Column: A voice to be heard

Yasin Aktay*

The military coup against the revolution in Egypt ruthlessly killed thousands of civilians and defenceless people in squares. It arrested and threw in prison tens of thousands of people without justification, and left tens of thousands in a position to flee from their country under death and arrest threats. There are still reports that are published from time to time by human rights organizations regarding the systematic torture that people currently in prisons endure. Yet, unfortunately, the world order’s implicit support for the coup from the very beginning, continued in time in the form of apathy toward human rights. With this being the case, the increased rate of human rights violations in Egypt continues to be noted today in the world’s hall of shame.

Of course, something needs to be done in order to avoid being part of this shame.

Last Sunday in Istanbul, a Human Rights Night was organized by the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (Mazlum-Der) at the Ali Emiri Culture Center. Sana Beltagy, the mother of Asma Baltagy’s, who was martyred by a sniper coup plotter murderer, left her mark on the night. The things she said presents a typical segment of the rights violations and oppression ongoing in Egypt. A voice to be heard, to be made heard so our consciences do not dry up. It is a duty for those who want to draw people’s attention to this torture, pressure and oppression. So, I am directly sharing notes from Associate Prof. Fethi Güngör’s speech along with their translation.

“I am making this speech on behalf of Dr. Beltagy’s wife, who is held in the Tora (al-Aqrab) prison in Egypt, to draw attention to the rights violations suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood leaders held in prisons. I thank the Mazlum-Der management that invited me to this meeting and gave me this opportunity.

My name is Sana Beltagy. I am an Egyptian woman whose family underwent great crises. I am a wife and a mother. I wrote every word in this speech explaining what happened to my children and my husband Mohammed Beltagy with great pain.

My husband was unjustly and illegally arrested on Aug. 29, 2013, by the Egyptian military regime. There are 35 cases against my husband, who they are accusing of being a symbolic figure of the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution and for opposition to the military regime, but none of them have been concluded yet.

My husband Mohammed Beltagy was a PhD faculty member at the university, a deputy in parliament and a Human Rights Commission member at the Egyptian Parliament. How is it that immediately after the military regime, a person like this turned into a criminal that needs to be tried for 35 different crimes? How was he able to commit so many crimes at once? If he was a sinful man, why was he given so many duties?

My husband is being held at Egypt’s worst prison: the Tora (al-Aqrab) prison. He is constantly tortured and his rights to receive medical care and treatment are continuously violated. All his assets have been seized. His humble clinic where he practised his profession as a doctor has also been completely destroyed.

My only daughter Asma – who was only 17 at the time – who joined the events at Rabaa Square like her father, was shot on Aug. 14, 2013, in front of the entire world by a sniper. My daughter had to say goodbye to her dreams at the age of 17.

Our four sons were arrested upon the prosecution. Khalid, my 16-year-old son, was arrested twice. For this reason, he had to go into hiding for a while. On Dec. 31, 2013, our 19-year-old son Anas was illegally arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. Our son, who is currently in an isolation unit, continues to suffer inhumane, insulting behaviour.

They kept me under surveillance as well for just being Dr. Mohammed Beltagy’s wife. They spread the news that security forces were about to file a case against me. In this way, they applied pressure on our family members who were not imprisoned to leave their country and migrate elsewhere.

After we were forced to leave Egypt, I could no longer receive information on my husband and son, who are held in prison, and I feel great concern as I am unable to help them. I am calling out to all institutes and organizations and all people with a conscience who care about human rights that are able to help on this matter. I ask all institutes and benevolent people, who are able to help, to ensure that the violated rights of the people in Egyptian prisons, primarily my husband and son, are protected and that they are all freed.

As a family, we are in great sorrow and pain, especially because those who murdered my daughter Asma were not held accountable. Let alone holding them accountable, there is yet to be a single case filed against the murderers to date.

Our family was a lively, peaceful and hopeful family. I am sharing this request with you because I believe that justice will be served. I am concerned about my son and husband’s lives. Please, be our voice, support my family and all those sentenced in an Egyptian prison.

One thing is a clear fact: Dr. Mohammed Beltagy is particularly treated very badly and tortured. They are doing this to make him withdraw the bill of complaint he wrote against Gen. Sissi and Sohaci. My husband’s statement, which was prepared by the Egyptian Interior Ministry for the hearing held in August 2016 and presented to the court, was given while he was being tortured and must be considered void, and Dr. Mohammed Beltagy should receive new defence.

I am here as one of your sisters, the wife of one of your brothers. Dr. Mohammed Beltagy came to Turkey numerous times; he attended many of your events and he got on the Mavi Marmara flotilla. There is almost nobody in Turkey who doesn’t know Asma; you all love her and this makes us very happy. However, the rights of those held in prison there are violated; they are being tortured.

Hence, please, I ask you as a sister, we are waiting for aware individuals and institutes to take concrete steps to completely free my husband, son and other prisoners for the preservation of the awareness of rights, for justice to be served and to save humanity from becoming obsolete. I thank you all very much…”

*Yasin Aktay is a member of the Turkish parliament and a leading figure of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey. (Published in Yeni Şafak Turkısh newspaper on December 20,  2017)