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Growing Toll of 'The Disappeared' After Year of Sisi

\"We\'ve paid dearly for this battle,\" said Esraa el-Taweel. \"I\'m not sure it\'s been worth it\", she added.

Published: 11th June 2015 10:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th June 2015 10:17 AM   |  A+A-

CAIRO: Sitting cross-legged on her bed, Esraa el-Taweel was despondent, surrounded by pictures of killed or jailed friends.

"We've paid dearly for this battle," she said. "I'm not sure it's been worth it."

A photographer, Esraa had attended regular protests in support of Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi when in January last year a police bullet ricocheted into her spine, leaving her unable to walk without a stick and forcing a long period of introspection.

"I'm not into politics these days," she said. "I'm done with all that."

But it seems the choice was not hers to make. On June 1, despite her disability, Esraa joined the growing ranks of Cairo's missing dissidents.

As President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi marks a year in office, human rights groups are accusing his administration of accelerating curbs on dissent under the cover of a war against terrorism, "disappearing" journalists, activists and suspected sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Protests are already largely banned and membership of Mr Morsi's Brotherhood a criminal offence. Even the secular April 6 Youth Movement, credited as the instigators of Egypt's 2011 uprising, has been blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.

By some estimates, Esraa is one of up to 66 people to have disappeared in just two months, though observers say more may have gone unreported.

"The number is far greater than we know," said Sara Mohamed, a friend. "We only hear of the cases where the families have access to social media - what about all those who don't?"

Freedom for the Brave, a collective of volunteer lawyers, has documented dozens more arbitrary arrests where detainees have been denied access to lawyers or contact with their families.

On the night of Esraa's disappearance, she had planned to buy Mexican food with two friends, Sohaib Mohamed and Amr Mohamed, both also former Morsi supporters. Sources in the security services have confirmed to the men's families that they are in detention. Esraa's whereabouts remain a mystery and the interior ministry has refused to comment.



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