Their faces were widely known in the 25 January 2011 revolution, as heroes and future leaders, because
of their roles in removing Hosni Mubarak. But on the ninth anniversary of the revolution, they are all
These 10 icons of Egypt’s 2011 revolution are now languishing in prison. They are just an example of the
thousands who are suffering in General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s prisons, after seeking a better life and
better human rights.
Since 2013, when then-defence minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in a
military coup, tens of thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested and hundreds have been
sentenced to death in mass trials, according to Human Rights Watch.
Al-Sisi has repeatedly denied that Egypt has any political prisoners and justified the crackdown against
dissidents as part of the war against terrorism.
But with a huge number of politicians in prison, including liberal, leftist, and Islamic activists, it is hard
to believe this.
Mohamed al-Beltagy is a model for the thousands of Islamic politicians and activists who have been
arrested by the al-Sisi regime.
Mohamed al-Beltagy is the secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood and was one of the political
figures who backed and participated in the 2011 pro-democracy protests in Tahrir Square.
Al-Beltagy was elected to parliament in 2005 and 2012 and was widely known for criticising the
Al-Beltagy is a physician and former lecturer in the medical school of Cairo University. He has been in
solitary confinement at a maximum-security prison since 2013.
He has been sentenced to death three times over the past six years. Al-Beltagy faces a total prison
sentence of more than 170 years.
His 17-year-old daughter Asmaa was among hundreds killed in the brutal dispersal of the Rabaa Square
sit-in on August 14 2013, as she headed towards a makeshift hospital set up to help those wounded.
His son, Anas, who was detained in December 2013, languishes in prison although he has been acquitted
in two of the cases filed against him and has served more than two-thirds of his jail term in a third case.
Al-Beltagy is suffering from medical negligence. In March last year, he told the judge that a stroke in
January had left his right arm debilitated, and affected his pronunciation and left him unconscious.
Alaa Abdel Fattah
Alaa Abdel Fattah is a leading voice on the Egyptian left, and he is one of the well-known figures of the
Abdel Fattah has been jailed twice, the first on charges of protesting without permission in 2013 and was
released in March 2019.
Less than six months later, he was jailed where he has been since September 29 2019.
For six months after he left prison, Alaa spent every night in a cell in his local police station, according to
the terms of his parole. However, he was arrested again in September 2019.
The 37-year-old activist is facing charges of “belonging to an illegal organisation” and “spreading false
According to his lawyers, Abdel Fattah has been beaten, threatened and robbed in prison since his
Alaa was slapped and kicked as he entered the prison door, his family confirmed, and told to strip to his
underwear, then forced to walk down a corridor of people as he was beaten on his back and neck for 15
After the beatings stopped, the lawyers said, Abdel Fattah was blindfolded again and taken to see an
officer who, according to a family statement, told him that “he hates the revolution and hates him.”
Essam Sultan was known as an opponent to the Mubarak regime, and his name became well-known in
the 2011 revolution. He was elected as a member of parliament in the first post-revolution parliament.
The Egyptian lawyer and politician is also known for his prosecution of Mubarak regime symbols, and he
was a member of the Kefaya movement and the National Association for Change.
After the 2011 revolution he was the vice president and co-founder of the al-Wasat party, the first
Islamic party in Egypt.
Sultan, 56, opposed the 2013 removal of Morsi and was one of the people rounded up after the coup.
He has been held in solitary confinement in the notorious Scorpion Prison since his arrest in July 2013
until now and has been charged under many cases.
Mahienour el-Massry, 34, used to demand the release of political prisoners, but rather than getting them
released, she has joined them in prison. She is an award-winning human rights lawyer.
Mahienour was jailed twice, in 2015 and 2017, on charges related to her protests calling for the release of
She was last detained on September 24, when she was arrested outside the state prosecutor’s
headquarters, where she was representing clients arrested on charges of joining illegal protests.
On this day, security forces in civilian clothes snatched Mahienour and took her away by minibus. It only
became clear later that she had been arrested, according to her colleagues.
In addition to her legal career, Mahienour has been an outspoken pro-democracy activist. She has taken
part in organising protests and events in solidarity with political prisoners and to promote the
independence of the judiciary.
Mohamed al-Qassas was known for his attempt to form a common Egyptian current that gathered all
revolutionary powers after the 2011 revolution.
He was a leading member of the youth alliance that helped coordinate the 2011 revolution.
Al-Qassas is the vice-president of the Strong Egypt Party. His party called for boycotting the 2018
presidential elections in which al-Sisi ran virtually uncontested.
Al-Qassas was arrested on February 8 2018 and was charged with joining the Muslim Brotherhood, and
“disseminating false news.” He was also added to case 977/2017, which includes several activists,
bloggers, and journalists.
He was released on December 8 after serving two years in solitary confinement. Al-Qassas, however, was
re-arrested on January 21 2020, in what rights groups have said is “a recycling of a previous case.”
The current case, according to a joint statement by Egyptian rights groups, is based on “national security
investigations” only, and accuses al-Qassas of organising meetings inside his solitary prison cell, as well
as joining a terrorist group and financing it from inside the prison.
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 69, ran in the 2012 presidential elections and came fourth with 17.4 per
cent of the vote (more than 4 million).
Aboul Fotouh is the founder and president of the Strong Egypt party, which he established after quitting
the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 over disagreements with its leaders.
He was among Brotherhood leaders who backed the 25 January protests against Mubarak, through his
participation at one of its earliest protests.
He has been held in pre-trial detention since February 2018, accused of spreading false news to harm
national interests. Aboul Fotouh has since been held in solitary confinement at Tora Prison. His cell is
2×3 metres in size.
It is believed he was arrested because of media interviews he conducted with journalists from London
the month before, in which he indirectly criticised al-Sisi and the pre-election exclusion of all the
president’s potential rivals.
Shadi Al-Ghazali Harb
Shadi Al-Ghazali Harb was one of the well-known youth leaders of the 2011 revolution against Mubarak.
Harb also organised protests against Morsi, the democratically elected president who belonged to the
Muslim Brotherhood and supported his ousting by the military in 2013.
After that, the liberal activist started to criticise the al-Sisi regime because of human rights violations,
and his foreign policy.
Harb was arrested in May 2018 and is currently being held in pre-trial detention on charges of joining a
terrorist group, spreading false news and calling for terrorist acts.
The evidence brought against him consisted of tweets in which he criticised a number of foreign policy
decisions by al-Sisi, including ceding the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian-
Israeli gas exchange deal.
Hoda Abdelmoneim, 60, is a human rights lawyer and activist, who appeared in the 2011 revolution
demanding people participate in the protests in front of the High Court headquarters, in the centre of
Cairo, according to a video clip republished by activists.
Hoda played a leading role in the 2011 revolution, leading a women’s protest that was one of the first
demonstrations to reach Tahrir Square on 25 January.
Hoda has been arrested and kept in pre-trial detention since November 1 2018.
She is currently being held at al-Qanater women’s prison in Egypt’s Monufia province, north of Cairo.
Hoda was a member of the National Council on Human Rights (an official organisation), but she quit the
state institution after al-Sisi took power in 2013.
Her daughter confirms that Hoda had been providing legal assistance to families of people who had been
victims of enforced disappearance in Egypt, prior to her arrest, in November 2018.
As part of her efforts to document cases of the forcibly disappeared, Hoda had volunteered as a
consultant for the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a prominent human rights
Many of the members of ECRF have been arrested in the latest crackdown campaigns.
She disappeared for 21 days before appearing at Cairo’s National Security Prosecution headquarters
later in November, accused of “joining an illegal group” and “inciting harm to the national economy.”
“Amnesty International believes that Hoda’s activism, as well as being a member of the defence team in
several human rights cases, are the reasons behind her arrest,” the rights group said in the wake of her
Ziad al-Alimi emerged as a prominent face of the 2011 revolution, and a former member of the first post-
revolution parliament. He was arrested in June 2019 along with a number of left-wing and liberal
Ziad is a lawyer and a former member of parliament. During the 2011 revolution he served as a member
and spokesperson of the key youth group organising the protests, the Revolutionary Youth Alliance.
He was arrested by plain clothes officers from a friend’s home in Cairo’s Maadi district in June,
according to his mother.
His friends have repeatedly warned that he suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma,
which could deteriorate in prison.
He was charged with working to form the Hope Alliance to compete in the parliamentary and municipal
elections, against the pro-Sisi candidates.
Esraa Abdel Fattah
Esraa Abdel Fattah was one of the most iconic leaders during April 2008 strike, and then again during
the 2011 revolution.
Esraa, 41-years-old, has been in pre-trial detention since October 2019, on charges of receiving foreign
Esraa started a hunger strike on December 8 in protest against the authorities’ failure to investigate her
torture complaints, and her health has reportedly deteriorated following that.
She was arrested on October 12 and later added to a case involving a group of dissidents who are all
charged with joining an outlawed group, spreading false news and misusing social media.
Esraa has denied the charges, and activists mentioned that her arrest came as authorities cracked down
on a spate of protests in September, the first public protests against al-Sisi in years.
Prior to her arrest in October, she worked as a digital media specialist and journalist at the pro-Sisi
newspaper, Al-Youm Al-Sabea (The 7th day).
But a leaked audio clip, released after her arrest, revealed Esraa speaking to another activist and
criticising the al-Sisi regime.