365 Days of Solitude

Both Ola and Hossam have been detained since 30 June 2017 on unfounded charges. On 27 June, Ola al-Qaradwi went on hunger strike to protest her detention and the poor prison conditions. On the same day, a judge examined her pre-trial detention and renewed her detention for another 45 days without allowing her lawyers to present arguments against the detention. Crushing Humanity: The Abuse of Solitary Confinement in Egypt’s Prisons.

By Aya Khalaf, daughter of Ola al-Qaradawi and Hossam Khalaf.

My mother, Ola Al-Qaradawi, is a grandmother, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and an inspiration to so many people. Her isolation from the world, the abuse she has been subjected to, and the terrible conditions she has been placed in, not only affect her, but impact all those people who are loved by her.

My mother was arbitrarily arrested, alongside my father, on 30 June 2017. For two days, we had no idea on where they were, until we discovered that they were separated and thrown into some of the worst prisons in Egypt, in the most oppressive conditions known of in these prisons.

My mother has lived a life where she has given back to so many people. Her life is full of countless experiences of happiness and joy. She is a proud graduate of the University of Texas and she is a successful woman who has raised a family while building a career. She was always a defender of human rights, the needy, and the most vulnerable.

But today my mother is being tested with extremely inhumane conditions that are beyond my comprehension.

365 days in an extremely small solitary cell known as the “punishment cell”

365 days in a cell with no bed, no toilet, no window, and no ventilation

365 days of not being able to tell day from night

365 days of no visitations and not knowing anything about her family

365 days of no paper, no pen, and no books

365 days of hearing the screams of another prisoner in the neighbouring cell

365 days of limiting her food intake because she is limited to a 5-minute use of the toilet once Daily

 

My mother is a strong woman but I am not sure what 365 days of psychological torture through inhumane conditions inflicted by the Egyptian regime will cause to any human. There are documented short term and long-term effects but I try not to think about these. In the last several detention renewal hearings she has told her lawyer that it is becoming harder for her to cope, so there is no doubt it is taking a heavy toll on her. While this should drive everyone to fight for her freedom, it is also quite scary that we have no idea what the effects will be from 365 days and counting, of darkness.

For my family, our lives are broken down by 45 day cycles of trauma. We know nothing about my mother, whether she is alive or dead, until the 45-day-detention renewal hearing comes up. Each night leaves a mark on my children when they ask me questions of “why” and “when” will grandma and grandpa come home. With each hearing, the cycle starts over again.

When I think about how this tragedy will affect my mother and my children, I force myself to mask such thoughts. I can only pray that my mother will fight each day to make it through. For me, I wake up every morning to start a new day fighting for my mother and father’s freedom.

 

Amnesty International is calling for the release of Ola al-Qaradawi and Hossam Khalaf as their detention is arbitrary. Tell @AlsisiOfficial to #freeolaandhosam