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Imogen Lambert

Forced disappearances in Egypt

Esraa, 23, has now vanished for a week

Date of publication: 8 June, 2015

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A new wave of abductions and detentions by security forces in Cairo marks a further deterioration of human rights in Egypt.

On 1 June 23-year old student, Esraa el-Taweel went out to dinner with two friends, Sohip Saad and Omar in the quiet suburban neighbourhood of Maadi in Cairo.

Esraa had just finished her final exams in the faculty of Arts in Cairo university, and was out celebrating with her friends.


However, the three students never returned.


Their families and friends fear that they have been abducted and detained by Egyptian security forces in the wake of a new wave of enforced disappearances in the country, with activist Mona Seif counting sixteen recent cases.

"If the state was really confident in its position then why does it resort to kidnapping, torturing, holding back information from the families and lawyers, extracting confessions under threat?"  Seif said on her facebook, regarding the abductions. 

In a particularly distressing case, last month Islam Atito, an engineering student was abducted from his exams in Ain Shams university by a security officer and another individual. He was found dead the next day.

Mada Masr reported that a number of recently disappeared activists who were allied to April 6 movement had been summoned to the judiciary on Friday. It is suspected that the crack-down on the group was related to April 6th's calls for a strike of 11 June.

However, Esraa and her friends are still missing, with her father relating that the police and security services are denying all knowledge of her whereabouts.

Esraa is a 23 year old student at Cairo university and a keen photographer. Her father stresses to al-Araby Jadeed that "she has never been involved in politics".

She is handicapped, with problems in her legs since being shot by the military for taking photographs of a protest, but her father says that she was just starting to walk alone before she was detained.

"I have been searching for her everywhere, all the police stations...the media hasn't been talking about it", her father said.

Esraa was so fond of her cat Woodi that she insisted on bring him with her on a recent visit to Mecca.

"Really, I don't know what danger a young handicapped girl could make to the people of Egypt", her father said. 

Sohip had only recently been released from prison, after being detained for eight months months in a maximum security prison.

He had been on hunger strike for a portion of his time in detention, and was released after he was retried and his sentance nullified.  He completed univeristy exams from behind bars.  

On Friday a number of human rights groups in Egypt condemned the disappearences.

In May, the US had criticised Egypt in a formal report given quietly to congress. In the same report, the US nevertheless justified the continuing provision of military aid to Egypt.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, said that the the US is not paying adequate attention to rights abuses in Egypt, even though "the government’s own memo acknowledges a laundry list of the worst human rights abuses."

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