“Your brother has died. Come take his body.” These harsh words ended a strenuous search journey that the family of economic researcher Ayman Hadhoud had undertaken since his enforced disappearance by the National Security Agency (the political security apparatus of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s regime) on the sixth of last February.
Hadhoud’s story reveals the ugly face of the Sisi regime, which hundreds of propaganda series produced for it by the intelligence services will not hide, nor will all its alleged “human rights strategies” mitigate its brutality.
Who is Ayman Hadhoud?
To realize the extent of Egypt’s loss with the killing of Hadhoud, we will start with a brief word about him and his ideas. The 42-year-old Ayman graduated from the Faculty of Business Administration at the American University, then obtained an MBA from the same university, and worked at the United Nations Development Program to help small and medium-sized companies in the fight against corruption and bribery. He worked as a financial controller at the American University until his death.
According to a source close to his family, Ayman was a liberal in thought, which prompted him to join the Reform and Development Party headed by former parliamentarian and current member of the National Council for Human Rights Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, to become one of the party’s founders and a member of its supreme body. Hadhoud decided to run for the 2010 parliamentary elections in the Zeitoun district against Zakaria Azmy, head of the presidential office at the time and one of the most prominent faces of the Hosni Mubarak regime. Still, he lost in a crudely rigged the election.
Ayman, of course, joined January 25, 2011, revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime. After the 2013 military coup and the violence and repression, he did not lose his passion and desire for public work, like many others. He continued to serve the country through the Reform and Development Party. Ayman worked as an economic advisor to MP Mohamed El-Sadat when he was a member of Parliament. He was one of the researchers who prepared papers and reports on the corruption case in the House of Representatives that arose in 2017 regarding the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ali Abdel Aal at the time, buying three cars for an estimated amount of EGP 18 million, (One million dollars), a case that caused Sadat to be ousted from the House of Representatives.
Ayman tried to run in the last parliamentary elections and asked his party to support him and nominate him on its list. Still, the party refused, and here he was frustrated because he saw that the party did not select him as abandoning him, according to a source close to the family. The leftist writer Mohamed Naeem describes him as “an economic expert, an intellectual of weight, a highly educated person with a vigilant mind.” The journalist Bisan Kassab says of him as “an academic source that no journalist would dream of, Able to decipher the deliberate ambiguity of the Central Bank in monetary affairs, A model of intelligence and kindness at the same time, a model that any security authority that is highly ignorant and backward must hate.
Enforced disappearance and murder
On the evening of last February 5, Ayman was having dinner with his brother Omar, after which he left, heading to his home in the upscale Heliopolis neighbourhood. That was the last time Omar saw him alive. The next day Ayman disappeared, and the family did not find a trace of him, so I started asking about him everywhere. And on the fourth day of the disappearance, he knocked on the door of the residence of Omar and his brother Adel to find one of the security men from Nasr City Department, the family’s home, which is the same as the registered residence With Ayman’s card, he tells them that “Ayman is at the headquarters of the National Security in the Amiriyah region, and that they come to receive him.” Ayman did not come out after two or three days. When his family went to ask about him at the National Security headquarters, they mistreated them and asked them to leave, without giving them any answers about his fate.
The family used friends and acquaintances to try to solve the matter and get Ayman out of his illegal detention. Still, some of their acquaintances told them, on February 16, that Ayman was transferred to the Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital due to some disorders. His brother, Adel, denied this in press statements: “We all have psychological disorders and frustrations, and Ayman Zaina, because of the lack of change, the state of the country and the prices, but there are no disorders that require hospitalization.” The family went to Abbasiya Hospital on February 17 to ask about Ayman, but they found the hospital lists blank, so they started looking for new alternatives.
The family contacted Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, who, being a current member of the National Council for Human Rights and the coordinator of the National Dialogue group mediating the release of detainees, is also the head of the party to which Ayman belongs, and they were close earlier. According to the family, Sadat communicated with the security services and made a great effort. Still, it did not lead to anything, as the answer was, “The matter is being pursued and followed up.” This is the same answer the family received from the ambassador, Moushira Khattab, the head of the National Council for Human Rights, who also sought help.
The family went back to the “acquaintances and friends” again, so they told them again that Ayman was in the Abbasid mental hospital already under observation, so his brothers went there again and learned from a doctor that he was deposited with them “from a security authority” and they are not authorized to obtain information about him except with a permit from the deputy general. Omar, accompanied by a lawyer, went to the Public Prosecution Office, trying to obtain a permit and take him back to the hospital to find out his brother’s condition. Still, the prosecution refused to grant them the permit, asking, “Why do we give you a permit? Who told you that he is in the hospital too? We have no case, so we cannot issue a permit.” “.
On April 4, the family knew from a worker at the Abbasid Hospital that Ayman “died a whole month ago,” so they tried to verify the information. His brother Omar went again to Abbasiya Hospital. The hospital administration informed him of all the statements and bodies in the hospital refrigerator, and he did not find him among them. On Saturday, April 9, the family was surprised by a call from a security official informing them officially of Ayman’s death and asking them to go to the Abbasiya Mental Hospital to receive his body.
Brazenness has no limits
Omar went to the Public Prosecution Office to obtain a permit to receive his brother’s body from the hospital and bury it. He was surprised that Ayman had died on March 5 when he realized that he had spent a whole month searching for his brother, who had died and was lying alone in the mortuary. Omar also discovered that the Public Prosecution issued a permit to bury his brother in the charity cemetery as being unidentified (although his ID card was in his possession at the time of his disappearance), which did not allow him to see the cause of death issued in the permit, so he requested that the permit be amended to bury him in the family cemetery.
Omar says about the fate that awaited his brother: “If we had not started talking to many people and looking around for him, their time would have buried him in the cemeteries of charity and salvation, and we would not have known anything.” Perhaps this is the case for many of the forcibly disappeared years ago. Omar obtained two accounts to arrest his brother, the first from the prosecution saying that Ayman (a well-known economic researcher) was arrested while he was trying to steal a car, and the other from Abbasiya Hospital while he was finishing some papers and saying that Ayman was “accused of stealing a car in the Sinbillawin Center”, which is located in Dakahlia Governorate, about 117 km away from his place of residence. The family rejected the prosecution’s account that Ayman had been arrested during the theft, and they said that he had been forcibly disappeared from the National Security Agency. Hence, the prosecution ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Ayman Hadhoud’s story came out into the open and spread like wildfire on social networking sites in Egypt. The Ministry of Interior tried to end the matter and came up with the third account of his arrest and the presence of his body in a psychiatric hospital. The Ministry of the Interior’s account says that it arrested Hadhoud after receiving a report on February 6, 2022, from a property guard in the Zamalek area about Houdoud’s presence inside the property and “attempting to break the door of one of the apartments and committing irresponsible behaviour,” then depositing him “in a psychiatric hospital based on the Public Prosecution’s decision.”
As usual, the Ministry of Interior tried to politicize the Hadhoud killing incident by including the name of the Brotherhood in the case by saying that the conversations about Ayman’s forcible disappearance before his death were rumours from “some pages affiliated with the terrorist Brotherhood on social media”, in an attempt to terrorize Ayman’s family and send an unofficial message. They say that whoever speaks from them will be accused of belonging to the Brotherhood.
The Ministry of Interior’s account of Hadhoud’s murder evokes nothing but disgust at this appalling level of outright fabrication. Lies do not convince a young child. Is this what Quraiha, one of the most repressive security agencies in the world, argued? The Interior is so full of holes that it is a comic tragedy. The Ministry of the Interior says that Ayman has been arrested since his enforced disappearance on February 6, so why did his family not know this from the moment of his arrest despite his family’s desperate attempts to obtain any information about him? Why did National Security send his family to investigate Ayman’s activities and then tell them he’ll be out in two or three days? Why did the prosecution deny knowing anything about Hudhoud and refuse to give his family permission to visit him at the Abbasiya Hospital? Why did the Ministry of Interior deny Ayman’s death for a whole month? Where was Ayman’s body when his brother went to the Abbasiya Hospital morgue on April 4 and did not find it?
If we assume that a sober economic researcher and a member of the upper house of a political party represented in Parliament suddenly went crazy and tried to break into an apartment, where are the surveillance cameras that recorded this incident? Where is the record of seizure and investigations by the prosecution? And whose apartment was this he was trying to break into? And if we go beyond all these questions, why did the official accounts conflict about Ayman’s arrest? Why did the Public Prosecution say that he was accused of stealing a car, and why did the Abbasiya Hospital say he was charged with stealing Sinbillawin’s car? Then why does the Ministry of Interior say that he tried to break into an apartment? Which story is correct? Where is the evidence for its validity?
A thousand questions and questions stem from the Ministry of Interior’s fabricated narrative, which, if it wants to prove it, must respond to all these questions with convincing answers. Still, the truth is that the Ministry of Interior – and the Sisi regime – does not want its narrative to be straightforward, but it wants the far and near to know that it is a repressive killing device that does not fear anyone. He will not even bother preparing a coherent fabricated narrative that will convince public opinion.
What happened with Ayman Hadhoud could happen to any Egyptian under the iron rule of Sisi. Every Egyptian is Ayman Hadhoud’s project, walking on his feet at the mercy of this oppressive regime. Every Egyptian is subject to enforced disappearance and merciless killing. Egypt has no hope except to get rid of this regime perching on its chest with its military leadership.