December 26, 2017
I do not know when I will see them again.
They are both in prison awaiting separate verdicts, scheduled for December 30. I struggle to remain hopeful, to steady the bile that churns in my stomach when I think of what might happen on that day, how their fates once again rest on the whim of some judge, how more time might be stolen from them, more days, months, years spent locked up in a cage, how we on the outside feel powerless to help them.
The last time I saw Mahienour al-Massry was much more recent, on November 8 inside the Supreme Court building, when Egypt’s highest appeals court ruled to uphold Alaa’s sentence in the Shura Council case. Mahienour had come with Alaa’s family and friends in support, as she always does.
I didn’t know at the time that she was on trial on charges related to a June 2017 protest in Alexandria against the government’s transfer of the Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia.
Mahienour rarely speaks about herself. Her boundless energy, her deep well of compassion, her unyielding courage, have always been channeled toward seeking justice for others, not herself. For that she has become a prime target of the police in Alexandria.
She has been arrested a dozen times and spent over 20 months in prison in two separate cases, most recently a year and three month stint in Damanhour Prison for staging a sit-in inside Raml Police Station with a group of her fellow lawyers after one of their colleagues was assaulted by the police. The conditions were miserable, with overcrowded cells that had no water for 20 hours a day.