I am Abdullah Elshamy. I’m an Al Jazeera journalist who spent 10 months, without charge, in an Egyptian prison.
Thank you for your questions. Please keep the heat on #FreeAJstaff on your social networks. Tomorrow we will have an Ad in the New York times and a billboard at the Times Square calling for their release.
Thank you all
I am Abdullah Elshamy. I was arrested in August of last year, while covering the violent dispersal of a sit-in protest. I was never formally charged and released in June, due to health concerns surrounding my 5 month hunger strike.
While I enjoy my freedom, my colleagues, over at Al Jazeera English, have been imprisoned since December, accused of “spreading false news, endangering national security and aiding or joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood.” Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were found guilty of those charges in June and sentenced to 7 years. Join me in helping to fight for their release because journalism is not a crime.
Well It's quite very important for individuals to talk about their case all the time both online and on the ground. They should pressure their governments into making more pressure on the government in Egypt to release them, because it's only pressure that works.
Worst prison experience?
It's a lifetime experience. I have gone through 4 jails, the worst experience was when i was transferred to a maximum security prison and i was put in a solitary confinement.
Would you cover the story again?
Again and again.
When you began your career in journalism, did you ever think anything like this would happen to you? Has this experience made you rethink covering tumultuous areas?
I did know I'll mostly get detained because this is how it is for journalists all the time around the world. Now what i didn't expect was this happening in my own country. This experience has made me more determined and resilient.
What's the hardest part of doing a hunger strike ?
It's keeping up. Resisting all sorts of intimidation
Are you aware of any other non-journalists arrested at the sit-in and if so, how long did they stay in prison? Was your stay in prison longer or shorter than non-journalists?
About a thousand people were detained on that day August 14 2013, I and another freelance photographer Mahmoud Abdelshakour (Shwakan) were detained, he is still in prison. The rest are a diverse combination of people from all ages and backgrounds. I stayed for 44 weeks, and there are about 300 still inside prison.
Do you feel betrayed by the Egyptian government? Does traveling in Egypt leave you bitter now, or is it back to business as usual?
I think it is disappointing when you see any government cracking down on freedom and free speech. Yes when its your own country there is another added feeling of dismay however as a journalist what matters to me most is the protection of free press. Unfortunately I can not return to Egypt because the simple truth of the matter is there is no freedom in Egypt and this has not only been manafested in demonstrated in my personal nightmare of being behind bars but also of the continued imprisonment of my colleages Peter, Baher and Mohammed
How has the reaction from the public been since you left prison?
The reaction was mostly positive. In Egypt I was always greeted and welcomed by people on the street and in the malls. Here in NYC it was very unfortunate that i got attacked by pro-sisi supporters close to the UN building by throwing hot coffee at me. It's quite shocking and appalling.
HOW ARE YOU ALIVE? You didn't eat for 5 whole months??
Hunger strike doesn't mean abstaining from Water. you can stay alive for as long as possible, as your body may be able, only drinking water. I relied on my body fat to help feeding my internal organs.
Even still with water that's such a long time! Are there any permanent damages from that?
On the long term there may be damage but that doesn't show at once. There have been other prisoners around the world who put more than 5 months of hunger strike
What did they feed you?
While on hunger strike, I was only taking liquids in the first 2 weeks and later only water. When I was moved to the maximum security prison I was force fed a piece of Tuna.
Hello, and thank you for working on this AMA. I have two questions. Before being placed in solitary confinement, was it possible to talk to other prisoners and learn their stories to help spread awareness of their plight? As in, all the many other peaceful protestors and/or innocent bystanders - will you try to tell their story and generate pressure from the international community to secure some type of justice? As mentioned by one commentator, there are many people who want to help and I would love to do what I can. Thank you again for raising awareness and for covering these events.
Yes I have documented those stories and will be publishing them in a book very soon. I had long discussions and chats with people in Jail from different cases and backgrounds. I will always have Press freedom and Freedom for everyone as my cause.
Do you have any advice for prospective young journalists who would want to go into your line of work?
Always support the weak ones, tell the untold stories. Let the world know of what is happening and let the people decide and be heard. There is always trouble when it comes to working in Journalism but it's worth it. Be determined and read all the time.
Are you related to Hasan El-Shamy? He was a professor of mine at Indiana University and an amazing person, activist, and educator.
No I am not. Elshamy family is quite big and comes from different countries like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
It appears that your colleagues have recently begun a hunger strike, is that correct? Additionally, an ad was taken out in the New York Times. What would you suggest ordinary people like me do to help?
I think you mean other prisoners, my colleagues haven't started any yet. I would suggest you write /speak about it with everyone, talk to your local congressman, write to the government to put more pressure on Egypt to release them. The more pressure we do, the sooner they will walk free.
Three of your colleagues at Al Jazeera and numerous other political prisoners remain imprisoned under spurious charges. Is there anything in particular that you think that the international community can do, either to help pressure Egypt for their release, or to help the detained know that they are supported by individuals around the world?
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