A young talented student full of life and joy, just like any other mid-twenties guy, his life was going well with his friends, fiancée and study. That’s until the day he got arrested just because he happened to go to a police station asking about one of his friends.
“Staying in a small dark cell that can barely bear few people in it, your future starts to fade away as you know nothing about what tomorrow might bring,”the former political detainee wrote on his Facebook page. “We were 24 people living in a 15 square meter cell trying to survive with each other.”
He was released eight months later after he and another 30 students were acquitted with the help of the Justice Centre for Rights and Freedom (JCRF).
The JCRF is an Egyptian human rights non-governmental organization that fights for students’ rights inside and outside college campuses. It aims to defend students in cases of torture, arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance.
“Other than getting arrested, a lot of students are losing the right of being educated, as they are unfairly dismissed from college just because they are politically active inside campus,” said Amr Kelany, executive manager of JCRF. “We fight every injustice a student like us might face.”
The organization was established by a group of concerned students, who believe there aren’t many organizations fighting the human rights violations facing students in Egypt.
Of the several departments within JCRF, the legal unit is concerned with providing all the legal support to those students who have no one to fight for. This includes appointing lawyers to the arrested students or the ones illegally suspended by their college’s administration.
Another way of “fighting back the rolling system” is through the media department, by making the public aware of the violations they witness. “Some students are being kidnapped by police and no one knows about them, we try to deliver their voice out loud,” Kelany said.
One of the duties of the JCRF media unit is to shoot videos and take pictures of the violence perpetrated by policemen against students, to spread their “brutal actions” to the world. Furthermore, another unit complies written records of evidences of torture.
The amount of physical and emotional torture students face inside detention facilities is unbearable and can’t be imagined, but the circle of people aware of that fact is very small, according to Kelany.
Meanwhile, a third unit works on raising the level of awareness in students and people within the general public about their rights and duties “through seminars, workshops and lectures” to make sure they know how to demand them.
The 35 volunteers that run the NGO work dividedly in all of these departments, with the help of professional lawyers interested in human rights, alongside their studies at college.
To date, there are at least 314 political detainees, who were arrested from several universities since October 2014, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).