By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2903

Free all the Palestine campaigners arrested by brutal Egyptian regime

Egypt say it backs the Palestinians, but represses their best supporters
Issue 2903
Women with a Palestine flag on a protest

The protest on Tuesday which the Egyptian authorities repressed (Picture: EIPR)

In a crackdown on protest, Egyptian authorities arrested 19 people demonstrating on Tuesday in solidarity with the women of Gaza and Sudan.

The arrests underline the disgusting hypocrisy of the Egyptian regime which claims to stand with the Palestinians but represses those who want to escalate solidarity with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

Those seized include lawyer and socialist Mahienour el-Masry, Lobna Darwish from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) human rights group and journalist Rasha Azab. Also arrested were Hadeer Almahdawy, Asmaa Naeem, Farida al-Hefny, Eman Ouf, May al-Mahdy, Israa Youssef and Lina Aly.

Most of those involved were feminist activists who assembled outside the regional headquarters of UN Women in Cairo. UN Women describe itself as the “United Nations entity charged with working for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

The Freedoms Committee of the Egyptian journalists’ union has called for the release of all those “arrested during a peaceful protest they organised in front of the United Nations headquarters, in rejection of the international failure towards the Zionist entity’s aggression against our people in Gaza, especially the violations against women in Gaza, and in Sudan amid….international silence.”

Mahienour is well known for her work defending activists, trade unionists and Syrian refugees. The state jailed her for two years in 2014 in a case connected with protests over the acquittal of policemen charged with the murder of Khaled Said.

He was the man whose death in 2010 sparked the protest movement which paved the way for the 2011 uprising.

The authorities released Mahienour in September 2014, only to be sentenced on a different charge, in May 2015, when under the Morsi presidency, she and a group of lawyers started a sit-in in front of El-Raml police station in Alexandria. They were demanding an official apology from the Ministry of Interior regarding a police attack on another lawyer.

In 2018 courts convicted her of breaking Egypt’s repressive anti-protest law, and breaching a law on public assembly imposed by the British colonial authorities in 1914. She was sentenced to two years in jail but quickly won release on appeal.

In September 2019, Mahienour was detained in Alexandria on charges of terrorism, releasing and spreading false rumours, and misuse of social media.

In August 2020, she was interrogated at the public prosecution office accused of a further count of “joining an illegal organisation”.

With that record—and there are many other instances of arrests and interrogation—imagine what resolve it took to return to protest this week. 

Eyewitnesses said the security forces attached to the UN Women offices assaulted the activists who participated in the protest on Tuesday at around 2pm local time. Contact with the detained group was lost at 3.15pm after they were forced into security vehicles and had their phones switched off.

EIPR said, “The protest was staged in solidarity with women in Palestine and Sudan and demanded an end to the war of annihilation in Gaza that has been ongoing for 200 days at the time of the protest.

In Britain, the Mena Solidarity Network and University and College Workers 4 Palestine said, “We are alarmed to hear that a case (no. 1567/2024) has been opened against those arrested on charges of ‘joining a terrorist organisation’ and ‘illegal assembly’.

“We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release all those detained and to drop any charges against them. We also call on UN Women to immediately issue a statement condemning the arrests.

“We condemn the role of the Egyptian government in maintaining the siege of Gaza and fuelling the conflict in Sudan through its military and diplomatic support for the Sudanese Armed Forces. We demand that the British, EU and US governments end arms sales and diplomatic backing for Egypt’s brutal authoritarian regime.

“We salute all those who are standing in solidarity with people resisting war and genocide and speaking out against the complicity of our governments and international institutions.”

  • Sign and share a statement for the release of all those arrested here 
  • For a full list of those detained in recent protests go here 

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