Sanaa Seif joins imprisoned activists on hunger strike

After being allowed to attend her father’s funeral on Thursday, leftist youth activist Sanaa Seif has joined a growing number of political prisoners on hunger strike from behind bars to protest their conditions in detention.

Imprisoned activists are also demonstrating against the restrictive Protest Law, which has landed thousands in jails across Egypt.

Seif, 20, who was arrested near the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace along with tens of others while peacefully marching against the Protest Law on June 21, is currently being held in Qanater women’s prison, pending trial.

Seif was arrested while demanding the release of her brother Alaa Abd El Fattah who was sentenced on June 11 to 15 years’ imprisonment on charges relating to his involvement in a non-violent demonstration against the Protest Law in November.

Since their imprisonment, both Abd El Fattah and Seif had been largely restricted from visiting their then-hospitalized father – renowned human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam. On August 18, Abd El Fattah began a hunger strike in protest against these restrictions and against the Protest Law.

Ahmed Seif al-Islam passed away on August 27, prompting Seif to join her brother in his hunger strike the following day.

While both the imprisoned siblings were granted authorization from the Ministry of Interior on Thursday to attend their father’s funeral, Seif apparently felt this authorization came too little, too late.

On Friday, Mona – Seif’s elder sister – wrote on her Facebook page: “Dad’s passing in her absence, and her being denied visitations during his last days, fixed her resolve to embark on hunger strike.” Seif’s hunger strike was officially registered with the office of the general prosecutor on Thursday.

Beyond protesting against the conditions that kept her away from her father’s side as he was dying, Mona wrote that Sanaa’s “hunger strike is directed against the Protest Law which has resulted in her unjust imprisonment, and the imprisonment of thousands of others.”

Seif and Abd El Fattah are amongst the latest political prisoners in a long and growing list who are now on hunger strike.

On August 20, Ahmed Douma, April 6 Youth Movement co-founder Mohamed Adel, Mohamed Abdel Rahman and Wael Metwally – all in Torah Prison – announced that they would join Abd El Fattah on hunger strike.

On August 8, two sisters Rasha and Hind Mounir started a hunger strike from Qanater prison. The two were arrested while participating in a march supporting ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo’s Ramses Square on August 16 last year, and have each been sentenced to 25 years.

Eighteen-year-old Ibrahim Halawa, an Egyptian-Irish national was arrested along with his three sisters during protests – also near Ramses Square – last summer and has remained in Torah prison ever since, without having any official charges leveled against him. 

Halawa reportedly began a hunger strike on August 13, while still consuming liquids, in protest against his conditions and lack of due-process rights.

Islamist activist Ibrahim al-Yamany has also reportedly been on hunger strike for the past 136 days in Wadi al-Natrun prison. 

Egyptian-American Mohamed Soltan has been on hunger strike for the past 215 days inside Torah prison. Soltan was arrested whilst participating in a march supporting President Morsi, although like many others he has not been formally charged. 

Having lost over a third of his weight, Soltan has been admitted to hospital numerous times and his life reportedly may be at risk.

On August 24, leftist activist and lawyer, Mahienour al-Massry embarked on hunger strike from Damanhour women’s prison. However, Massry called off her strike on August 26.

Facebook page dedicated to her release mentions that “Mahienour has ended her hunger strike, because of the solidarity of other prisoners with her who went on hunger strike as well. Most of them are elders, so she ended the strike for fear for their health. However, Mahienour still supports all those on hunger strike in prisons.” 

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