I was in El-Sisi’s jails. This horror must stop

As world leaders meet in the COP27 summit in Sharm-El-Sheikh, we must remember the female political prisoners languishing in Eygpt’s jails.


My name is Basma Mostafa, an Egyptian investigative journalist, I live in exile, and because I am a woman who has been imprisoned three times in Egypt, today I would like to talk about of women’s conditions in Egyptian prisons.

If you are an Egyptian woman working as a journalist, lawyer, researcher or activist, you will be in jail some day.

if you have a brother, father or husband who is a political prisoner, you will be in jail someday, The Egyptian regime even kidnaps women who do not have political activity, and puts them into jail to force their relatives who have political activity to go to the police, something like a war hostage, like what happened with Aisha Al-sharer the daughter of a leader of the Muslim brotherhood.

If you’re just dancing on Tik Tok, that’s reason enough for the Egyptian regime, to arrest you like Mawadda Al-Adham and Haneen Hosam who are now serving a three-year sentence in prison, just because they dance.

As a journalist, I was documenting prison conditions through my journalistic work, until I experienced it, I can confirm to everyone listen now that the prison in Egypt is inhumane and the 4 days I lived them inside it for me is mean four years.

Prison cells always contain more people than their capacity. There aren’t not enough beds for us because of the overcrowding numbers, and even the available beds are made of iron and women are exposed to many back pains because of it, and whoever doesn’t not have a bed, they sleeps on the floor!

I slept on the floor under the guard’s bed, because there was no space in the tiny cell for me.

The windows of the cell are made of iron and covered with plastic wire and because of this women always suffering from poor ventilation, and bad smell which causes chest diseases and cases of suffocation.

The prison cell has lack of hygiene, which means spread of insects and skin diseases. Even The prison does not provide us cleaning tools, and we have to buy them at double their price from the prison market.

The prison bathrooms do not accommodate all of us because of overcrowding, which forces us to wait for long time up to two or three hours just to use the bathroom. in addition the bathrooms is very dirty, And the poorest female prisoners are forced to clean it for a small amount of money for sending it to her children. Otherwise Female prisoners in solitary cells haven’t bathrooms and must defecate in a “bucket” inside their enclosure cell.

For taking a shower inside the cell, first we have to takes the cell guards permission . For example, on my first day, they refused to take a shower, and they allowed me on my third day.

Inside the prison, they took our clothes from us and gave us unclean clothes. For example, they gave me clothes that smelled very bad and was unclean, as if it had been used before. When I refused to wear it and asked for new clothes, they forced to wear it, As a kind of oppression.

When we arrived at the prison at the first night, we are subjected naked inspection, they force us to take off our clothes and examine our body parts, including virginity and vaginal examinations, in addition to verbal insults and sexual harassment.

Here we must mention that the first person allowed virginity examination was the dictator Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2011 when he was head of Military Intelligence. that’s happened immediately after the revolution, 18 women were placed in military custody, beaten, electrocuted, and subjected to naked inspections . They were photographed by male soldiers, and then subjected to “virginity examinations.”

Women Political prisoners are deprived of talking to other women, especially criminals, and if that happens, We receive a punishment, like taken to the solitary cells, prevented from going out for 20-minute sports, or prevented from family visiting or any other kinds of torture and oppression, and humiliation.

In prison we are forced to wear the hijab, even if we don’t wear it before, I am not wearing hijab and since my first day in prison they have been forcing me to put the hijab.

There is no medical care, especially none that takes into account the physical needs of women; There are no pads for our periods, and even pregnant prisoners have to give birth to their children in prison, and their children must stay with them in prison until they reach 2 years, On my first day in the cell, when I was pregnant, I saw babies all around me and this is the biggest shock I subjected to in my life, and because of it, I couldn’t imagine mySelf being pregnant again.

Egypt does not have special places of detention for transgender women, and they are placed in men’s prisons, where they are vulnerable to sexual assault, and we have documented cases of that.

I call the Egyptian regime to release all women political prisoners, the translator Marwa Arafa, the lawyer Hoda Abdel Moneim, the activist Nermin Hussein, Mawaddah Al-Adham, Haneen Hosam, Aisha Al Shater, the journalist Manal Ajrama, the journalist Hala Fahmey, Hasiba Mahsoub, and every imprisoned woman we don’t know her name.

This is the text of a speech given by Basma at the LINKE rally against Greenwashing the COP27 summit on 8th November 2022