Families of female political prisoners protest on Women’s Day

Dozens of relatives of female political prisoners and forcibly disappeared people protested outside the Journalists' Syndicate on Tuesday — which was International Women's Day — to demand their release or at least the disclosure of their whereabouts.

The protesters chanted: "Freedom for every prisoner, bring our daughters out of the jails," "We chant for freedom, freedom for prisoners," and "We demand on International Women's Day an end to all violations".

The protesters raised the images of female detainees, along with their names, demanding their release.

Cairo University professor Laila Soueif, who is the mother of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, participated in the protest.

"Women came to the forefront of the battle after being confronted with the plight of detained, forcibly disappeared and killed family members," Soueif said.

She accused the Egyptian authorities of attempting to "drag people back" into former states of repression.

The Egyptian government has been under pressure from both local and international media over allegations of large numbers of extra-judicial arrests, including many activists critical of the government.

Many of those who went missing were difficult to locate for long periods, often later appearing in courtrooms facing multiple charges, mainly related to national security and plotting against the government. Meanwhile, NGOs have recorded various accounts of citizens reported as missing after being arrested by security personnel.

In November last year El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence said in a report that 40 cases of forced disappearance were recorded in one month.

In December the NCHR compiled a list of names of people who had allegedly been forcibly disappeared, sending the list to the Interior Ministry with a request that those missing should be located.

In January, the Interior Ministry said it had informed the NCHR of the whereabouts of 130 people out of the 191 reported missing by the organization.

The NCHR claimed in December that the phenomenon of forced disappearance was the result of a failure of police and security personnel to follow the rules regarding the arrest and detention of suspects. The rights organization called on the Interior Ministry to properly implement the criminals procedures law, since this would help to avoid confusion about where suspects had disappeared to.

The Interior Ministry has consistently denied accusations that it has a policy of forced disappearance, saying that no such policy exists.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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