President Biden can save my father | Middle East


For the past three years, I have had a recurring nightmare. I dream that my father, Osama Yassin, an Egyptian pediatrician and former youth minister, has been executed by the Egyptian government.

On June 14, this nightmare came one step closer to reality. The Egyptian Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence of 12 detainees, including my father, in the so-called Rabaa scattering case. In the summer of 2013, my father took part in peaceful demonstrations against the coup that ousted the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

On August 13, 2013, security forces ruthlessly attacked the site in Rabaa Square in Cairo, killing more than 1,000 people. The assault is considered the worst mass murder in modern Egyptian history and the deadliest incident of state violence in a day since the Chinese government’s famous crackdown on a protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Every morning I wake up to the buzz of my phone as I pray that the news I fear will not be delivered. At the time of writing, my father was still alive. Yet I fear that every day may be his last.

After my father’s arrest in 2013, he spent eight years in solitary confinement. For six of these, he was forbidden to receive visitors and meet with his lawyer. During the handful of times we could see him, it was evident that his health was deteriorating significantly.

He never sees the sun and is deprived of food and water for days and days. This treatment is increasingly the norm for so many of Egypt’s tens of thousands of political prisoners.

In my head, I can imagine my father’s charcoal eyes; I try to remember how they seemed without soundproof glass between me and them, how their spark warmed my soul. How can such bright eyes be left blank?

Rabaa 12’s death sentences were handed down in a mass trial described by Human Rights Watch as “gravely unfair”, full of procedural violations and human rights abuses. These twelve men are a small fraction of the many Egyptians whose human rights have been completely abandoned in unjust trials.

In recent years, the Egyptian regime has accelerated executions. The Egyptian Front for Human Rights has documented a sharp increase in the death sentences that are being executed, from 48 in 2019 to 126 last year; as of 2021, at least 57 people have been executed.

Numerous human rights organizations have repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities to stop these politicized processes and executions. It is in this context of growing massacres that the thought of my father’s death now consumes me day and night.

My father and his fellow detainees sentenced to death have been accused of participating in unauthorized protests and committing violence against security forces personnel. However, there is no evidence to support the allegations that he participated in violent acts.

My father was charged along with hundreds of other men, with no specific evidence presented against any of them. In reality, the sentences are intended to stifle legitimate dissent and to serve as a warning to any Egyptian who dares to challenge the absolute authority of the regime. Despite being accused of orchestrating the Rabaa siege, some of the accused were arrested before the Rabaa siege was attacked and dispersed. Meanwhile, no government official has been called to account for the Rabaa massacre.

We now know from our lawyers that the execution order for my father and the other eleven men has been signed. Now all I have to do is ask the U.S. government and President Joe Biden to intervene on behalf of my father.

Like so many Egyptians, I have closely followed President Biden’s strong statements in favor of human rights and the fact that he upholds the values ​​of freedom and justice has brought hope to my heart.

If my father is executed for peacefully protesting against tyranny, this would only further encourage arbitrary detention, torture, and executions as part of an escalation of repression against dissent in Egypt and beyond. President Biden has repeatedly spoken out against these brutal abuses.

My father, or let me call you, Baba, in my mother tongue, because that way I feel closer to him, and if it really is his last days, I want to feel as close as possible to him, he is a well-known pediatrician. The parents took their sick children from all over Egypt to seek their help in their consultation.

To this day I receive messages from people who accredit my father for saving his life and health. He lived to serve his country, his community and his people. And to do so, he now languishes in prison, sentenced to death by a dictatorial regime that regards any political dissent as a cause for execution.

My father faces death for the crime of speaking out and defending what he thought was right. Despite the risk of speaking to my family living in Egypt, I too must defend what is right and try to save it. My only hope is that the Biden administration will step in and use its leverage over the Cairo regime to stop the executions, save my father and countless people like him, and one day let us gather. My dearest father, I still hope to be saved.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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