Activists across the world are planning a mass hunger strike this weekend in solidarity with the 60,000 political prisoners currently being detained in Egypt.
Those participating in the hunger strike will not eat anything for 48 hours on Saturday or Sunday 9 and 10 November – but will drink water – and will record their experiences on video to draw attention to the plight of detainees trapped in the Egyptian justice system.
In Egypt political detainees are systematically tortured and deprived of basic rights such as family visits and medical care. They live in squalid conditions, overcrowded cells, are often only allowed to use the toilet just once a day.
Authorities have rounded up and imprisoned lawyers representing political detainees and often try hundreds of people at the same time. The use of the death penalty under General turned President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is unprecedented.
With no legal recourse to turn to, scores of political prisoners begin hunger strikes to secure their rights.
After former President Mohamed Morsi died from medical negligence in June, a mass hunger strike carried out by prisoners in the Scorpion wing of Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison aimed to put pressure on authorities to stop the ill treatment of prisoners.
Their demands were met with violence and punitive measures. In the aftermath of Morsi’s death authorities prevented a number of families visiting their loved ones and raised the price of special permits for visits by 500 per cent.
Authorities deny hunger strikes take place, do not record them and attempt to force feed or torture prisoners so that they break their fast. At the same time they deny requests from civil society groups to visit and carry out checks on the prisons.
The Egyptian-American human rights activist Mohamed Soltan and former political prisoner spent most of his two-year detention on hunger strike before eventually being released in 2015.
Over the summer Ola Al-Qaradawi began a hunger strike after being returned to pre-trial detention in solitary confinement after two years, despite the fact that an Egyptian court ordered her release just hours earlier.
Umm Zubeida, who has been in custody since March 2018 after speaking to the BBC about her daughter’s forcible disappearance by security services, shaved her hair and started a hunger strike in August in protest against the decision to keep her arbitrarily detained.
At the beginning of September Aisha Khairat Al-Shater was transferred to Al-Qanater Prison hospital after her health continued to deteriorate following an open hunger strike she began in mid-August in protest against her prison conditions.
Despite the fact that human rights activists report Egypt is experiencing the worst human rights crisis in decades, Al-Sisi has denied there are political prisoners in the country.
In 2017 he told France 24: “We have imprisoned no political activists. Everything has been done according to the law, within its jurisdiction. Our friends can come and confirm themselves.”