(NC) When Mohamed Fahmy was pardoned and his ordeal in Egypt’s Tora Prison finally came to an end in September of 2015, Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, better known as Shawkan, had already been in detention for over two years.
Detained on August 14, 2013 while covering violent clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, Shawkan still languishes in prison without being sentenced.
“Journalism in my country has become a crime,” he wrote from prison on World Press Freedom Day. “I am a journalist — not a criminal.”
Like Fahmy and dozens of other journalists targeted by the Egyptian government, Shawkan was swept up as President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood morphed into a more general policy of censorship and repression.
Unlike Fahmy, he remains in prison as his detention has been renewed every 45 days and the Cairo Criminal Court continues to postpone his trial.
The biggest difference between them, though, is that like many Egyptians targeted by their own government, Shawkan does not have a strong international voice demanding his release.
Every year Amnesty International supporters come together to form that voice through the Write for Rights campaign and stand up for people like Shawkan — for human rights activists, land defenders, journalists, student leaders and LGBTI rights organizers who are targeted, censored, harassed, jailed or tortured.
An annual global letter writing activity that takes place every December, Write for Rights empowers people to take action on some of the world’s most pressing human rights cases. Last year, nearly 4 million letters, emails, petition signatures, tweets, and Facebook posts were sent to government officials demanding the release of prisoners of conscience.
This year, they’ll be writing to free Shawkan.
The safe return of Fahmy after trials, diplomatic maneuverings, and concerted public pressure stands as an important reminder of the power of international attention and support to free prisoners of conscience. This December you can add your voice to that movement.
If you want join letter writers from around the world and stand up for human rights, visit writeathon.ca, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-800-Amnesty.