Mohamed Soltan, whose skin is covered in marks and bullet wounds, was hit by Egyptian security forces during the 2013 raid of Cairo Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. On his arm, between his elbow and shoulder, are two scars and a few metal rods—remnants of repaired injuries inflicted by a police officer that beat him.
Throughout his subsequent captivity, the metal rod was positioned around nerve tissue for over two months. Then, to make matters worse, he was rejected the medical attention he desperately required. Mohamed Soltan, the man who grew up in the United States of America and proudly finished his studies at the Ohio State University, had gone back to Egypt four years back, immediately after he got the news that his mother had cancer.
According to Mohamed Soltan, he made a trip to Egypt back in 2011 – that is when he was still studying – to be a part of the protests against Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square. During the protests, he clearly stated that he is still an American as well as an Egyptian, and he wants Egypt to have the same liberation and freedom that he enjoys in the United States.
Unfortunately, that was not the case; the last few years had been disruptive in Egypt. In the summer of 2013, the president—who had been ‘elected’ by the people Muhammad Morsi and was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood—was driven out by the military take over. Since the president had given the government to the Muslim Brotherhood, his people had become concerned and angry, prompting them to take to the streets.
The counter protest in Rabaa fell apart; Mohamed Soltan became a part of the protest that took place on the 14th of August. The result of the protest; government forces killed more than eight-hundred people, and over a thousand people were injured. Salah Soltan, Mohamed Soltan’s father, held an upper rank in the Morsi’s Brotherhood, but Mohamed Soltan was not a part of it.
Image Source: The Intercept – Ohio State graduate Mohamed Soltan was held in an Egyptian prison for nearly two years.
“I was not in Rabaa to promote Muhammad Morsi, I found myself there to promote the democratic system,” says Soltan. He says that he does not like to be affiliated, or affiliate others, with a specific political movement. Instead, he describes his views as being too free for the people who think inside the box, and too modern for those who like it the old fashioned way.
A few days after the life-altering protest, the police paid Mohamed Soltan a visit, searching for his Salah – his father. As his father was not there, Mohamed, along with three of his friends, paid the price. This was to be the beginning of something that Soltan had never anticipated. After several months of negotiations with the American authorities, along with sixteen months of deadly hunger strikes, Soltan was released from Egyptian prison.
According to Soltan, the nightmare began with the thing called the refrigerator – which he remembers as a site in which they prepared arrest warrants. Sultan, along with his companions, were striped down to their underclothes and then terribly assaulted. Over the course of several weeks, everyone he knew—even his friends—were relocated to various jails. Their incarceration was stretched for fifteen days each time, making their destiny uncertain.
According to Mohamed Soltan, this was a part of something much bigger than the objection made by the modern military that supported the government—which was driven by an ex-chief of the army staff, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In July of last year, an interior ministry authoritative accepted that law enforcement had imprisoned twenty-two thousand individuals in 2013; however, private spying organizations hinted that that total number of imprisoned individuals actually stood at around forty-one thousand.
The Brotherhood & its so-called followers of Muhammad Morsi, comprise the biggest total (the Brotherhood states more than twenty-eight thousand of its people have been in detention), while the people with more modern and liberal views were also targeted. Like numerous other cases that centered around the opposition of the political convicts, Mohamed Soltan’s case became a major trial. The Brotherhood – which involved Soltan’s father – stood charge of scattering incorrect details about the case and the allegations.
Mohamed Soltan is convinced his case did not attain as much attention because it involved the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, playing to the West’s hatred of aiding radical groups. This little incident made it ‘The Brotherhood case’, even though there were many reporters and media personal present there. After spending almost five months in the prison—the lawful cut-off stage for holding a person without any charge—the charges were read to him. However, during those five months, he had funneled his frustration and had gone on a hunger strike. It was an action he was getting ready for, progressively reducing his intake of food.
Image Source: The Intercept – Mohamed Soltan arriving at Dulles Airport.
During the next year and a half, Soltan shed over fifty percent of his total body weight, and frequently fell in and out of comas because of his lower blood pressure and decreasing blood sugar levels. While he achieved domestic and worldwide interest, he was afflicted by more intense bodily and emotional abuse. Salah, Mohamed Soltan’s father, was locked in the very same jail and was being punished by proxy.
Mohamed Soltan was held in solitary confinement. In one notably raw event, security guards tossed a terminally sick person into a compact cell with Soltan, and ordered Soltan to take care of the ill man. The person passed away 120 minutes later, but the man’s dead body was left there to rot for more than 12 hours. He said that by doing this, they made him feel guilty about not being able to save the man’s life.
Finally, in May of last year, physically frail and mentally stressed, Soltan was released to the United States. He had deserted his Egyptian legal status, making him entitled to a head of the state rule that enables the exile of overseas inmates. Prior to departing the penitentiary, Soltan was not permitted to bid farewell to his father—who happens to be on death row.
Since then, Mohamed Soltan has devoted his time to speaking out, and gathering with United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the American Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to debate that the American, as well as European, safety concerns are on the line.