CAIRO: Walid Nasr, an Egyptian residing in Kuwait, was supposed to get engaged in three months. However, his plans went awry after he was deported from Kuwait for attempting to create a branch of the National Coalition for Change, a group headed by Mohamed ElBaradei.
Nasr, who had been living and working in Kuwait for six years, was introduced to a group of Egyptians who support ElBaradei’s campaign for change on Facebook. The group met regularly at one of Kuwait’s popular cafes.
He was in the process of turning the group into an official association — but that was before he was kidnapped and blindfolded by eight men and eventually sent back to Egypt.
Nasr was one of 31 Egyptians working in the Gulf country who were deported by Kuwaiti authorities after being accused of forming a group to support ElBaradei.
"It looks like the photos we posted of our meetings on Facebook angered some people so they decided to get rid of us," Nasr said.
Mohamed Farrag, one of the founders of the group, worked at Al Thuraya TV channel. He lived in Kuwait with his wife, 11-month-old child and brother — all of them were deported even though he was the only one involved in the group.
Farrag claims that he was promised that those who had families will not be forced to leave Kuwait.
“My family is still in a state of shock from what happened to me; I supported three families: mine, my parents’ and my wife’s parents’ and I left everything in Kuwait, my house, my car, my clothes. I only returned with my passport," Farrag told Daily News Egypt.
Both Nasr and Farrag are now unemployed in Egypt as they await a resolution that would allow them to return to Kuwait.
"I am now looking for a job but it is difficult for someone like me because I have been working abroad for a long time and my expertise are different than what is needed here in Egypt," Nasr said.
"I just want to know if we are returning or not; if we are, then being unemployed is not a concern for now, but if we can’t [go back to Kuwait], then I have to continue looking for a job. It is hard to get engaged while unemployed," he added.
Other deportees claim they were not involved with the group.
Khalifa Abdel Hamid, a driver who has been working in Kuwait for 12 years, was arrested even though he claims he was never involved in politics.
"I was going to the restaurant to have lunch; I saw a group of Egyptians and they asked me to come and sign my name on a paper, I even asked another driver I knew to come and sign," Abdel Hamid said.
The men who invited Abdel Hamid were undercover Kuwaiti officers searching for Egyptians who used to meet at this restaurant to discuss ElBaradei’s campaign.
"I feel like I am in a coma; I was never interested in political issues and I kept telling my interrogators that I was arrested by mistake, but it was no use,” he said, “Now, I lost my job and I have five children who go to private schools and I have no savings. Finding a job at my age is very difficult."
Moreover, Mohamed Ghanim said he received a phone call telling him he won a prize that would be delivered to his house. Half an hour later, Kuwaiti forces arrested him from his home.
During interrogation, detainees were kept in individual cells and were asked why they supported ElBaradei and not President Mubarak. They claim they were also subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
"When I told the officer that this is an Egyptian internal affair, I was beaten; they also threatened me with the sound of a whip while I was kept blindfolded," Farrag said.
"We weren’t approached by the Egyptian Embassy, despite our attempts,” Nasr said, adding that they were told by some officers that what happened was planned by Egyptian authorities.
Deported workers were kept in handcuffs until they reached Cairo Airport where they were "received with hospitality" by Egyptian authorities.
Several initiatives were launched to file cases to international organizations in an attempt to follow legal routes to return the deported Egyptians to Kuwait.
"We are filing a complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Arab Labor Organization because there is nothing in Kuwaiti law that states that these people are criminals or need to be deported," Magda Fathy, rights lawyer and member of Egyptian Women for Change, said.
"We are also sending a delegation to demand the rights of these workers," she added.