Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, tortured for documenting life in slums

*Update: The Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered the release of Ibrahim Ezz El-Din on April 23, 2022 and he was effectively released on April 26, 2022*

Ibrahim Ezz El-Din knows firsthand about poor workers’ colonies: his father was a factory worker in Mahalla, one of the dusty industrial cities on the outskirts of Cairo. At 22, with an engineering degree and a specialisation in Urban planning under his belt, Ibrahim started working for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a local human rights organisation. That was in 2016, and for the next three years, he worked as ECRF’s researcher on housing rights, with a special focus on living conditions in slums - places where the lack of running water and sewage brings disease, where barely any light filters among the closely packed shacks, and families endure extreme heat in summer and long, cold nights in winter.

His passion also drew him to the workers’ colonies such as the one where many of his father’s co-workers lived, documenting forced evictions and calling for the right of all Egyptians to safe housing. Beyond his friendliness, his colleagues liked his talent for getting out of difficult situations with a good joke, not to mention his very Egyptian passion for Al-Ahly football club and the cinema.

On 11 June 2019, Ibrahim was arrested at a friend’s home, after finishing work. For the next 167 days, no one could obtain any information on his whereabouts - neither his colleagues nor his widowed mother, who would remain sitting in front of the front door, hoping for him to return. On November 26, the 26-year old finally reappeared at State Security Prosecution, under investigation for “contributing to the achievement of the objectives of a terrorist group” and “publication of false information undermining national security”.

Ibrahim was tortured to extract information about ECRF’s work and kept in inhumane and degrading conditions at several security agencies, which seriously impacted his health. He suffers from respiratory problems which make him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. He could remain in pre-trial detention for up to two years.

The detention of Ibrahim Ezz El-Din is part of a clear human rights regression which Egypt has been suffering from in recent years. Authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as prolonged pre-trial detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for national security-related charges.

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