Campaign Highlights Struggle of Wives, Mothers of Detained Hunger-Strikers in Egypt

By Aswat Masriya

Cairo - A social media campaign has sought to highlight the plight of the wives, daughters, and mothers of the hunger-striking political detainees in Egypt's maximum-security Aqrab prison on Tuesday, which also marks International Women's Day.

"My soul is imprisoned with you," the Coalition for the Families of Aqrab Detainees coined the slogan to coincide with the international day commemorating women. "This is the condition of the woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister of a detainee who suffers from the loss of the basic right of human dignity," the coalition said on its Facebook page.

Aqrab prison is located in the Torah prison complex in Cairo. The families of Aqrab detainees have repeatedly recounted their dire experiences with prison authorities during visits and inspections.

Conditions in Egyptian prisons have been largely under scrutiny by local and international human rights organisations and the interior ministry has been facing wide scale criticism over the reports coming out of prisons.

Tens of Aqrab detainees are currently on hunger strike protesting what they see as the degrading treatment of both the inmates and their families who struggle with long waits and mistreatment during visits.

The Interior Ministry official responsible for prisons, Hassan al-Sohagi, previously told Aswat Masriya that no prisoners were on hunger strike.

The Coalition for the Families of Aqrab Detainees said on its Facebook page that thousands of families have lost their main breadwinners, with women now spending their time between courtrooms and in queues waiting for visits, the coalition added.

The campaign includes a list of slogans that put forth the families' concerns followed by the question "why" and lists grievances like ban on entry of clothes, 10-minute visits, no access to media, no medicine, no exercise, and more.

Two previous high-profile hunger-strikers who are now released, Abdalla el-Shamy and Mohamed Soltan, have expressed solidarity with Aqrab's hunger-strikers online while the two hashtags #Dyingtolive in English and the #AqrabStrike in Arabic are gaining momentum.

A statement entitled, "the conditions of the Egyptian woman," signed by five human rights organisations, including the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, said that at least 100 women have been killed over the past three years while 2000 have been detained at various points, including 24 who have stood for trial before military courts.

The organisations demanded the immediate release of all of the detained women or their fair trial.

There are currently 57 women detained on political charges in Egypt, according to the watchdog Human Rights Monitor.

Source: EMM