The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Mosaad Abu Fajr, a voice for Sinai

Sinai writer and blogger Mosaad Abu Fajr, who was recently released after three years in prison:

My experience as a detainee is infinite, it is like fate which one has to adjust himself to. The conditions in Egyptian prisons are unendurable. The way inmates are received is cruel. I was not exposed to sunlight until my family came to visit me. We remained confined in our cells for 20 days, and were only allowed out within the one meter that separates the cells. The atmosphere there is filled with the odors of death and silence, and empty of any signs of hope.

Worst of all is the process of searching the prisons. At such times, we are treated as objects or animals rather than humans. Officers goad us with their sticks, forcing us to put our hands on our heads as they drive us out of our cells. Then we have to gather all our belongings into one pile and spend a whole day searching for them. These conditions do not suit Egypt’s name and history.

As for me, I was put in a cell with inmates sentenced to life. Imagine a cell originally devoted to six inmates but containing more than 60, with prisoners sleeping in shifts.

Some interesting stuff happening in Sinai in recent weeks — notably Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly's meeting with tribal elders. About the time the bull was seized by the horns: Egypt had allowed this situation to fester for far too long, largely because the faults of the Interior Ministry (brutality, etc.) went unpunished. Al-Adly deserves to be sacked many times over for various things — the general decline of police work and torture epidemic, his lackluster counter-terrorism policies, his inability or unwillingness to reform a central state institution — but his handling of Sinai may be the most serious crime of all, from a national security point of view. His political longevity is one of the great mysteries of today's Egypt.