By Maryam Ramadan
When I heard the news about the death of Egypt's former President Mohamed Morsi, I broke out in a cold sweat. The news was appalling. It was shocking to realize that this man, who had endured so much during his lifetime, was no longer of this world. Flashbacks, pictures that I saw circulating of him while on trial sparked through my head. I was reminded of his calm, his smile, his simplicity. I became resentful of the deafening silence of the world and the international community about the Egyptian dictator in command. I was resentful of those Egyptians who endorse this government and of our helplessness. And I blame myself... for lacking the power, the strength and even the opportunity of doing something.
Images of my father held in a prison cell, where he was kept in a complete isolation, flashed through my head. During my visits, I saw how his health condition had been deteriorating, how the judges were biased and how they systematically rejected our requests and refused to allow my father prepare his defense (by denying him access to his own file). I was stunned by the media’s lies and fabrications, and was reminded of our helplessness having to face such blatant injustice. I could not help but notice the similar treatment (on a very different scale, of course) that political prisoners have to endure.
I recall how, during our visits and the difficult experience we have been through, I kept reminding my father that it was necessary to think of those who are languishing in prison in much worse conditions. And Morsi's name often came up: his total isolation for more than six years, being deprived from family visits (he had three visits of less than one hour throughout his incarceration), his alarming health condition incompatible with prison, depravation from health care, being denied access to his lawyer, and above all, the international community’s silence. And no light in sight at the end of the tunnel.
I recall the first time I saw my father after 45 days of incarceration left all of us, my mother, my father and I, in a state of utter shock. Being held in a complete isolation with hardly any contact with the outside world, and this unbearable feeling of injustice before a biased judicial system. All this can leave only sequels. Unfortunately, we went through this experience, in France, at our level.
And when I think of what Morsi, his wife and his children, had to endure and how it all ended, I'm left with a heavy heart. In our situation, bad as it was, we were "lucky". I was able to hold my father in my arms three times a week during his incarceration, I was able to talk to him, share what was happening, despite the cold, icy and inhuman prison cell. I was able to remind him that he was not alone and that we would fight no matter what until his release and justice was done.
In Egyptian prisons, however, the reality is very different. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, slept on the ground, on cement. He suffered from acute diabetes that caused him to fall into a coma several times. He lost sight of his left eye because of lack of medicine and permanent poor nutrition (he was often given spoiled food). He had no contact with the outside world, not even with his own lawyer.
During my father's incarceration, he had to go to court several times. I remember very specifically two transfers: June 5, 2018, the first time since our nightmare began, that the judges would finally see him and hear him. It was a very stressful day for my father. It took him weeks to recover from what happened on that day. Being in permanent isolation, with a minimum contact with the outside world, sick, suffering from migraines and constant cramps (making sleep impossible), then having to stand before the judges for more than 10 hours (with less than 30 minutes-long break and even unable to take his medicine at the scheduled time) was also a form of torture. I also remember November 15, 2018: when I was able, for the first time, to attend our appeal in the court. I had a glance at my father from a far distance, I felt the pressure was intensifying as the judge was about to decide his future and ours. I felt hostility dominating the courtroom. Once again, I had to hear all the lies that justified my father's imprisonment.
I can only think of Morsi and what he had to endure during these last moments at the Court that made his heart stop. It made my heart cry.
No doubt that upholding your principles and standing up against injustices come with a price. In our case (which is still not finished and for which we will continue to fight with determination), we have had the "chance" to be able to - at least- change things, and to be together to do it.
Morsi paid the ultimate price. Any person with a little bit of moral sense cannot be indifferent to his murder. In his tribute to Morsi, my uncle reminded us that: "On all scales of values where one measures human greatness, perseverance, courage, truth, honesty, sacrifice, the will to love and help people, commitment for all at the cost of oneself, Mohamed Morsi has definitely won. May the doors of God’s paradise be wide open to you."
In 2011, I joined the Egyptian youth who was protesting for 18 days in the streets of Cairo, Tahrir Square. We were risking our lives and fighting for a more just and free Egypt. We were hoping for real democracy and a genuine transformation of the country. Like all democracy defenders, I feel deeply disappointed and betrayed. My country of origin is sliding into the darkest future, under the most inhuman soldiers. My heart is also crying for Egypt. How many more generations will have to live in exile?
The words of Malcolm X resonate: "The price of freedom is death". He was murdered, like so many others. Unfortunately, only their death awakens us... but for how long? If the price of freedom is death for them, then the price of their death must be a permanent commitment to freedom and justice for us.
My thoughts for Mohamed Morsi's wife and children and for all political prisoners in Egypt and elsewhere.
We will never give up.