth who fueled the revolution were crushed by the military coup that took place on July 3rd, 2013 that overthrow the elected president Mohamed Morsi. This took place after massive demonstrations against president Morsi. After the coup, some say things went back how things were during the Mubarak era but others claim that it can only be compared to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Like the Nasserist Egypt, not much evidence is needed for anyone to get politically detained the list of accusations is chiefly: belonging to the terrorist organization – the Muslim Brotherhood. There are nearly 40,000 political detainees today in the Egyptian prisons, and those are the numbers we know of. There are hundreds of people who are kidnapped by security forces and some that simply “disappear.” Tens of secret prisons in Egypt are being discovered, recently El-Azouly prison in Ismailia, and 101 prison in El-Arish, and El-Zohor Camp in El-Sheikh Zuwaid have been disclosed by human rights activists. The most popular institutions of torture in Egypt include Lazoghly National Security building, Madinet Nasser police stations, first and second district, and Kerdasa police station, among others. The violations vary from physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Today the largest segment that are living in horror are the Egyptian youth. The security forces have expanded their presence in Egyptian universities in order to suppress the students’ protests against the current state power. Just today a student named Omar Elsherif has died as a result of the police forces attacks on the Engineering College in Alexandria University.
But one does not necessarily even need to be an MB member to be prosecuted, it is enough to be the son of one. Mohamed Soltan was arrested on 25th of August, 2013, the son of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Dr. Salah Soltan, who has also been detained since 25th of August, 2013 for participating in the mass sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawya Squar. Soltan is 26 years old, an Egyptian-American dual citizen, a graduate of Ohio State University with a BA in economics. Soltan is one of 52 defendants on trial who are charged with ” forming an operations room that worked on directing the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood group in order to defy the government during the Rabaa sit-in dispersal and to incite corruption in the country” according to a statement released by the prosecutor general’s office on the 3rd of February. During the Rabaa Sit-In, Soltan was shot in his arm, prior to the forceful dispersal of the sit –ins both in Rabaa and Nahda square.
Today, Tuesday October, 21st Soltan completed 268 days on hunger strike. I spoke with Ahmed Mamdoh a sixth year medical student who has been following Soltan’s case from five months ago, since Soltan was first admitted in Kasr El-Eini hospital. Mamdoh stated: “Mohamed’s health is deteriorating, especially that the doctors in Torrah prison intentionally do not provide him with proper treatment. His last medical report states that the level of hemoglobin is 7.2 and sugar level is 34/80. Mohamed was transferred to El Manial Hospital on 7th of October as a result of an internal bleeding due to a genetic disease that was affected by the hunger-strike. At the hospital he was illegally forcefully medically treated through being given nutrition solutions without his or his family’s permission while he was chained to the hospital bed.”
During Mohamed’s hearing on October 11th, El-Manial hospital submitted a report to the court that stated that they are not accountable for Soltan’s health and that he is released from the hospital and should not return there. In a statement written on Thursday October, 16th by Soltan’s family they stated: “The doctors told him if you die here (El-Manial hospital), we’ll write that it was suicide.” Soltan’s hearing was post-ponded to October 22nd. Soltan was returned to Torrah prison as a result, where his health is deteriorating each day.
Soltan’s mother, Mrs. Asmaa Shokry El-Naggar visited him yesterday Wednesday, Oct. 20th, she commented on her visit stating: “Mohamed is in a terrible health condition. All Mohamed’s fault is that he believes in freedom and that the people of Egypt deserve to be treated with dignity. Mohamed is not receiving any health-treatment in prison. I only ask of Allah that Mohamed and his father stay strong, we have chosen this path and we are not going to give up. They want Mohamed to surrender but he will not, Mohamed’s demand is freedom and nothing less. But Mohamed is not the only one who is treated unjustly, there are thousands of Mohamed Soltans behind Egyptian cells.”
When I asked her who she holds accountable for the condition of Mohamed Soltan, She said: “I hold the so-called president Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi responsible, the Minister of interior affairs, Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister of health, and all the doctors at Torrah prison, and the embassy of the United States, since my son is an American citizen just as he is an Egyptian citizen.”
And perhaps to best understand Soltan’s decision to start on his start a hunger strike is reading his own words that he said in a message that was video-taped and smuggled out of prison in May. Mohamed Soltan stated: “I chose to start a hunger strike…because I was brought up a free man,” he said. “My decision was to peacefully challenge and resist oppression and tyranny. That even if the Egyptian military is able to jail me, and my government insists on abandoning me, I still control my own destiny. That to me is being free.”
It is obvious that Soltan will accept nothing less than either living as a free man, or dying as one. Mohamed Soltan is not only fighting his own battle, but it is the battle of all the Egyptian youth that once dreamt of a free country that respect its citizens. Mohamed Soltan is truly dying to live.
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