In a few days it will be our second Eid Al-Adha without you, the joy of the holiday comes incomplete because of your absence; 600 days have passed and you are not home. We miss your laughs and your words. We taste grief and sorrow as we watch your school mates succeed and go to college while your prison keeps you from continuing your education or pursuing your dreams.
My little Mahmoud, pardon me, for I can no longer stand your absence. The bitterness of separation disturbs the life of our small family. Pardon me, for I can no longer take the sight of these metal handcuffs around your wrists without trial. Pardon me my child, but the idea that you suffered all this for wearing clothes with the words “A Nation without Torture” written on them angers me more with every night that passes with you behind bars, detained for no crime but that you hopped for a nation without torture.
We await your freedom with every sunrise. Mother makes your bed every morning while she hides her tears from us, and I usually watch father as he looks at your face in the pictures that now cover his room, as if he is getting to know you all over again.
Let me tell you that happiness tries to sneak into our house and among our family with the arrival of our sister’s newborn, Hana [happiness]. She named her Hana despite all the grief and sorrow, hoping that she comes with glad tidings of your release and with it all the happiness and bliss. I will tell you of her welcome party, and how everyone was present; the relatives, neighbours and friends. They were all asking about you and imagining what you would be doing with the baby if you were here. They were racing to take photos with the baby and kept asking me to send you her picture, as if you were with us in all the details of the celebration.
I will tell you about the hope and yearning we feel with every hearing session in front of the renewals judge, hoping for your release; about how it turns into sadness and defeat when they decide to renew your detention, and about your parents’ tears streaming down their faces for their beloved child of 18, who is imprisoned while they don’t know why. They cry over your absent future.
Let me tell you, my child, that the 600 days you have spent in El-Marg police department, the Abu Za’abal prison, the Appeal Prison, and the Tora Investigation Prison, in which you suffered violations and assaults that reached the extent of torture, were enough to kill the life in me. What made me almost lose my mind was the day I knew you were tortured.
My anger and frustration increase whenever I remember that what you are suffering is because you wore a t-shirt that said “Nation without Torture”, that dream we had after the 25 January Revolution of a country that respects and honours the human body and protects it from torture.
Pardon me for not bringing you a cake on your birthday, your jailer refused to bring you cake and replied sarcastically: “How can I let you bring him cake, he should feel imprisoned.” Your jailer, who announced that prisons are five stars, is the one denying a preventive detainee to feel the passing of a year of his life.
Let me tell you about the lines we stand in when we await your weekly visit in front of prison, a very long line where people stand to see their loved ones, a very long wait to register for entry, and multiple violations and insults against the families. The families’ tears and the stories of others all revolve around the injustice we live in, my child.
But let me tell you my dear that I am proud of you for your beautiful soul that made an artist out of you, and the paintings you send to your friends. These paintings of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck that draw joy and fun on the faces of friends, once they see them, have found their places on the walls of their houses.
Your beautiful and cheerful drawings broke through prison cells and reached the detained girls of the Itihadiya case in Qanater Prison, who always take pride in your strength and your patience despite your young age.
Over the past few days, I have received letters from different countries in solidarity with you, saying that they are supporting your case through a petition to Amnesty International demanding your release, and that the number of signatures has reached several thousand. They all believe in you my dear and they see you life-size despite your young age.
I eulogise justice for you, my dear brother. Over the past months an officer who gouged out the eye of a suspect in a police station was released, and the two national security officers who have tortured lawyer Kareem Hamdy to death were released, although forensics say he was tortured.
Also let me tell you that all the figures of Mubarak’s regime were acquitted from the cases of corruption and the killing of demonstrators, while you have been detained for more than 600 days for wearing a t-shirt, and photojournalist “Shawkan” has been detained for more than two years just for carrying a camera to convey the truth.
I eulogise the law for you. In Egypt, the law says that any accused is “innocent until proven guilty”, not preventively detained. I want to tell you that this law only applies to the figures of Mubarak’s regime and the officers accused of killing and torturing Kareem Hamdy, but not you and not to Shawkan. Why? I do not know.
In the end, my dear brother, I tell you that, no matter how long you are detained, you will be out with us and fill the world with drawings and colours as you used to tell me in your letters. Hang on to your dream of a nation without torture, to a country that has a future for its youth, and, as you told me in your last letter from the appeals prison, tomorrow will be beautiful for us in our beautiful country.
I bid you goodbye and tell you that I will keep fighting for your freedom, you and all the unjustly detained.