“May we stay as strong and as fearless of saying the truth next year and all the years to come,” my cellmates told me with great enthusiasm in wishing me a happy birthday and celebrating another year added to my account in this life.
Today, I passed into a new year of my life inside a crowded Egyptian prison cell.
I was arrested on the evening of 5 May from the street. I was then sentenced to 15 days in detention, pending charges of demonstrating and promoting demonstrations. My detention was then renewed for another 15 days for further investigations. God only knows for how long I will stay here.
My cellmates surprised me with a small celebration and even a cake. This modest festivity made with the simplest supplies you could possibly imagine, meant the world to me. I start my new year with one wish: a mirror. I want to see how I look with all these grey hairs sprouting from my head.
Have I forgotten … or am I pretending to forget that I am running out of time?
I have always run from the question “how old are you?” Not out of shame, but rather as an attempt to ignore the truth that I have not yet reached my goals.
I love life. I would have lived it much better if I had had the chance.
I didn’t have my share of this life yet, and I didn’t really look for it either. The appreciation in the eyes of those around me whenever I tried to cheer them up or console them … that was enough for me. All the love and support I received was the reason for my deep gratitude to God.
I can’t sleep anymore, ever since I was arrested. I am the kind of person who cannot read, write, or sleep in crowded places, especially as we are 48 men in an 8×5-metre cell.
There’s barely even enough space to make a fist with your hand here. We have a hand spans worth of space: from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. So, every day I wait for my 47 cellmates to fall asleep, just for an hour or two of privacy. The only real space available is right in front of the toilet. I sit there and read the newspapers and the letters I receive, and write whatever comes to mind. Habits from my normal life are like a virus in the deadly prison environment.
I write to you on the night of a full moon. It’s pretty difficult to see the moon through the iron bars, but, still, I can see it up there.
As I write to you, a cry of “help us God” bursts out from the next cell just before dawn. I look at my cell mates with a bitter smile; what have they ever done to sleep like rabbits on the floor?
Can you imagine 48 men all sleeping together in such a small space? Someone’s feet on someone else’s face. After all, we only get space enough for one fist. There is nothing we can do to sleep any better.
Try to measure your hand span, the distance from the tip of your little finger to the tip of your thumb. That’s all the space that we, political prisoners, have in Egypt.
Zizo Abdo a political activist in the 6 of April group. He was arrested on 5 May by security forces.