A letter to my brother, in jail for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt
Tarek Tito's brother Mahmoud Hussein has spent over a year in an Egyptian jail, simply for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt. On the anniversary of Mahmoud's 600th day in jail, Tarek writes his younger brother a letter.
My little Mahmoud, 600 days have passed and you are not yet home.
I can no longer stand your absence. The bitterness of separation disrupts our small family. Mother makes your bed every morning while she hides her tears from us, and Father stares at your face in the photos that now cover his room. It’s as if he is getting to know you all over again. We miss your laughter and await your freedom with every sunrise.
The day I almost lost my mind
You have been detained for more than 600 days for wearing a t-shirt that said “Nation without Torture”. That was our dream following the 25 January Revolution – the dream of a country that respects and honours the human body and protects it from torture.
Forgive me my child, but the idea that you suffered all this for simply hoping for a nation without torture angers me more with every night that passes. You are behind bars and I feel so angry and frustrated every time I remember that is why you are suffering, while Mubarak’s forces who killed demonstrators were acquitted. Forgive me but I can no longer take the sight of those metal handcuffs around your wrists without trial.
Let me tell you, my child, that I almost lost my mind the day I found out that you had been tortured.
Your halted future
Each week we stand in line to visit you in prison. It’s a very long line, full of people waiting to see their loved ones, waiting to register for entry, and all the while receiving insults. Their stories, and their families’ tears, all revolve around the injustice we live in, my child.
Forgive me for not bringing you a cake on your birthday, but your jailer refused my request. He replied sarcastically: “How can I let you bring him cake, he should feel imprisoned.” Your jailer denied you the chance to mark the passing of another year of your life.
Our parents cry over your halted future. You are imprisoned and we don't understand why.
With every new hearing, we feel hope and yearn for your release. But each time our hopes turn to sadness and defeat when they decide to renew your detention. Your parents’ tears stream down their faces for their beloved child of 18, who is imprisoned and they don’t understand why. They cry over your halted future. We watch your school mates succeed and go to college, while prison keeps you from continuing your education or pursuing your dreams.
Your friends and supporters believe in you
But let me tell you my dear that I am proud of you, for your beautiful artist soul and the paintings you send your friends. Your cheerful paintings of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck bring joy and fun to the faces of your friends who have stuck them on the walls of their homes.
Over the past few days, I have received letters from different countries in solidarity with you, saying that they are supporting your case through an Amnesty petition demanding your release. The number of signatures has reached several thousand. They all believe in you my dear, despite your young age.
Hang on to your dream, dear brother, of a nation without torture
My dear brother, let me tell you that no matter how long you are detained, you will be out with us and fill the world with drawings and colours. I demand justice for you, my dear brother.
Tomorrow will be beautiful in Egypt
Hang on to your dream of a nation without torture, to a country that has a future for its youth, and, as you told me in your last letter from the appeals prison, tomorrow will be beautiful for us in our beautiful country.
I bid you goodbye and tell you that I will keep fighting for your freedom, for you and all those who are unjustly detained.
Help us demand Mahmoud's release. You can sign our petition to the Egyptian authorities here, take action on Twitter and follow us and Tarek on Twitter for updates.
A version of this letter was originally published on 16 September 2015 on Daily Egypt News