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Sunset in the black hole: an open letter from imprisoned freelance photojournalist Shawkan

Sunset in the black hole: an open letter from imprisoned freelance photojournalist Shawkan

Friday marks the 500th day in prison for freelancer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known professionally as Shawkan.

Back in May we featured the case of Egyptian freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, who has been detained in Cairo's Tora prison without charge since 14th August 2013. A contributor to publications such as Time Magazine, Die Zeit, and online photo agency Demotix, Shawkan was covering violent clashes in Cairo last summer when he was arrested, beaten and subsequently detained by local security forces. 

Since our post in May, nothing has changed for Shawkan. Yet to be formally charged,  his pre-trial detention is continuously being extended and despite pressure from both local and international organisations, he remains in limbo.

To mark the 500th day of his detention, Shawkan has written an open letter describing his current situation.

Sunset in the black hole

My name is Shawkan. I am a freelance photojournalist. I have been kidnapped and imprisoned for almost sixteen months now. 500 days in prison, without committing any crime. My family are unable to negotiate my release. I am an innocent man...

I want to show you a little of the life of suffering I have here in jail. It is a life that is far away from real life, and the life that I had. it is an endless nightmare inside this black hole that I am stuck in. The sunset has become a tiny strip through the iron mesh...

Everything here is imprisonment. I cannot see the sky clearly without an iron net and bars. I can only just see the sky from a small hole in the ceiling. Iron is taking over the place here. Heavy iron doors and a dark room like a dungeon.

I want to tell you about the cell I share with twelve political prisoners... We live in a small cell 3 metres x 4 metres, which is not even suitable to be a cage for animals. I sleep on the floor. Every day is the same.

I spend twenty two hours each day locked in this small, dark cell with twelve others. For two hours I am moved into a small cage under a sun that I can barely feel. This is my existence...

I want to let you know about the frustration, disappointment, hopeless feelings and the wasting of my dreams between four of the most cursed, ugliest walls I've ever seen in my life...

I want to tell you how I sleep long hours, up to 13 or sometimes 14 hours every day, in order to flee these cursed walls.

Please forgive me, there are many things that I have missed telling you, like my hopes to travel, my love of music, films and nature, but my dreams are becoming narrow. The same as the black hole I am living inside.

I simply ask that now that you know of me, please do not turn away. I am a photojournalist, not a criminal.

I'm Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Shawkan

Read the full letter here.

Earlier this year RPT provided an assistance grant to Shawkan's parents to help suppor them whilst their son is in prison. 

Help to raise awareness of Shawkan's situation by sharing the Freedom for Shawkan Facebook page and tweet your support using the hashtag #freeshawkan.

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