Thursday, November 17, 2022 – Alaa Abd el-Fattah, the British-Egyptian democracy activist jailed in Egypt, has ended his six-month-long hunger strike, which he began in protest against his detention conditions.
Abd el-Fattah, one of the people who spearheaded Egypt’s 2011 revolution has spent most of the past decade behind bars. He began a partial hunger strike in April in protest against his detention conditions, spending more than six months consuming only 100 calories a day. According to his family, his health has deteriorated rapidly since then.
“I’ve broken my strike. I’ll explain everything on Thursday,” he told his family in a letter, in reference to his monthly family prison visits to the Wadi el-Natrun desert prison where he is being held.
The political activist was sentenced to a further five years in prison last year for sharing a social media post about torture, shortly after gaining British citizenship through his mother.
He escalated to a full hunger strike the week before Cop7, the United Nations climate change conference which held in Egypt last week, and then ceased drinking water on the day the conference began in Sharm el-Sheikh. He told his family repeatedly beforehand that he expected to die in prison.
The news that Abd el-Fattah had broken his strike came after Egyptian public prosecutors said the activist had received a “medical intervention” last week, without specifying further.
In a letter to his family that he wrote last Saturday, Abd el-Fattah provided the first proof of life his family had received in two weeks, telling them that he had resumed drinking water.
“From today I’m drinking water again so you can stop worrying until you see me yourself. Vital signs today are OK. I’m measuring regularly and receiving medical attention,” he told them.
Abd el-Fattah is due to mark his 41st birthday on Friday. “The important thing is I want to celebrate my birthday with you on Thursday, I haven’t celebrated for a long time, and want to celebrate with my cellmates so bring a cake, normal provisions,” he told his family in his latest letter.
Prisoners in Egypt’s prison system, which houses at least 65,000 political prisoners, normally require their families to provide food and other basic items to sustain them.
“I feel cautiously relieved now knowing that at least he’s not on hunger strike but my heart won’t really be settled until Thursday, when my mother and sister see him with their own eyes,” said Mona Seif, Abd el-Fattah’s sister.
His lawyer, Khaled Ali, has made three unsuccessful attempts to visit his client at the prison, despite having gained permission to do so from Egypt’s public prosecutor. Ali’s visit was intended to provide updates about Abd el-Fattah’s wellbeing and status, including what motivated him to begin drinking water and to begin eating, and whether he had been subjected to treatments without his consent.
“At this point the family have no further information about what has happened inside prison or what is informing Alaa’s decision,” Abd el-Fattah’s family said in a statement.