'They Told Me to Forget My Name. I Was Now Number 21'
Today is the sixth day of freedom after my four-day imprisonment. Every once in awhile I am hit by the incomprehensible contrast between absolute freedom and absolute confinement. During those four long days I didn't do much else but be interrogated, sleep, or try to sleep.
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Before I go into any other details I want to say shukran, thank you, really. I am overwhelmed by the response of family, friends, and strangers all around the world during my imprisonment. As the stories started bombarding me after my release it was hard to take it all in. I have no words to express how grateful I am to so many. At one point one of my interrogators -- they called him "Malek" -- ended a session by saying, "the next time you will tell me about all these international relationships of yours." I had no idea what he was referring to. I really believe that the pressure from so many places and people made a big difference in my quick release.
Diaa Gad is an Egyptian blogger who was taken the same day I was. I had spoken to him for the first time a few days before Egyptian "state" security kidnapped both of us from difference places. Diaa had called to ask for details about our march to Gaza. As we knew our phones would be tapped, I told him we could not give any details over the phone and asked for us to meet the following day in person. He never called again but his name came up during my interrogation -- again with "Malek" -- who asked me what I knew about Diaa and then proceeded to tell me word for word what I had said to him on the phone that day.
Diaa does not have many of the luxuries that I have being bi-national and having lived abroad. At this point he is still in custody and his lawyer and family do not know his whereabouts. The campaign that was started for me needs to move to him and others. These sorts of actions are completely illegal and yet a common occurrence in Egypt. Currently there are thousands in Egyptian jails without trial. We need to stand up and reject these actions. This brings us back to the start of those four days ...
I was held blindfolded, barefoot, and handcuffed almost at all times. When I arrived they told me to forget my name; I was now number 21. The psychological pressure was intense though at no point was I physically harmed.
At the time of my arrest I was protesting the siege on Gaza. This is a criticism aimed primarily at Israel but also at other countries that support this siege, including Egypt, which keeps its borders sealed except for rare exceptions.
My days of imprisonment are nothing compared to the months and years of siege on Gaza, which is nothing else than forced imprisonment. No Palestinians -- whether students, the sick, businessmen and women -- can travel beyond its borders, and Israel permits very few internationals to enter. These people -- mainly journalists and NGO workers like I used to be -- remind me of zoo visitors that take pictures and talk about the terrible conditions of the animals in their cages but then leave. In the meantime, Gaza remains the same. According to the United Nations, 85% of Gazans are reliant on food aid -- again, like animals in a zoo they are fed and kept alive, but barely. Leaked reports from the Red Cross recently reported high percentages of malnourished children, especially in the refugee camps -- 70% of Gazans are refugees from 1948. The purpose of our protest march was and continues to be to raise awareness of the ongoing siege on Gaza, building on the momentum of protest during the Israeli military onslaught on Gaza at the start of this year.
Your outrage about my unjustified imprisonment mirrors my outrage about this ongoing injustice done to the Palestinian people. If our governments and representatives the world over will not change the status quo, we -- the multitude -- must mobilize, on the streets, in the cybersphere, in government, in schools, anywhere, to call for change. Such an outrage changed South Africa not that long ago, and it can change the injustice carried out against Palestinians today.
Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German Christian who lived and worked in Gaza from 2005-2007. He is currently working on a documentary film, which is described at thispalestinianlife.blogspot.com.