In a Letter to His Mom, Ahmed Al-Khatib Describes His Slow Death in Prison

أحمد الخطيب

Ahmed Abdel-Wahab Al-Khatib, 22, is a student at the Faculty of Biotechnology at Misr University for Science and Technology.

Ahmed’s suffering began when he was arrested on October 24, 2014 after a security officer searched through his mobile phone, and found a photograph of Ahmed in front of the Al-Fateh Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, taken during a study trip there.

Ahmed was promptly subjected to an illegal episode of forced disappearance that lasted a long while. Then, he was presented to the prosecutor, and later transferred to a prison, and then to notorious Tora’s interrogation dungeons. On March 26, 2016, Ahmed was unjustly sentenced to 10 years in prison, and then hauled away to harsh Wadi Al-Natrun Prison.

Ahmed and his family have been subjected to many violations – from inhuman, extremely abusive treatment and atrocities to absurd intransigence in the few visits allowed.

Ahmed is a top student at his university. However, the university administration (in violation of the law) refused to let him sit for his examinations behind bars.

Several months ago, Ahmed’s health started deteriorating. He experienced excessive fatigue and exhaustion. Due to medical neglect in the prison, no medical checks, treatment or care was provided. Ahmed’s family wrote to Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights explaining his medical condition, and asked for help to get him to a specialist to diagnose his medical problem and provide appropriate treatment. Ahmed was then moved to Lehman Tora Prison. Test samples were taken to examine, in order to diagnose the disease he was suffering and which caused him severe fatigue. Doctors suspected he had leukemia.

From prison, Ahmed sent his mother the following letter, describing his deplorable state:

Mom… I miss you so much

I am sorry for the painful reality that has surrounded us, and imposed on us what we do not like.

Do not cry!

Do not cry… For your teardrops echo painfully in my chest

I write to you, but my words are fading off in my head, my pen is stuttering, scribbling the words weakly. But you are always in my heart, on my mind.

Now, after my long stay here in this moldy filthy place, I am in a state of confusion and delirium. I wear ugly filthy clothes that I loathe, as I stay up in the darkness in long nights of pain and silence and sorrow.

I break the silence and lose my patience as I race with time, neck and neck. I look forward to breaking his strength, but and I contemplate my current weakness with sadness, regret and shame.

Now, I have to remind myself of who I am. Prison does not deprive us of freedom only, but tries to force us to forget our identity. So, it crumbles. Prison further steals away our health and our lives.

For more than seven months now, I have been suffering from a disease… but I do not know just what is.

I try to resist, so as not to show the exhaustion and fatigue that is killing me… but, to my dismay, I am no longer capable of doing anything!

I am afraid… not from the disease, but of staying here and dying between the dreary walls of this age-old prison cell, becoming just another entry in the death toll statistics, just as I am now just a number here.

My mind refuses to think of dying here away from you, my mother and my brothers.

I am afraid of dying alone here behind bars

These were young Ahmed’s words to his mother. They describe the dark sad reality that young man still lives inside a junta prison.

Ahmed has been diagnosed with a serious, rare and fatal disease… not Leukemia. He will certainly die, if proper treatment is not provided immediately. Ahmed’s disease, called “visceral leishmaniasis”, is caused by insects in places where hygiene is ignored, such as prisons and places of detention in Egypt where Ahmed was held. When junta forces arrested and detained him, Ahmed was in perfectly good health. He got infected and his health suffered tremendously inside the prison.

Ahmed’s disease destroys the immune system and blood cells, and damages the liver, spleen and stomach, ending with death.

Cairo’s Qasr El-Eini Hospital stressed that Ahmed’s illness is at a very late stage, and that its Pathology Department is unable to determine the extent of the spread of the disease, adding that continued presence in prison dooms him to death.

More recently, Ahmed’s sister said: “We are no longer asking that Ahmed should be allowed to receive medical treatment, because his illness is in such a very late stage, he has no chance. We are pleading with authorities to release Ahmed to die in his home, or to transfer him to a hospital. Now, his immunity is ‘zero’.

This painful reality of Ahmed and his family as an example of the atrocious life of detainees and prisoners in Egyptian prisons. That is a state of neglect and indifference impacting everything: negligence and carelessness and disrespect towards the law; neglect and callousness with regard to inmates’ ill-health; neglect and callousness about complaints filed by prisoners and their families; and negligence and indifference to the injustice and violations against the prisoners because of their views against the military’s ruling regime.

Unfortunately, Egyptian authorities have been stripped of their humanity in dealing with all opponents in prisons and places of detention.

The judicial authority in Egypt has become a compliant tool in the hands of the executive authority, unfortunately becoming an oppressive tentacle that unjustly persecutes the regime’s opponents outside the framework of the law. The coup’s judiciary no longer responds to complaints or grievances. Needless to say, the law is made to organize, control and oversee humanitarian transactions to prevent chaos and demagogy; to give mankind happiness, not to torture or take revenge against humanity.

“Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms” “ECRF”  and Shehab Center for Human Rights calls for the following:

1. The Egyptian authorities – the Attorney General, the Interior Ministry and the Prison Service – must start enforcing the law, consider the humanitarian dimension and immediately release Ahmed Al-Khatib, and facilitate all relevant processes urgently and immediately to provide medical care for Ahmed to save his life.

2. All international human rights organizations, the United Nations and the African, European and American human rights commissions must pressure the Egyptian regime to respect the application of local law, which contains provisions protecting the rights of prisoners and detainees, as well as the UN Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

3. Tasking international fact-finding committees to investigate crimes and violations taking place inside coup prisons and places of detention across Egypt, and to report any violation or negligence.

Finally, these crimes committed against detainees and prisoners, will not be forgotten, since they have no statutes of limitation and amount to crimes against humanity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *