A letter from a free man in the dungeons of Egypt: I am #NotANumber

By: Hatem AlyJihad Abaza


I find going to the prosecutor’s office enjoyable. They take me from my prison cell at 9 am and return me at 1 am the next day. Like a young child, I stand in the police van looking from behind the bars of the small window into the streets, cars, shops and people. I meet lots of detained comrades on the way. Each one of us tells the story of how and when he was detained, and we joke and laugh until we reach the prosecution.

This time, when my turn came, I entered the prosecutor’s office with my lawyer. The prosecutor began interrogating me and accusing me of funny charges that made me feel like the most dangerous man in Egypt. As if I were the one responsible for all our failures and shortcomings, like I was the reason Egypt does not make it to the World Cup finals, and like I was hiding F16s in the bathroom of my house. I replied quietly, “you are a biased party that possesses your own decisions, you are the judge and the opponent at the same time, so I do not recognize your legitimacy and I refuse to answer your questions.”

After a moment of silence he asked again: “What is your response for the books we found on your cell phone’s external memory?”, Then he proceeded to list books that are sold in all the bookstores across the country. I laughed and said “If this is really a charge then the whole country should be detained right now!”

“What is your answer to the state security investigations that say you were taking part in planning and bringing weapons to assassinate police and army officers on that specific date?” He asked.

I replied “on that specific date I was eating cupcakes in Heliopolis” and smiled.

He looked at me and in a sarcastic manner said “You are accused of planning a coup against the regime and spreading chaos aiming to stop the institutions from doing its function and …”
I replied, “A COUP? Are you serious?”

At that moment he shouted and hit the table with his hand saying “You have to talk, you must know that your charges could lead to execution!”

“You know that this is mere role-play, and that my words will not change anything. You know that if you want to release me you will not be able to, simply because your masters will not allow you to do so.”

“But you participated in planning to kidnap the transitional president and the minister of defense,” the prosecutor said.

I laughed, “Do you not find it ridiculous to accuse a fresh graduate from the faculty of commerce, of kidnapping the minister of defense?”

He responded, “Okay, we are finished. Do you want to add anything else?”

“Yes” I replied. “The first time I came to the prosecution there was a forensic medical report that stated there were signs of torture on my body and face. I want to make sure it is still present in my file.”

After we kept looking into my file he answered “No, there is nothing here. I do not know where it is. Now you have to sign here please!”


This letter only reveals a very small part of what Ahmed Gomaa has to see and face in prison. Gomaa was arrested on 16th of August 2013, only 2 days after the violent dispersal of the Rab’aa sit-in. Since then, Gomaa has faced prosecution many times, but was never sent to the court or faced a real trial.

He has been detained for more than seven months now, but he continues to face this injustice with a strong heart; just as he did when I first met him during the 18 days of the 2011 uprising. Gomaa is not a number or a statistic. He is dying to live.



3 thoughts on “A letter from a free man in the dungeons of Egypt: I am #NotANumber

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s