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In the summer of 2013 a 17-year-old Ibrahim Halawa travelled to Egypt with his 3 sisters, Omaima, Somaia and Fatima Halawa, to visit their extended family. A tradition they had followed almost every summer since they were born.
Ibrahim had just completed his leaving cert and was applying to college in Dublin to study engineering. He had dreams of building his own recording studio.
On 16th August 2013, 2 days after the Rabaa massacre (that has been described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”, Ibrahim Halawa and his sisters, Somaia, Omaima and Fatima joined a protest, to remember those who had been killed in the Egyptian uprising and subsequent massacre.
It was intended to be a peaceful protest, but was overshadowed by attacks by the military on the protesters. The Halawas, along with many other protestors, ended up taking shelter from the police and the military in the nearby mosque. After being trapped inside the Mosque for 16 hours, Ibrahim and his 3 sisters were arrested and detained.
Almost three months later his sisters were released on bail, but Ibrahim was still held and put on trial along with over 480 others. He had been told he would face the death penalty.
The next 4 years would see Ibrahim moved to 9 different jails, his case delayed 28 times before his legal team finally had a chance to defend him in court, he would suffer countless beatings, endless torture and days in solitary confinement and in his own personal desperate fight for freedom, he went on several hunger strikes.
Following their release, Ibrahim’s sisters worked tirelessly to secure his release going as far as the European Parliament and the United Nations.
It took them four years of family appeals, trial adjournments, diplomatic interventions, Dáil rows, and visits by an Oireachtas delegation and demonstrations.
It would be 1,497 days before Ibrahim Halawa would see freedom.
Letters written by Ibrahim from his jail cell tell a story of a boy becoming a man while imprisoned in a system with little regard for human rights or dignity. He shared his loss of his graduation day, sister’s weddings, births of nieces and nephews and precious time with family and friends.
And today, a month after his release, Ibrahim Halawa is here with his sisters, Somaia, Omaima and Fatima Halawa, to share their story with us, in their own words.
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This episode was produced by Kuxi & Alan.
The music is ‘L’obelico del mondo’ by Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini