The father of a German woman who criticised President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over human rights abuses in Egypt has mysteriously been detained after landing at Cairo international airport on Friday, the family confirmed to Middle East Eye.
Alaa Eladly, a 59-year-old Egyptian national, has not been involved in any form of anti-government activism, according to his family. He was travelling to Egypt to spend the holidays with his son.
Writing in Arabic, German and English on three different posts on Facebook, Eladly’s daughter Fagr initially confirmed on Facebook that her father was detained on 18 August by local authorities.
“We are deeply concerned about the threats experienced by my family members,” Fagr wrote. “This arrest is directly related to my political activism and clear opposition to the Egyptian regime. It is unacceptable for political views to affect family members.”
In 2015, Fagr, a German doctor of Egyptian descent, made headlines in Germany when she protested at a press conference between the then German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Egyptian President.
Then a medical student on a trainee program at a local German radio station, Fagr shouted at Sisi, calling him a “killer”, a “Nazi” and a “fascist”. She also raised the Rabaa slogan, the four-fingered sign that symbolises the mass killings of anti-Sisi protesters in 2013.
“I see myself as a German citizen of Egyptian origin who had to help the Egyptian people,” Fagr said, speaking to MEE. “I was never politically active in Egypt,” she added. “In Egypt, I have never, for example, participated in any demonstration or protest.”
“What I have done is always write my opinion in Germany, saying whatever I think is right.”
Rights groups have accused the Sisi government of overseeing one of the worst crackdowns on human rights in Egypt’s history, with torture and enforced disappearances becoming widespread and systematic practices in recent years.
‘We had a very bad feeling’
Fagr’s brother, Hossam, confirmed to MEE that after receiving a phone call from his father from the airport saying he was being held at passport control, the family had received no official information as to his father’s whereabouts.
“After that, we were all calling him on WhatsApp and on his Egyptian phone number. Both were ringing. And then somebody cancelled [the call],” Hossam said. “Then we had a very bad feeling,” he added. “Suddenly, we didn’t hear anything of him.”
Hossam travelled from the coastal city of Alexandria to Cairo international airport to try to find out what had happened to his father. Police officers did not allow him into the airport, he said, and they denied they had any information about his father’s whereabouts.
When German authorities finally became involved, they were able to confirm Eladly was indeed detained at the airport, but they were not given further information.
After receiving the news, Fagr travelled to Egypt on Sunday to advocate on behalf of their father.
“I had a lot of problems with the [officials] at the airport. I recorded everything that happened to me,” she said. “Thank God I could enter.”
The family called for Egyptian intelligence and the Egyptian government to release their father. They appealed to German politicians and the German consulate to advocate for Alaa Eladly’s release.
“We insist that they release him as soon as possible,” Fagr said.
Middle East Eye has asked the Egyptian embassy in Berlin and the German foreign ministry for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.