Help Free My Brother
British national, Alaa, has been wrongly imprisoned in Egypt since 2021, having already spent time behind bars. His sister Sanaa is desperate for the British authorities to act now to help free Alaa. Here she explains their camaign to free her brother and why they need all the help they can get. Content warnings: references to hunger strike & descriptions of poor physical health.
Around this time last year, it felt as if the world’s attention was fixed on my brother’s case, in amongst the media whirlwind that surrounded COP27 and our campaign to free Alaa, I began to be swept up. I began to hope that my brother could be home with our family for Christmas and that this nightmare would end. Days before the conference, the UK’s Prime Minister had written to me, assuring me he was “totally committed” to resolving my brother's case which he then raised with President Sisi [of Egypt]. It felt as if we were making progress.
Yet, within a few days, I was on my way to visit my brother in prison and those feelings of hope had turned to guilt. Guilt that for all our efforts, we had failed, and my brother remained without his freedom. Before our visit, Alaa had collapsed to the ground in his cell as a result of his water strike, he had come seriously close to death. Yet when I was going to see him that day, I could not help but feel he had given in too soon.
When I saw him that afternoon in the visitation room at Wady El Natroun prison, I was shocked at how thin he was, his cheekbones and eyes were sticking out. Once we began talking, his voice soothed me. I was wrong, he didn't give in too soon. The authorities were willing to let him die. He told us of his near-death experience, of collapsing on the bathroom floor, having gone days without water and food, before being woken up by the medical team while lying on the floor of his cell. He told us how he had then heard music for the first time in three years and the joy this brought him, even in the most difficult circumstances.
That day, I hugged Alaa for the first time in three years. I could feel his frailty, and in that moment I felt nothing but gratitude that he was alive.
Since the mania of those few weeks, and despite the promises Rishi Sunak offered me, Alaa remains imprisoned. His conditions have improved, he is allowed to live with some basic humanity and is no longer denied access to books and music. But we are unwilling to settle for anything less than his freedom.
My family cannot wait around for the British government to remember Alaa, and that’s why we’ve filed an urgent appeal with the United Nations Expert Group requesting urgent action from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over his continuing and unjust imprisonment in Egypt.
During Alaa’s imprisonment, I have been continually strengthened by the solidarity shown to us by human rights activists, climate activists, and the thousands of people around the world who have called for Alaa’s release. Their support keeps me and this campaign going and my family are so grateful to everyone who has given us their support.
We need our supporters' help for the next stage of our campaign - Amnesty has just launched its action calling on people to write to their MPs and ask that they call for Alaa’s release. We mustn’t let elected representatives forget about Alaa, he has already lost too much of his life and freedom in a prison cell. I hope that this is the last Christmas that Alaa’s son will spend without his father.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.