• Alaa Abd el-Fattah and the Hope of a Generation | The Nation

    As I write this, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is often known in Egypt just as Alaa, is on his 67th day of a hunger strike. In solitary confinement at Egypt’s maximum security Tora Prison, he has been deprived of sunlight, reading materials, or the right to walk outside his cell for exercise, and forbidden from writing or receiving letters. So he has resorted to the only means of protest that remains to him. There is so much to be said about Alaa—his transformation from blogger to “voice of a generation,” from activist to revolutionary icon, from tech whiz kid to symbol of Egypt’s hundreds of thousands of nameless disappeared. But that his life now hovers at the edge of the bardo, sustained by water and rehydration salts, is the fact that must appear first. “I’m the ghost of spring past,” he wrote in 2019, as if to prophesy his fate.
    You Have Not Yet Been Defeated: Selected Works 2011-2021

    By Alaa Abd El-Fattah

    Buy this book

    Only 40 years old, Alaa has spent most of the last decade in captivity as Egypt’s most prolific prisoner of consciousness, jailed by each of his country’s successive dictators. In 2006, he was first detained for protesting in support of judges calling for an independent judiciary. He was released 45 days later, only to then be incarcerated in 2011 and 2013 for relatively brief periods. But it was in in 2015 that he would be sentenced to five years for allegedly organizing a political protest without a permit; and then, only months after his release in 2019, he was arrested again for the crime of sharing a Facebook post. Alaa had spent his few months of relative freedom forced to sleep at the Doqqi police station in Cairo each night; upon his return to prison, he was brutally tortured. “I become an object, something to be eliminated, destroyed, disappeared, negated, excluded,” Alaa has written. “I become a symbol or a bogeyman, with no physical presence.”

    With You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, we are fortunate to have Alaa’s remarkable, collected writings now in a physical form, translated and edited by a collective that remains anonymous for their own security. With the book, we follow Alaa’s political trajectory and the evolution of his political thinking. Above all we see him ask: “What am I to do with a political self torn from its ordinary physical and human context? How do I live as a symbol however iconic it may be?” If what makes Alaa’s, or any person, “political” is their capacity to speak for, and represent, the aspirations of others, then can one ever really remain oneself? “Like a ghost,” he explains in “On Probation,” “I move in your time but I’m suspended in the past.” Imprisonment didn’t just aim to sideline him from history; it sought to deprive him of the rituals that punctuate the passage of time: He was permitted neither to be with his dying father nor to witness the birth of his son. And yet, as he reflects on his metamorphosis into an atemporal, spectral symbol, he cannot help but wonder, “When did it become OK for adults to communicate mostly in emojis and gifs?!”

    I, like many others, first heard Alaa’s name around 2006 when, shortly after the execution of Saddam Hussein, and taking heed of labor strikes and a quest for judicial independence, Egypt’s longest-ruling dictator, Husni Mubarak, had permitted mild-mannered, middle-class public criticisms of his regime. Alaa was one of a handful of activists to take advantage of relatively fast dial-up Internet access in those years and the optimism that flowed from it, but the latter was short-lived: Alaa was among many blogger-activists to end up on jail. But it wasn’t until I flew back to Egypt in January 2011, to participate in the demonstrations that would turn into the revolution, that I became better acquainted with his ideas. It was soon after that night in February, which in the mythology of Tahrir was referred to as “the Battle of the Camel.” Like Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday, the 17 days of revolution all had their holy monikers: Rage Tuesday, Departure Friday, Martyrs’ Sunday. And in those days I discovered the powerful constitutional ruminations of Alaa, whose name I had vaguely known but not associated with the kind of intricate political ideas on display in these collected essays.

    At the time that I first became aware of his thinking, there was much talk of Constitutions. Everyone knew that Mubarak’s monstrous text, despite having undergone a few cosmetic and meaningless reforms around 2006, needed to be discarded. But what would the template of Egypt’s new constitution be? Would it be “the Turkish model,” or “the American”? Amid these fierce debates, it stood out in my memory that Alaa was alone to ask why we needed somebody else’s template at all. Why couldn’t we collectively imagine (or given his training in tech, crowdsource) our own? As I remember it, Alaa said this before a gathered crowd in the square. The ideas were soon developed into an essay published in July of 2011; in the same month, Alaa’s dream of a crowdsourced Constitution was launched, as the “Let’s Write Our Constitution” movement.

    In “Who Will Write the Constitution?,” Alaa drew inspiration from South Africa’s Freedom Charter, which he considered particularly radical less for its content than for the process by which it was assembled. Mandela and his comrades didn’t presume that it was their role to “educate the public” but rather to receive instruction from them, disrupting the directional and elitist metaphors for how and why ideas travel. “Mandela and his comrades needed the public to educate them politically,” Alaa wrote. “Why assume that we’re any better?” A lack of humility, Alaa prophesied, would be our downfall. In a suburb outside Johannesburg, “in a space much like our Tahrir squares,” Alaa wrote, intentionally using the plural, “for two days, Kliptown lived the most important democratic experiment in history.” Yet democratic experiments, Alaa cautioned, are ephemeral, and necessarily tragic: Like cruel dreams that can only be experienced, felt, and seen, they disappear at the moment when we try to institutionalize them, or even translate them into words. Democracy flourishes at the interstices, the in-between spaces, at the place where politics pours into poetry. Whenever we try to render it eternal, it dies.

    Many of Alaa’s words in the collection read like prophecies or seem clairvoyant in hindsight. Yet he refuses any praise: “To every Cassandra, there is no prize for being first to make predictions, and there’s no use in saying I told you so,” he writes. “Cassandra’s tragedy isn’t that she was unable to convince others. Her tragedy, as in all Greek drama, was the failure to accept the limits of her condition.” It is precisely in our collective refusal to accept our limitations that Alaa insists the defeat of the Arab Spring is found. Defeat, he shows us, cannot be located in the actions of others but in our own, sometimes necessary, delusions. For this reason, his essays resist enumerating painful litanies of state violence, largely because Alaa insists that focusing on the missteps of the enemy is a distraction from the incoherencies, the oversights, and the divisions within each one of us. If the political is born at the moment when we distinguish between friend and enemy, the insistence that the enemy is external to us may be a comforting if also dangerous fantasy. Revolutions succeed when revolutionaries are willing to also confront their own inconsistencies and the sparring forces at the heart of their very beings. Revolutionary slogans such as despair is treason are troubling, Alaa writes: “The denial of a natural feeling scares me.”


  • Opinion | The Most Eloquent Speaker at the Climate Summit Is Alaa Abd El Fattah - The New York Times

    By refusing to even drink water during the climate summit — an event dedicated to thinking about our planet and its future — Alaa is intervening in this global conversation by staking his fragile, incarcerated body as the argument. From his prison cell, he is arguing what environmental activists have long known: Our planet and its future are not separate from us, from how we treat one another’s bodies, from whether we are able to live and think and speak safely and freely.

    A few weeks earlier, Alaa’s sister Mona Seif visited him in prison. Like all his monthly visits, it was 20 minutes long and took place with a glass barrier between them. “I am going to die in here,” he told her. “You have to get over the notion that you’re going to rescue me. Focus on achieving the highest political price for my death.”

    Alaa’s words point to a greater democratic concern beyond his self: that vaunted liberal democracies prioritize maintaining relations with dictatorships to safeguard strategic interests over the lives of their citizens — celebrated or ordinary — incarcerated and pushed to the brink of death by their authoritarian clients. Against these shortsighted politics, Alaa understands that our crises and our fates are interconnected.

    Alaa’s radical decision to stop drinking water as diplomats, journalists, politicians, scholars and activists arrived in Sharm el Sheikh is galvanizing all of this. International government and grass-roots attendees have spoken out for him at the climate summit. Solidarity has poured in from everywhere: People in Egypt, New York, Palestine and around the world are writing, protesting, reading his work and going on hunger strikes in solidarity with him.

    Because of his activism and his prolific writings, and because of how long he has been in prison, Alaa has become a symbol of the 2011 revolution, which Mr. el-Sisi, who came to power following a coup in 2013, has tried very hard to erase and prevent from recurring.

    And yet, it seems that Mr. el-Sisi and his security state cannot stop people from embracing a renewed spirit of solidarity and calls for justice, which are reverberating throughout the climate summit. Alaa is on his sixth day of refusing water, after more than seven months without food. In response to pressure about his case, the Egyptian government has asked people to not get distracted, to focus on climate issues.

    After months of denying that he was on a hunger strike, Egyptian authorities told the family that he is receiving medical intervention to prevent him from dying in prison. Alaa is not on strike because he wants to die; he is on strike because he wants to truly live. Any unwanted bodily intervention will only become a new front in his fight for his life.

    In Sharm el Sheikh, the heads of the German, British and French governments said they raised Alaa’s case in their meetings with Mr. el-Sisi this week.

    Alaa’s hunger strike has exposed the limitations of business-as-usual diplomacy and energized our capacities to create change. That goes for all of us: his loved ones and supporters, and the governments that are supposed to represent and protect him.

    Yasmin El-Rifae is the author of “Radius,” a history of a feminist group that fought mass sexual assaults at Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt.

    #Alaa_Abd_el_Fattah #Egypte

  • COP27 : en grève de la faim, Alaa Abdel Fattah, le plus célèbre détenu d’Égypte, cesse de s’hydrater

    Icône de la « révolution » de 2011, le détenu politique britannico-égyptien Alaa Abdel Fattah, en grève de la faim, a cessé de s’hydrater dimanche. Alors que le monde entier a les yeux rivés sur Charm el-Cheikh, où s’est ouvert la COP27, son cas est devenu emblématique des violations des droits de l’Homme en Égypte. Le Premier ministre britannique, Rishi Sunak, a assuré que son gouvernement était « totalement engagé » pour obtenir sa libération.

    La pression monte sur les autorités égyptiennes : le détenu politique britannico-égyptien Alaa Abdel Fattah, en grève de la faim, a cessé de s’hydrater dimanche 6 novembre, a annoncé sa sœur, le Premier ministre britannique, Rishi Sunak, disant vouloir profiter de la COP27 qui s’ouvre en Égypte pour évoquer son cas.

    « Il n’y a plus beaucoup de temps, au mieux soixante-douze heures, pour libérer Alaa Abdel Fattah. Si [les autorités égyptiennes] ne le font pas, cette mort sera dans toutes les discussions à la COP27 », a prévenu dimanche Agnès Callamard, la secrétaire générale d’Amnesty International, au Caire.

    #Alaa_Abd_el_Fattah #Fascisme #Egypte

  • Activist Alaa Abd El Fattah joins hunger striking political prisoners | Mada Masr

    Leading leftist activist Alaa Abd El Fattah launched an open-ended hunger strike Monday evening from his cell in Tora Prison, joining a growing number of political prisoners engaging in this act of resistance behind bars.

    • Des avocats adressent une pétition à l’ONU pour la libération du militant égyptien Alaa Abdel Fattah
      Traduction publiée le 28 Août 2014

      Suite à la grève de la faim entamée par le blogueur et activiste égyptien Alaa Abd El Fattah, actuellement détenu, la Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) et l’Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) ont envoyé une pétition au Groupe de Travail de l’ONU sur la Détention Arbitraire (UNWGAD) exigeant des mesures pour la libération immédiate d’Abd El Fattah.

      Le blogueur égyptien de 32 ans récompensé par plusieurs prix a été l’un des premiers citoyens du Net à lancer un appel au changement politique en Egypte. Avec la collaboration de son épouse Manal Hasaan, Abd El Fattah a utilisé internet pour défendre la liberté d’expression avec Manalaa et Omraneya, premiers ‘agrégateurs de blogs’ du monde arabe à ne pas pratiquer la censure sur la base du contenu. Ses publications en ligne ont fait de lui un leader de premier plan dans la promotion et la défense des droits humains et des libertés fondamentales dans la société égyptienne .

      Le 11 Juin 2014, Abd El Fattah devait comparaitre à son procès, pour avoir délibérément organisé une marche de protestation contre de nouvelles lois controversées anti-manifestations ;. Sans procès, il a été condamné arbitrairement à 15 ans d’emprisonnement.

      Durant toute sa vie, Abd El Fattah a fait l’objet d’enquête ou de périodes de détention de la part de tous les chefs d’Etat égyptiens en fonction. En 2006, il a été arrété pour avoir participé à une manifestation pacifique. En 2011, il a passé deux mois en prison, ratant ainsi la naissance de son premier enfant. En 2013, il a été arrêté et détenu durant 115 jours sans procès.