Mahienour el-Masry writes about her cellmates in women’s prison
Mahienour el-Masry - Photo courtesy of free Mahienour official facebook page

CAIRO: The FreeMahienour Facebook page posted Friday the transcript of a letter written by jailed activist Mahienour el-Masry in May about her cellmates, of whom the majority are debtors.

On May 20, a court in Alexandria upheld a two-year jail sentence against the 28-year-old Revolutionary Socialists member, and fined her 50,000 EGP ($7,000) for protesting in December in solidarity with Khaled Said, whose brutal 2010 death while in state custody helped spark the 2011 January 25 Revolution.

Masry was convicted of violating the infamous 2013 Protest Law, and eight more activists were detained on May 22 in a protest calling for her release in Alexandria.

Below is The Cairo Post’s translation of her letter, which was leaked by her lawyer. The letter was originally published by Al-Shorouq on Thursday.

I do not know much of what is happening outside since my sentence was upheld, but I can almost imagine what we used to do when someone from our circle was jailed; cyberspace is filled with the slogans “free that person” or “prison is for the brave” and so forth.

But since I entered Damanhur Prison for Women, and was incarcerated in Cell Block No. 1 for public funds crimes, I have only been repeating “let’s destroy this caste system.”

The majority of the block’s prisoners are women who were jailed because of promissory notes that they were unable to repay. One was preparing her daughter for marriage; one was collecting money for the treatment of her husband and one borrowed 2,000 EGP to find that she signed to pay 3 million EGP.

The cell itself is a small community; the wealthy receive everything they need and the poor sell what they earn while jailed.

The cell is a small community where prisoners discuss the conditions of the country.

Here, I found women who support [Abdel Fatah] al-Sisi out of their faith that if he wins, he will pardon debtors. Others want him because he would strike terrorist demonstrations with an iron fist, despite their sympathy with me and their sense that I am probably aggrieved. One supports [Hamdeen] Sabbahi because he is her fellow countryman who promised to release prisoners, but the rest yell at her that he pledged to do so only for prisoners of conscience. One views it as a farce and she says she would boycott [the elections] if she were outside.

The cell is a small community; all of them advise me to focus on my future when I get out.

I tell them the people deserve the best, we have yet to realize justice and we will keep trying to establish a better society. Then, I learn news about Hosni Mubarak’s sentence of three years in prison in the case of presidential palaces.

So I laugh and tell them the regime views Umm Ahmed, who has been jailed for eight years and still has six more for checks worth less than 50,000 EGP, as more dangerous than Mubarak. What future do you want me to build in an unjust society?

Mubarak supports Sisi, whom the prisoners view as their savior, but they also speak of social justice and class society without complexity.

We must not forget our primary goal amid the battle in which we lose friends and comrades. We must not turn into groups that call for freeing a person and forget the grievances and demands of people that want to eat.

Along with chanting against the protest law, we have to work on overthrowing the caste system, organize ourselves, interact with the people, speak of the poor’s rights and our solutions for them and chant for freeing the poor so the people will not feel isolated from them.

In the end, if it is necessary to raise the slogan of “free that person,” then free Sayeda, Heba and Fatma: three girls I met in the directorate who are charged with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and other charges that amount to murder. They were indiscriminately arrested and their detention has been renewed since January without being brought before a court.

Free Umm Ahmed who has not seen her children for eight years. Freedom for Umm Dina, the breadwinner of her family. Free Ne’ma, who accepted to be here in order to feed her children. Free Farha, Wafaa, Kawthar, Sanaa, Dawlat, Samia, Eman, Amal and Mervat.

Our pain compared to theirs is nothing. We know someone will proudly refer to us as acquaintances from time to time. If anyone finds pride in [these women], they avoid mentioning them except at family gatherings.

Down with this class society. We cannot do this unless we do not forget the real oppressed.

Mahienour el-Masry

Room 8 – Cell Block 1

Damanhur Prison

May 22, 2014

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