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Omar Hazek

Omar Hazek: Prison Letter on Why He’s Dedicating his New Novel to his Nephew


This letter, which ran in Arabic in Al Masry Al Youm, was titled, “I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart”:omar-hazeq-23039I was still in the same prison, in the same cell, in nearly the ninth month of my two-year sentence on one hellish summer night in a terrible August. One new inmate was added to our ranks, making our count 23 men in a cell whose area was 3.5 x 5.5 meters, including a very tiny horrendously dirty toilet, in a space beset by rising violence, beating, and widespread scabies.Such a life has granted me a treasure of humanity and introduced me to people who would be impossible to meet outside the confines of my cell. Some of these prisoners have taught me so much. Some of them granted me great support and true friendship, which has helped me remain a lover of life and of people. I should have mentioned those people and should have dedicated this novel to them. However, I preferred to leave that for my more recent novel, Life in White, all of which is written in prison, as prison has played the leading role in this phase of my life.It was last April when I learned that Ahmad, the son of my eldest brother, a seven-year-old child, knew of my arrest and had seen pictures and footage of my trial hearings. He saw me handcuffed and recognized my family’s pain and sorrow — despite all attempts to conceal this from him. His innocent childhood could not bear this suffering, and he fell prey to psychological illness out of fretting for my sake, and for himself, that I would be tortured or beaten, which he deduced from what he could see on TV and the internet. He started to recover slowly, only after he was told that I was released from prison, had traveled to work abroad, and would soon return, laden with gifts and safe from the hands of the evil people who beat and imprisoned the youth.I have wept a few times here — mostly for my mother, at times for prisoners who faced pains beyond their capacities, and sometimes for Ahmad. Ahmad grew up in a home near ours. He visited us frequently with his father. He would enter my room while I was reading or writing to greet me and then run to play. He would not forget to come and greet me before leaving, smiling with his round, soft cheeks.  He would open his small palms saying, “loos,” which developed into “aloos” with time, meaning filoos, or money — because I used to give him coins every time I would see him to buy some candy.

Why should a child like him pay so dearly for my personal choices in life? My family members were severely affected — especially my father and mother. However, they were all able to appreciate that these costs were paid in defense of a conviction. However, Ahmad alone had to pay the dearest price, which I am not sure he will be able to completely overcome. It is indeed a dear price paid so that the youth of this nation may make small steps towards their freedom, dignity, and their now-wasted rights.

During her last visit, my mother told me that dear Ahmad had a recurrence of the attack after having achieved tangible progress. At night, I put the draft of my novel close to my face to hide my emotions. I cried for my beloved Ahmad — whom I have known as an innocent child full of vitality and joy; fond of wandering in parks and on beaches; a lover of candy, juice and potato chips. I wept for Ahmad who suffered from my imprisonment more than I have.

Ahmad, who had been looking at the family photo album, took away a photo and sat with it in a corner. His mother saw him whispering to a photo, “I miss you … I miss you so hard,” and suddenly she saw it was me in this picture.

My beloved Ahmad, I want to apologize to you from the bottom of my heart, despite the fact that I have not committed a crime deserving imprisonment, for begetting you all that suffering. I want you to know when you grow up and when God blesses you with healing and peace, that you have paid a very high price for our dignity and humanity, and that your noble pain, along with other noble pains and blood, will create a great spirit. This spirit will inspire our struggles until we achieve the goals of our revolution. This is why I implore you not to waver and to pursue the path regardless of the price and my fate. You are a great comrade along the path.

This is why I dedicate to you — and only you — my novel. Out of love and in apology to you, Ahmad Essam Hazek.

Novelist and Poet Omar Hazek: An Open Letter After a Year in Prison

Novelist and poet Omar Hazek was jailed on December 2, 2013, charged with violating Egypt’s anti-protest law, a “crime” for which he is serving two years in prison. Yet he maintains more hope than most:This letter initially ran in Al-Masry al-Youm. Hazek’s family gave permission for an English translation.


Egyptian Author Omar Hazek’s ‘World Cup’ Letter from Prison

The poet and novelist Omar Hazek, sentenced to two years at Borg El-Arab prison ostensibly for violating Egypt’s controversial anti-protest law, has written his seventh letter from inside prison:

The letter was written last month and published in El-Badil. It has been translated by Zahra Abdel Aziz:

omar-hazeq-275x192This is a lovely morning, the morning of June 12, 2014. I have just finished the revision of the fourth draft of my new novel, which I started in Hadara prison by the light of a candle and completed here in Gharbaniyat—Borg El-Arab prison. It is my habit to write half of the text or more in the first draft, and in the following drafts I complete the text after further editing either deleting or adding, and I think there may be fifth or sixth drafts. Now all the features of the novel have become clear, and I am delighted with it — so have a delightful morning, my few friends and my many brothers in loving this country.

Despite  this, there is another reason for this morning to be lovely. Yesterday, I learned that today is the beginning of the World Cup, which brings joy to millions. I don’t like football and hate its capitalism and unwise industry. Millions of the poor will be happy with unreal victories of the national teams of their countries. Let the poor become happy because there are no real reasons to be happy in their countries. These poor and simple people avoid politics and prefer to “walk close to the hall” or even walk inside it (that is, lead the quiet and keep themselves away from any troubles). These are the people that I am addressing here.

I remember a few days before the 30th of June; there was a long discussion on one of my friend’s and colleague’s Facebook wall about participation in the 30th of June. I remember that I wrote: whatever the arguments against participation, I will participate. This is because millions of the poor protested against Mubarak’s regime dreaming of a better life and they became poorer and this is enough reason to protest against any president even if he is an elected president.

I say to you poor man, my brother, when you make the tea with the biscuit packet which is worth half Egyptian pound, and turn on the old fan and sit on the sofa watching the television that you purchased through paying monthly instalments. When you are amazed by the Samba dancing at the World Cup opening ceremony, when you cannot restrain yourself while reacting after a goal or after watching a player keeping the football from the other team in a skillful way, and you start applauding, cheering, or even insulting. After the end of a very good match, you return the empty tea cups and the empty biscuit packets, or when you leave the café where you watched the match with your friends and return home, you are still analyzing the match. When something like this happens, be happy and best wishes for being happy. I just from here want you to think about a small, simple and inspiring idea.

Think of an exceptional girl — her name is Maheinor El-Masry who is currently in Abaddiyya prison in Damanhour because of a clear, shameful crime: dreaming for a better tomorrow for you, with more freedom, justice and dignity. Maheinor led our protests since Mubarak and taught me a lot, and now she’s imprisoned for defending her dreams. I am not afraid for her because I know her very well.

I also have learned that Alaa Abd el-Fattah and his companions were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Think also about thousands of young people who paid their lives and others who paid their eyes and injuries as a price for our freedom, your freedom and my freedom. Don’t forget this and don’t waste your rights, my poor brother, because life is beautiful with freedom.


A previous letter from prison and background on Hazek’s case


mlynxqualey | juillet 6, 2014 à 6:01   | 

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