To silence Sinai, Egypt arrest activist Ashraf Ayoub and his son

In a new measure to silence all voices from North Sinai and isolate the whole region completely from the world, the Egyptian security forces have arrested the Sinai activist and press and political journalist Ashraf Ayoub and his son Sherif. Ashraf has joined the list of detainees and disappeared persons of North Sinai, among whom is his brother Ayman Ayoub who was forcibly disappeared in May 2015. At 2.30 am on Tuesday, August 4, a force affiliated to the National Security Service of the North Sinai Governorate stormed the house of the Sinai leader in al-Arish. The force confiscated his and his family’s computers and phones then took him and his son Sherif Ayoub to the Second Unit of al-Arish Police Precinct.

Ashraf Ayoub is one of the most famous leftists in the North Sinai Governorate. He participated in forming the socialist movement “January” after the revolution in 2011. He is the editor-in-chief of the website Yasar Sinai (Sinai Leftist) and published hundreds of articles on press websites like Modern Discussion and Elwa3y Alarabi. He formerly assumed many positions at the Conference Party and worked for several years as a journalist for the party’s gazette and participated in founding the People’s Front of North Sinai.

According to what Egypt Watch has found out, the security forces previously arrested a number of Ashraf’s colleagues and relatives, among whom are activists Ashraf el-Hefny and Ayman al-Ratil, who have been under pretrial detention for almost a year now. Ayman, Ashraf’s elder brother, was arrested and has been forcibly disappeared by the police for more than five years.

Ashraf’s arrest came as a shock to activists on the left in Egypt. Thinker Mohamed Seif el-Dawla wrote on his page, “Today, Ashraf Ayoub, one of the biggest enemies of Zionism, Israel, and the Camp David Agreement, who is also known as the Voice of Sinai, was arrested. He is one of the few activists who understands and always asserts that all of Egypt’s crises and disasters are the results of the Camp David Agreement with the occupying state. He always put negating that agreement and becoming free from its restraints at the top of his priorities.”

The last thing Ayoub wrote on his page was a call to free his colleague Ashraf el-Hefny, who is at risk of losing his eyesight inside the prison. Ayoub wrote: “Save Ashraf el-Hefny from blindness! In 15 days, i.e., on 17th August 2020, my comrade will be 55-years-old. By then, he will have spent the last 8 months of his 54th year behind the bars of Tora Agricultural Prison with no charges except for a line of accusation in a report submitted by a National Security Officer to the Supreme State Security Prosecution, which says: ‘dissemination of false information via his account on the social media site, Facebook.’

Accordingly, the prosecution decided to imprison him after he spent 48 days detained at the National Security Headquarters in al-Arish, North Sinai. He suffers from hypertension and diabetes and was preparing for surgical intervention for cataracts in both his eyes, but his imprisonment conditions resulted in the deterioration of his health condition. His poor medical condition was confirmed during his first interrogation by the prosecution that ordered him to be examined by the doctors of the prison’s hospital. He, however, was not sent for that examination until now and, consequently, his medical condition is deteriorating and his diabetes now requires insulin injections for treatment after it was being treated by first-phase simpler medications. This, in turn, reflected negatively on his vision which is steadily declining because of his uncontrolled diabetes on top of his untreated cataract.

Now, his advanced diabetes, cataract, together with the coronavirus pandemic, which targets the inhabitants of the earth and has the optimum environment for its spread in these prisons, are joining forces to dispose of what little is left of his eyesight. #Save_Ashraf_El-Hanafy’s_Eyes. Release him so he can regain his full vision. #Free_Ashraf_El-Hanafy.”

Before this post, Ayoub had written a severe response to the failure of the Renaissance Dam negotiations: “Has the Egyptian army’s religion become defending the Camp David Agreement and its security annexes only?” He criticised the ongoing declaration of a state of emergency and curfew in North Sinai Governorate, the closure of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza Strip, and the buffer zone along the border with the Strip. The family of the detained leader said that Ayoub and his son were taken to the Second Unit of al-Arish Police Precinct, where they disappeared. An officer, however, revealed later on that they were taken for interrogation at the National Security.

Al-Sisi’s regime is imposing an absolute media blackout on North Sinai Governorate, which is undergoing confrontations between the military forces and the police on one side and armed factions on the other side since 2011. Outrageously, the police and military forces have made it their habit to consistently violate the human rights of the inhabitants and arrest their activists then forcibly conceal them.