#FreeEsraa: Detained photographer's tears spark outrage in Egypt

#FreeEsraa: Detained photographer's tears spark outrage in Egypt
Blog: Images of a weeping Esraa al-Taweel in front of judge as her pre-trial detention was extended for the tenth time have prompted a massive backlash on social media.
3 min read
03 Nov, 2015
Esraa, centre, in white, can held without trial indefinitely [alAraby]
A 23-year-old photojournalist who was forcibly detained by the Egyptian government burst into tears as a Cairo court extended her temporary detention for a further 45 days, igniting a wave of anger on social media platforms and in local media.

Esraa al-Taweel appeared in front of a judge on Monday, facing charges of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and "spreading false news" to undermine the state - and had the 155 days she has already spent in prison without trial extended for the tenth time since June.


This is heart-breaking to see. What threat does she pose to the Egyptian state?

- Amr Adeeb

"The Egyptian government unleashed a sudden earthquake on social media yesterday after images of a weeping innocent child were published," Esraa's father Mahfouz al-Taweel said.

Images of Taweel crying in the courtroom and hobbling on crutches went viral, sparking activists to call for her release on social media with the Arabic-language hashtags #EsraaElTaweel and #FreeEsraa, which have since been trending on Twitter.

Taweel went missing in June while out to eat at a restaurant with her friends in the quiet Cairo suburban neighbourhood of Maadi; she and two of her friends were arrested by plain-clothes police officer, thrown into the back of a minivan and blindfolded.

Sixteen days later she turned up in a Cairo prison.

Amnesty International has said that prison authorities have denied Taweel esential physiotherapy for a spinal injury she sustained in 2014, and that she could become permanently disabled.

Taweel's sister, Alaa, released a statement on Facebook giving information on her current condition and risk of permanent paralysis from medical neglect in prison.

The young student has been in pre-trial detention for five months and has consistently said she was not a member of the Brotherhood. But under an Egyptian law signed in 2013 her detention can be indefinitely renewed.

Revolutionary tears

Many prominent figures in Egypt have spoken out against the renewal of Taweel's detention.

      Taweel has already been in pre-trial detention
for five months [AAAJ]

"Thank you for your tears, not because they broke our hearts but because they showed us that we still have hearts that can break," said opposition politician and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour.

"To Esraa al-Taweel: Your tears call us to rise up in revolution. To Sisi: Your fate is sealed," said photojournalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada, who was released from prison in May after serving a two-year sentence for "rioting" at a protest.

Popular TV host Amr Adeeb began his programme on Monday evening with a long defence of Taweel, "Esraa should be dealt with mercifully. She has made mistakes but she is still young and deserves forgiveness," Adeeb said.

"This is heart-breaking to see. What threat does she pose to the Egyptian state? Just because Esraa doesn't have money or a state to defend her, she remains in jail? This is wrong," screamed the TV host.

"Alright man, we're traitors, agents and dissidents - but can you explain to me why you're convinced that Esraa al-Taweel is a threat to the state, and why she deserves to be locked up?," tweeted popstar Mohamed Attia - a vocal opponent of the Sisi government.

"The government is systematically and deliberately dishonouring the girls of the January 25 revolution," said editor-in-chief of the Islamist newspaper al-Mesryoon, Gamal Sultan.

The former Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mohamed Mahsoob, wrote on Facebook that Taweel's ordeal reminded him of his own detention at the age of 17 for giving an anti-government speech at his secondary school.

"This story has happened to thousands of Egyptians, and it is now happening again with Esraa and thousands of her peers in possibly a much worse fashion," said Mahsoob.

"Soon I will see Esraa and her generation leading Egypt towards freedom and justice."