Egypt: Detained poet Galal El-Behairy begins total hunger strike

Galal El-Behairy has been in prison for more than five years for 'insulting the military' in a poem.

Egyptian poet Galal El-Behairy, who has been detained for over five years, has started a total hunger strike to demand his release from prison.

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The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) said that El-Behairy resorted to the hunger strike in his confinement as of today (Thursday) “as part of his escalation to demand his release, after five years of imprisonment.”

Citing a letter from El-Behairy, ECRF indicated that he had decided to start a full-fledged hunger strike “due to the poor conditions in the prison, the ban on pens and papers, the 24-hour continuous lighting and limited visit time which was reduced to 20 minutes.”

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“I will continue to strike until I regain my freedom by going out, alive or not,” El-Behairy’s letter read, according to ECRF.

Taking to Twitter, the prominent human rights activist in Egypt, Mahienour Al-Masry, expressed solidarity with El-Behairy.

“For 24 hours, I will stand in solidarity with Jalal by abstaining from food.. Get Jalal out, because poetry is not a crime.”

PEN International tweeted,

“Today, @pen_int and @englishpen launch a Twitter Storm calling on the @EgyptianPPO to immediately release imprisoned poet #GalalElBehairy who today has escalated his hunger strike, now refusing fluids. Help us to #FreeGalal, join our twitter storm today! #SaveGalal #FreeThemAll.”

On March 5, El-Behairy started a partial hunger strike.

Behairy was arrested on March 3, 2018 at Cairo airport, after the release of a song, Balaha, based on his poem which indirectly insulted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the former defence minister who came to power after a military coup in 2013.

In July 2018, a military court sentenced him to three years in prison with hard labour for a collection of poems deemed “an insult to the military institution and its leaders.”

El-Behairy finished his sentence in 2021 but remained detained by the authorities until the Supreme State Security Prosecution charged him with “joining a terrorist group and spreading false news.”

Human rights organizations estimate about 60,000 the number of political detainees in Egypt since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi assumed power in 2014.

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Sakina Fatima

Sakina Fatima, a digital journalist with, has a master's degree in business administration and is a graduate in mass communication and journalism. Sakina covers topics from the Middle East, with a leaning towards human interest issues.
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