Call for urgent action against the arrest and disappearance of researcher and HRD Ahmed Samir Abdelhady Ali

Egyptian Front for Human Rights calls for urgent action regarding the arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of Ahmed Samir Abdelhay Ali, an Egyptian master’s student at Central European University and a human rights defender. Ahmed’s whereabouts have remained unknown since 1 February 2021 after he was arrested by National Security police in the Fifth Settlement Police Station in Cairo. We are deeply concerned that his continued disappearance will put him at risk of torture, ill-treatment, and prolonged arbitrary detention. 

Ahmed, who was living in Vienna, returned to Egypt on 15 December 2020 for the winter break. Upon arrival at the Sharm Elsheikh International Airport, he was stopped and interrogated by airport police but was not detained. On Saturday, 23 January 2021 at 2 am in morning, armed and masked Central Security forces stormed Ahmed’s house in the First Settlement in Cairo. Although the police did not present a warrant, they searched the entire building, took pictures of everyone’s ID cards, and took the footage from two security cameras in the building. In compliance with orders given to his family that he should report to the National Security office, Ahmed voluntarily presented himself on 1 February, accompanied by his father who remained there awaiting his release. He was interrogated by the National Security police absent of legal counsel. He has not been seen or heard from since. The Fifth Settlement Police Station, where he was last seen by his father, denies any knowledge of his whereabouts. His family sent telegrams to the General Prosecutor and other relevant authorities inquiring about his whereabouts and demanding his release but have received no response. 

Ahmed, 29 years old, left Egypt in September 2019 to pursue his master’s in Sociology and Social Anthropology at Central European University in Vienna. His academic work cuts at the intersection of human rights, gender, and neo-colonialism in Egypt, focusing on anti-abortion laws. A vocal human rights defender, Ahmed has been involved with several human rights organizations since 2011. We, therefore, believe Ahmed’s arrest comes as a direct result of his academic work.

Ahmed’s abduction and disappearance call attention to a systematic campaign of reprisals and intimidation by the Egyptian authorities against academics and researchers studying abroad. His arrest comes as Patrick Zaki completes one year in pre-trial detention. Zaki is a master’s student at the University of Bologna in Italy who, while returning home for the holidays, was arrested by security forces upon arrival at Cairo International Airport in February 2020. Walid Salem, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Washington, is yet another academic who was arrested after returning to Egypt for his fieldwork. Salem was released on bail pending trial in December 2018 after spending 9 months in pre-trial detention. His passport was withdrawn and his freedom of movement violated after he was banned from traveling. 

We are deeply concerned that the arrest and enforced disappearance of Ahmed might lead to arbitrary charges being brought against him by the National Security prosecution, and subject him to prolonged pre-trial detention or a ban from traveling, violating his rights and preventing him from going back to his studies. We also fear for his life and safety as his whereabouts remain unknown and as he remains illegally detained by the National Security police who are infamous for their systematic use of torture and ill-treatment against political detainees. 

We call on the Egyptian Ministry of Interior to disclose the whereabouts of Ahmed Samir Abdelhady Ali, demand his immediate and unconditional release, and insist on his right to travel and go back to his studies. We remind the Egyptian government that these campaigns are a serious breach of freedom of expression and academic freedom and place the government in violation of its obligations under international law.

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