Activist’s ‘guilt’ turned into documentary about Sanaa Seif
Sanaa Seif - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Guilt over not being arrested alongside his friend spurred photographer Mahmoud Salmani to make a nine-minute movie about 20-year-old activist Sanaa Seif, who was detained by police forces minutes after parting company with Salmani nearly 100 days ago.

In exclusive statements to The Cairo Post, Salmani said, “It was guilt that pushed me to make a documentary film on Sanaa Seif; I left her three minutes before she was detained.”

The two had attended a protest against the controversial 2013 Protest Law outside Ithadeya presidential palace on June 21, 2014. Sanaa was arrested for violating the protest law, along with 23 others. The Heliopolis Misdemeanor Court sentenced her and 23 others to three years in prison.

In the film, Salmani argues that Sanaa, who comes from a family of activists and human rights defenders, “sacrifices herself for others” in “following in the footsteps of the family.”

Sanaa’s recently deceased father, Ahmed Seif, was a human rights lawyer who defended such infamous cases as the Queen Boat Trial, in which dozens of men were accused of homosexuality. Her mother and sister are also human rights activists, and her older brother was recently released from prison after being charged over conducting illegal protests outside the Shura Council in November 2013.

In Salmani’s video, Sanaa’s friends and relatives talk about who she really is as a person. Also, Laila Soueif, Sanaa’s mother, speaks of her daughter’s bravery in prison despite poor health and now being in a prison hospital. Her brother Alaa adds Sanaa has always “brought people together.”

Salmani is a human rights activist and a member of “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group, which was cofounded by Sanaa’s sister Mona.

On Aug. 28, Sanaa started a hunger strike in solidarity with her previously detained brother Alaa.

Although a number of other detainees were arrested outside the Ithadeya palace, Salmani said he included no one but Sanaa in the documentary not only out of guilt, but because he said she deserves it for sacrificing her time and money to support the January 25 Revolution and helping all political prisoners regardless of their political backgrounds and ideologies.

And as for authorities, Salmani was unflinching: “I did not include the authorities’ remarks, not only because I won’t believe a word they say, but also because I have footage that condemns them.”

Salmani said there will eventually be an extension of the movie, and the second part will focus on the legal aspects of Sanaa’s case.


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