CAIRO: A 20-yr old prisoner who has been in pre-trial detention for more than two years has overcome desolation of prison by sketching Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein, the student known in the media as the “t-shirt” detainee for an anti-torture t-shirt he was wearing when arrested, has taught himself drawing to escape the anguish of his “unlawful” detention.
Before his arrest, Mahmoud did not know how to draw, according to his brother Tariq who has posted his sketches on social media, which garnered sympathy from many users.
Tariq spent a period in prison over what he describes as “trumped-up” charges of belonging to the Brotherhood. Tariq now has advice for his imprisoned young brother.
“You have to learn to do something so when you go out, you do not feel you have to start from scratch,” Tariq told his brother Mahmoud.
“Over the past months, I used to send him drawing books so he can learn,” Tariq told The Cairo Post. Tariq was afraid incarceration would have negative impact on his brother, so he told him he has to be “tolerant” and to “learn something,” because as Tariq said, “art and knowledge enables one to adapt.”
Mahmoud has missed two years of his school during his prolonged detention that has exceeded the maximum limit for remand per law.
The young boy was arrested in January 2014 on his way home in Delta’s Qalubiya. He was wearing a T-Shirt with a slogan reads “Nation Without Torture,” and a scarf has the word “January 25” written on it; both were counted among seized evidences against him.
He is accused, along with a co-defendant, of protesting, possessing explosives and disrupting public peace.
Mahmoud is a “distinguished person” Dr. Maher el-Dabaa, a Psychology Professor at American University in Cairo (AUC,) told The Cairo Post. “[Mahmoud] has managed to resist a difficult circumstance and changed it into a positive opportunity, where he can express himself with drawing.”
Dabaa explained that Mahmoud has done two positive things to himself; first he learned a new skill, and second, he “discharged and vented negative energy into something beautiful,” saying that in other cases, one might resort to incite disputes with other inmates as a type of relieving.
“Prison does not always represent a deadlock for a person, sometimes hardships show a person his talents and enable him to focus on them,” Hoda Zakaria, a Political Sociology professor told The Cairo Post.
Mahmoud dedicated his drawings to friends and some activists who are currently behind bar like prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah, wishing his imprisonment would end and re-unite with his wife Manal.
His brother Tariq said that he thinks of presenting Mahmoud’s drawings in an exhibition, after promoting them on the internet.
In his recent visit to Mahmoud, Tariq reported his brother’s health deterioration as he is in need of an urgent surgery on his leg and effective physical therapy, citing medical negligence in prison; one of several fixed complaints reported by families of inmates.
Compared to his photos before the arrest, Mahmoud’s recently circulated courtroom pictures showed a child growing into a man.
Since he was arrested in January 2014, Mahmoud’s detention has been kept renewed several times without a single trial session.
His Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir appealed a Feb.7 court decision to renew Mahmoud’s remand by 45 days, describing it as a “void decision” as Mahmoud’s maximum pre-trial detention has already ended on Jan. 26, he told The Cairo Post.
Many human rights organizations have condemned extended imprisonment of many detainees including journalists, considering it a way of “punishment” to dissent.