285 Egyptian women and girls detained in Egypt for political reasons

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“The number of women in detention currently in Egypt has reached 285 women and girls.” This is what Egyptian human rights reports revealed on International Women’s Day. Reports revealed that 48 women and girls are serving their sentences in Egyptian prisons as political detainees, in addition to 193 women and girls in pretrial detention. Statistics indicate that the Egyptian authorities rearrested 25 women and girls and enrolled them in new cases, and 11 women and girls were subjected to enforced disappearance in prisons and National Security headquarters in Egypt.

There are still seven women and girls in prison, despite the fact that decisions have been issued to release them. The organisations documented that those female prisoners were subjected to abuse in Egyptian prisons over the past few days. Among those abused was Rayman al-Hassani, who has been in pretrial detention for two years and eight months in al-Qanater Women’s Prison. She was subjected to brutal beatings and was transferred from the remand wing to death row.

The criminal justice programme of the human rights organisation received a complaint from the al-Hassani family who told them about incidents of severe beatings and how prison authorities stripped detainees of their necessary personal belongings. The organisation said, “This is a breach of the law and a flagrant violation of prison regulations, guarantees, and rights that must be provided to pretrial detainees.” Al-Hassani was arrested in May 2018 and detained for three weeks before being brought before the State Security Prosecution, on charges of “joining a terrorist group established in contravention of the provisions of the law with knowledge of its objectives, and receiving funding to support the terrorist group.”

The Egyptian detainee Marwa Arafa, a blogger and translator, was arrested in April 2020 and is currently in al-Qanater Women’s Prison, north of Cairo. She was subjected to several violations. She confirmed that, in early February, the prison administration stripped her of all her belongings and personal belongings and all the prisoners in the same ward. Then she was transferred from ward 7 to ward 4 wearing prison clothes and just a blanket for cover. They left her to sleep on the tiles in freezing weather, which caused her bone pain. They also deprived her of personal hygiene tools.

The reason they took revenge on Marwa Arafa is that the prison administration found a mobile phone inside the ward, the owner of which was not known. So, the female prisoners were stripped of their tools. Human rights organisations have previously documented the painful health and psychological conditions of Arafa’s infant daughter, who suffers from serious problems since her mother’s arrest last year. Marwa suffered a nervous shock that negatively affected her movement and understanding, which required her to undergo weekly treatment sessions. Marwa’s family previously submitted complaints to National Security to demand her release to take care of her daughter, but the inquiries and complaints went unanswered.

Fadwa Khaled, the daughter of the imprisoned lawyer, Hoda Abdel Moneim, revealed that her mother attends the sessions to renew her detention every 45 days in an ambulance due to the deterioration of her health. The counseling room at the Cairo Criminal Court is reviewing an order to renew Hoda’s detention after more than two years in pretrial detention since her arrest in November 2018. She is facing charges of “broadcasting, publishing and broadcasting false news and data, misusing a method of social media, Facebook, and engaging a terrorist group with knowledge and promoting its purposes.”

Journalist Solafa Magdy, who was arbitrarily detained, complained of physical violence and ill-treatment at the hands of police secretaries and guards in al-Qanater prison. Amnesty International has previously called on the Egyptian authorities to conduct effective and independent investigations, hold accountable those responsible for the attacks against Solafa, and protect her from further violations. Independent Egyptian human rights organisations accuse the Egyptian authorities of reprisals to silence human rights defenders, academics, and their families. Reprisals have become a common practice carried out by the Egyptian authorities towards activists, human rights defenders, and journalists inside Egypt and the diaspora.