People are taking part in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights action this week by writing letters and signing petitions to show solidarity with individuals who suffer human right abuses.
Shaimaa is the wife of human rights defender Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein (known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr), who has been in administrative detention in Egypt since February 2008.
He was arrested following demonstrations in Sinai against plans by the authorities to demolish thousands of homes near the border with the Gaza Strip.
Two years have passed since my husband Musaad Abu Fagr was arrested. For my daughter Ranad and I, every day that passes feels like 10 years.
Ranad was three years old when my husband was arrested. She used to sleep after he kissed her goodnight and wake up after a kiss from him. He used to drive her to school every day.
Ranad is now five years old. Even though I try to play this role as her mother, Ranad misses her father’s presence in her life. What hurts me is that her father used to do a lot of things for her; he used to play with her and take her to the playground or the sports club.
She always repeats his words, and when she goes to bed, Ranad sends kisses to her father and when she wakes up she asks: “Did Musaad get my kisses?”.
Everything she does proves how much she misses her father. When we go to visit Musaad in prison, she does not leave his lap. She touches his face with her little hands, looks at him and asks: “When will you come back with us?”.
This question hurts me and her father a lot because she is a child entitled to enjoy having both her parents with her. She wishes that her father is always with her, just like her friends.
It breaks my heart when sometimes she asks: “Why isn’t Musaad out of prison yet so that he can pick me up from school?”.
Undoubtedly, my daughter has a lot of questions. I don’t have an answer for many of her questions and sometimes I try to avoid answering them. It pains me when she says: “Mama I do not like soldiers because they took Musaad”. It saddens me when she says: “I want to break the prison gate and pull Musaad out of prison”.
The fact that she misses her father so much and my inability to make her wish come true makes me feel helpless. I always tell her that her father is in prison because he defended the oppressed people in Sinai.
My husband did not break any law or the Constitution. On the contrary, he always tells me when I visit him in prison that he did what was dictated by his conscience. All he wanted was to make the voices of marginalized people who are treated as second-class citizens heard and their problems known. He called for their rights to be upheld through seminars and conferences, through his political activities and through his articles and work as a writer and a novelist.
How can it be that a man who read Hemingway’s great “A farewell to arms” and learnt from Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Mandela, is now in prison?
How can it be the case at a time when the world is heading towards democracy and respect for human rights and respect for freedom of opinion and expression?
Countries honour writers and thinkers because they are sensitive to the people and are aware of their problems and always seek the progress of humanity. My husband’s place is not in prison. His place is outside prison defending the rights of those who have been marginalized.