In the last six months of Mohamed Soltan’s sentence, he was isolated in Egypt’s notorious Torah Prison, where he was beaten and tortured every day.
“I am completely isolated from the rest of the world, and I cannot get in touch with sunlight or the sense of time,” he said. Only members of the imprisoned armed group ISIL (ISIS) can enter his cell — they try to recruit him.
“They tried to persuade me to stop the hunger strike because’the world only respects hard power and may do it right’, they told me. They tried to sell me, let me do it myself and join them to fight oppression,” 2013-2015 Said Soltan, an Egyptian-American human rights defender who has been imprisoned for 22 months.
Soltan was accused of “spreading false news” for posting on Twitter about the dispersal of the demonstrations, and spent most of his time in prison on a hunger strike. He said that he had witnessed the ISIL members firsthand. Use their pain and dissatisfaction with the Egyptians to recruit them. government.
Six years after his release, researchers from the Washington, DC-based non-governmental organization Human Rights First (HRF) stated that ISIL members can still freely control prisoners in the Egyptian prison system.
HRF’s Report-Making Time Bombs: How Abuse in the Egyptian Prison System Fuels ISIS Recruitment-The report released on Thursday draws on the testimony of prisoners released between 2019 and 2021. They said ISIL continues to recruit prisoners. This practice is fueled to a certain extent by the widespread torture and ill-treatment in Egyptian prisons.
Since Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi took power after the 2013 military coup, thousands of people have been imprisoned for political opposition, including doctors and doctors who criticized the government for handling the COVID-19 crisis. Douyin Net Red, And the death sentence has tripled.
Soltan’s father, Salah Sultan, was one of 36 people sentenced to death in a mass trial in April 2015. Salah is a well-known Muslim scholar who was jailed for eight years for supporting anti-government protests in 2013.
Sisi has long claimed that “Egypt has no political prisoners.”
But human rights organizations estimate that 60,000 political prisoners are held in Egyptian prisons, accounting for more than half of the country’s estimated 114,000 prison population.
The official prison capacity is 55,000 people. The prison is heavily overcrowded. According to Amnesty International, the average space available for each prisoner is 1.1 square meters (12 square feet).
‘Worse than ever’
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Arab World Democracy Organization (DAWN), said prison conditions are “worse than ever.”
Soltan said that prisoners face “brute force, absolute degradation, psychological and physical torture, and deprivation of anything similar to humane treatment”.
Soltan said that prisons are “fertile ground for extremist ideologies.”
Former prisoners said that allowing ISIL members to mix with young, deprived prisoners who are opposed to the government for political reasons and often tortured, is creating a “time bomb”.
Yusuf*, a former prisoner released earlier this year, told HRF: “A disaster is that the authorities failed to separate prisoners involved in real terrorism cases from those who opposed the regime for political reasons.”
“I have never seen the prison authorities intervene to prevent this from happening,” he added.
For some prisoners, radicalization takes months, while for others it takes years.
Former prisoners said that the experience of torture, living in inhumane conditions and facing long and unjust imprisonment made prisoners vulnerable to ISIL radicalization.
“This is a process, not a light switch. The longer they face pressure, the easier they will be recruited,” Soltan said.
Brian Dooley, the author of the report and senior HRF consultant, stated that one of the main motivations for prisoners to join ISIL was “the opportunity to retaliate against the system that tortured them.”
Amr Hashad, a former prisoner who spent five years in 11 detention centers from 2014 to 2019 after protesting the government, said that ISIL fighters promised to help him get justice.
“After 60 days of torture, they destroyed your mind, body and soul-which side would someone choose?” Hashard said.
Get better food and treatment
Another motivation for prisoners who are deprived of their medical rights and who are often denied food by their families is to obtain better conditions.
Former detainees stated that ISIL members have access to telephones, better food and proper medical care, as well as four hours of entertainment, while other prisoners need two hours.
“Islamic State is the best organized faction in prison, and many prison officials are afraid of them. They use this power to obtain better privileges,” Douli said.
Reports of torture and torture in Egypt have not changed Sisi’s acceptance on the world stage.
During Sisi’s visit to Paris in December last year, President Emmanuel Macron awarded the President of Egypt the French Legion of Honor.
According to the British Weapons Tracking Organization, since the Egyptian uprising in 2011, the United Kingdom has provided Egypt with at least 218 million pounds (300 US dollars) in weapons licenses. Anti-arms trade movement.
Although U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken announced in February last year that human rights will be the “core” of U.S.-Egyptian relations—Donald Trump often praised his “favorite dictator” Sisi’s tone of change—but the event The source said that Washington has no meaningful face to the abuse of its allies.
In February of this year, the State Council confirmed 197 dollars in munitionsl In Cairo, follow what Dooley calls the “disappointing regular business model.”
U.S. aid to Egypt
In the past ten years, about 300 million US dollars of the US’s annual economic and military assistance of US$1.3 billion has been used for human rights reforms in Egypt.
Although human rights organizations have criticized the lack of improvement in human rights, the Obama and Trump administrations have released these funds.
The United States is expected to make a decision in August on whether the United States will provide Egypt with conditions of $300 million.
Dooley said Washington should withhold this part of the aid and impose targeted sanctions on authorities that may be used to hold accountability in serious abuse cases. US officials should request visits to prisons and assess their conditions.
Whitson said that blocking $300 million “is the minimum.”
“The Egyptian government is filing new prosecutions against human rights activists, extending the detention of journalists and academics, and imposing death sentences on dozens of people for political opponents,” she said.
“According to all legal rights, the United States should not provide a penny of military support to a government that has seriously abused its power in Egypt.”
Douli said that continuing business as usual will not change the behavior of the Egyptian authorities or “end the policies that promote violent extremism.”