Mustafa al-Najjar: The tragic story of a forced disappearance in Egypt

Shaima Afifi, an Egyptian mother, no longer finds answers to her children’s questions about their
father’s 16-month absence.
Shaima, who is a mathematics teacher, says that she will continue to knock on the judicial and media
doors and launch campaigns on social media until she finds where her husband is being held and the
real reason why he disappeared.
Shaima is the wife of dentist Mustafa Al-Najjar, a former political activist and parliamentarian, whom
she lost contact with after he told his wife that he was in Aswan, southern Egypt, days before his trial
session with others was set to begin, on charges of insulting the judiciary in September 2018.
Days later, his wife received a phone call from an unknown person on her home phone stating that her
husband had been arrested.
Since then, there has been great ambiguity surrounding the fate of al-Najjar, with many opinions offered
about why he disappeared, but they are not based on any real evidence, whether about his death, or his
detention by the security forces.
Security forces consistently deny his enforced disappearance, which does not provide any explanation
for his disappearance.
However, this week, an Egyptian court ruled in a lawsuit filed by Shaima that the Egyptian Ministry of
Interior must reveal al-Najjar’s location, despite repeated denials that the ministry was holding him.
However, it is not a final judgment and the Ministry of the Interior can appeal against the ruling before
the Supreme Administrative Court.
Shaima asks, “Mustafa is an Egyptian citizen, isn’t the state supposed to tell me where he is? Even if he is
on the run, they should find him. We have the right to know where my husband is.”
Al-Najjar was one of whose most prominent figures in the 25 January Revolution, as he was a member of
the Revolution Youth Coalition, founded by activists in Tahrir Square. He then participated in founding
the Justice Party and won the People’s Assembly elections in 2011.
His wife says that the family was proud of him and his desire to change the political situation in his
country at that time, for the better.
Shaima still works in the education field, but now she runs Mustafa’s clinics as well, in addition to caring
for her three children.
And she says her children always ask, “Where is our father? Why does he not stay with us? And why does
he work all this time in a far place, even though his clinic is near the house?”
The family tries to continue their life, under the circumstances of al-Najjar’s disappearance, however it is
difficult to go on without knowing the fate of their father.
Lawyer for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Nour Fahmy says that the ruling obliging
the Ministry of Interior to disclose the location of the carpenter was issued after the State Cases
Authority refused to provide evidence of his detention, according to the BBC.
Al-Najjar’s wife stresses that the government has failed to search for her husband, and denies that any
official has contacted her in this regard. She says she does not see a logical explanation for this except
that Mustafa is being held.
While other activists, including the well-known figure Wael Ghoneim who is a friend of al-Najjar,
suggest that he may have died or been killed in Aswan in the south of the country, his wife asserts that
no one has provided evidence of this.

Al-Najjar’s family and friends continued to publish news about him during his disappearance in online
Several international and domestic human rights organisations called on the authorities to make an
effort to find him and reveal his whereabouts.
Al-Najjar disappeared a few days before he was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted
of insulting the judiciary, along with a number of opponents, political activists, and legal activists on
October 15, 2018.
Al-Najjar was tried for statements he made in a 2012 parliamentary session in which he criticised what
he described as the “failure of the judiciary to hold security forces accountable” for killing protesters in
the January 2011 revolution.
The Interior Ministry more than once denied al-Najjar’s arrest, and so did the Egyptian State
Information Service.
However, Negad el-Borai, the lawyer for the al-Najjar family, is not as sure as Shaima that al-Najjar is
being held, and believes that the case is sensitive, and that he “cannot confirm the arrest of a person,
while no one has said that he saw a policeman stop him.”
“Unfortunately, the case of Mustafa al-Najjar is used politically, and some do not take into account the
grief and psychological pressures on the family due to conflicting information,” el-Borai added.
El-Borai is calling on the Ministry of Interior to make a greater effort to reveal the fate of al-Najjar and
clarify the matter to public opinion, to inform his family of the measures taken in the search for him, and
to circulate his image and announce a reward for those who provide information that contributes to
revealing his whereabouts.
In response to foreign media reports that raised the subject of al-Najjar’s disappearance, the Egypt State
Information Service said: “There is absolutely no truth to any rumours about the so-called enforced
disappearance. Moustafa is still fleeing with all his will not to implement the judicial ruling issued
against him, and that everything that is otherwise is nothing but allegations.”
Egypt has a miserable record of enforced disappearances and unlawful detention, despite the fact that
security authorities’ deny any human rights violations.
Human rights organisations say that thousands of political detainees were forcibly disappeared and later
appeared in front of the prosecutor and were accused in political cases.
Usually, Egyptian authorities say that the arrest of these defendants took place less than 24 hours before
their presentation to the prosecution, and denies reports of their disappearance before that date for
weeks or months.