Mohamed Beltagy: One of the January Revolution’s forgotten heroes

On the tenth anniversary of the 25January Revolution, we remember Professor Mohamed Beltagy, one of its icons, who is paying the price of his principles and attitudes, as he concludes his seventh year in the high security Scorpion Prison where he is denied his rights and could die at any moment from medical negligence.

Beltagy was born in 1963 in Kafr al-Dawwar in Beheira Province. He graduated from the faculty of medicine in Al-Azhar University in 1988, then got his master’s degree in 1993 and PhD in 2001. Since then, he worked as a professor of ear, nose and throat medicine in Al-Azhar University.

Beltagy joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1977 before starting his political career within the student movement. He assumed the presidency of the student union in Al-Azhar University for three consecutive years (1985-1988). Accordingly, persecution chased Beltagy and he was dismissed from his post. However, the students protested to keep Beltagy in office against the administration’s desire.  

A national fighter

Beltagy’s political career turned in 2005, when he ran for the parliament as the MB’s candidate. Despite the competition with the ruling party’s candidate and attempts of election fraud, he won the seat. In parliament, his name stood out as he raised vital issues about political reform, freedoms and human rights, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and social justice in Egypt.

Beltagy was known to be one of the figures of the democratic wing in the Muslim Brotherhood. He worked on bridging the gap between the group and other opposing political forces in Egypt. In 2009, Beltagy participated in the Egyptian Campaign against bequeathing power to Gamal Mubarak, the National Association for Change and Egyptians for Free Elections. These movements were the kernel from which the revolution has grown.

Beltagy refused the decision of the Muslim Brotherhood not to participate in the 25January protests in 2011, participating on his own. Later, he had stayed in Tahrir Square turning to be one of the leaders of the protests during the revolution. After the revolution, Beltagy was one of the founders of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political organ of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was elected to the parliament in 2012. From the revolution until the 3July military coup, Beltagy had been one of the advocates of the unity of national political forces against the counter revolution, against both the hardliners in the Muslim Brotherhood and the hardline secularists.

The forgotten prisoner

Beltagy refused to accept the military coup leaded by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against Professor Mohamed Morsi, the first elected civil president in Egypt’s history, in July 2013. During the Rabaa sit-in, Beltagy led the protests against the coup. In the bloody break-up of the sit-in, Asmaa, the 17-year-old daughter of Beltagy, was killed by the bullets of the governmental forces.

On the 29August 2013, Beltagy was arrested and detained in the disreputable Scorpion Prison. Since then, he has been sentenced to death in five cases and to life imprisonment in several other cases, all for political charges. Over and over, Beltagy’s family have complained that he is denied his simplest rights, including visits, break time outside the cell and health care. According to his wife, he suffered a stroke, but she was not told about it until recently.

Al-Sisi’s regime has not been satisfied by imprisoning Beltagy and killing his daughter, but rather it has detained his son Anas since 2013, when he was just 19-years-old. Moreover, Anas’ detention has gone on despite three court verdicts ruling that he is innocent and should be released. Every time, Anas was inserted in a new case, while he was still in prison. The same as his father, Anas is imprisoned in solitary confinement in Scorpion Prison and has been denied visits for more than four years. Moreover, Anas is denied of continuing education from prison, according to his mother. Beltagy and his family are forgotten about because they belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.