Minutes after midnight on Monday, social media users changed their profile pictures to activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, who today marks one year in prison.
Using the hashtag “#FreeAlaa,” which began trending globally, Facebook and Twitter users changed their avatars to Abd El Fattah’s red picture, in support of his freedom and that of other political detainees.
“Today Alaa completed a full year [in prison] and 8 months before that intermittently,” Abd El Fattah’s sister Sanaa posted on Facebook, “lend him your timeline for a day, let him be around today.”
Abd El Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison in February for allegedly breaking the protest law, along with Ahmed Abdel Rahman and 20 others, in relation to a demonstration against military trials for civilians in front of the Shura Council in 2013.
Abdel Rahman was allegedly walking by when he saw the police dispersing the demonstration and intervened to defend female protesters.
Their co-defendants in the case were sentenced to three years in prison. The court levied a LE100,000 fine against all 22 defendants.
Abd El Fattah’s other sister, Mona, posted a screenshot of the “Free Alaa” Facebook page, with his picture covering it, saying “This is how my Facebook looks like now.” Mona also posted extensively about the other detainees in the case, explaining the context of their arrest and asking why they weren’t included in a recent pardon by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“Let’s make noise together for the 4 remaining ones from El Shura case” Mona posted, referring to Abd El Fattah, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Abdel Rahman al-Sayed and Abdel Rahman al-Tarek.
In September, Sisi pardoned 100 young people serving time for charges including violating the protest law. Abd El Fattah’s sister Sanaa was among those who were released, along with 18 defendants in the Shura Council case.
Among those who changed their avatar was Bassem Youssef, who tweeted, “One year in prison, and many others like him.”
In tweets both in English and French, author Alaa al-Aswany asked how Sisi can “talk about democracy while Alaa Abd El Fattah and his comrades are in prison because they wanted Egypt to be free.”
Facebook and Twitter users also used the hashtag to post articles about and authored by Abd El Fattah. Users also reposted tweets and significant quotes by the activist.
The campaign includes posters that have popped up on the streets of Cairo, showing the four detainees of the Shura Council case who remain in prison.
The case dates back to November 26, 2013, when security forces dispersed a protest outside the Shura Council in Downtown Cairo. Demonstrators were rallying against the newly issued protest law, as well as against provisions in Egypt’s draft constitution facilitating the trial of civilians before military courts. Numerous activists were arrested and transported outside Cairo in police trucks. Several protesters were released in isolated locations outside the capital.