Prison security chief, Mohamed Ali Hussein, has claimed there are no hunger strikers in Egyptian jails, Aswat Masriya reported on Monday.
“All of those people eat and drink normally every day – if they are on a hunger strike, they would have died a long time ago,” he claimed, when asked about the conditions of hunger striking detainees Alaa Abd El Fattah and his sister, Sanaa Seif.
However, Hussein’s remarks contradict an earlier statement by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), after a delegation from the council visited a number of hunger striking detainees.
The statement said that activist Ahmed Douma, who is serving a three-year prison sentence, is deteriorating, before recommending he be referred to a hospital outside prison for a proper medical examination.
The NCHR also demanded putting activist Mohamed Abdel Rahman, known as Nouby, under strict medical observation due to his continued low blood pressure that could lead to a full coma.
The number of hunger striking activists has been on the rise after rights groups launched a campaign named “We are fed up” to demand annulling a contentious Protest Law and releasing hundreds if not thousands of detainees imprisoned since its implementation.
The lead was taken by Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah al-Shamy, who started a hunger strike in January to protest months of administrative detention. His case drew major support both locally and internationally, ultimately pressuring the Egyptian authorities to release him in June.
On Monday, detainee Mohamed Soltan entered his 226th day on full hunger strike, in protest against his year-long detention on charges of violence and terrorism. His family says his health condition is deteriorating.
Ibrahim al-Yamani is currently the longest-serving hunger striking detainee, with 385 days on hunger strike.
The Freedom for the Brave campaign said Monday in an official statement that a total of 91 people are on a hunger strike as a part of the campaign. Fifty-nine of those are on full hunger strike inside prisons, while 27 are outside prison. Seven others are on a partial hunger strike outside prison.
Alaa and Sanaa’s sister, activist Mona Seif, as well as her mother Laila Soueif are on a hunger strike as well, joined by other prominent activists.
Hany al-Houssieny, a professor at Cairo University and member of the March 9 Movement for the Independence of Universities, became the latest to join the hunger striking crowds, saying that he was part of the protest where Sanaa was arrested. Police forces were right in front of him, but they never arrested him, instead detaining the youth, Housseini claimed.
“I’m asking, why not me?” he said on his Facebook page.
Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence explained that in the first three days of the hunger strike, the body gets its needed energy from glucose stored in the body. Afterwards, the body uses the fats stored in the body in a process called ketosis. However, after three weeks, the body enters a stage of famine.
The rights organization added that all types of hunger strikes can be dangerous for one’s general health, but vary from one person to another according to age, physical and health condition, the length of the strike, and the amount of weight loss.