Monday marked Aya Hijazi’s 900th day in prison - the American citizen and civil servant currently being held without trial in Egypt. Hijazi’s crime? Helping to provide food and shelter to Egypt’s homeless children.
After graduating from George Mason University in 2009, Hijazi left for Cairo, meeting her future husband in Tahir square during the 2011 revolution. After their wedding, the couple founded an organisation, the Belad center, that aimed to provide a safe space and education for street children in Cairo.
By May 2014, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi had taken control of the country and his military controlled government was making sweeping arrests of academics, political opponents and civil servants. Aya and her husband were on the list and the couple were arrested alongside six volunteers and several children.
Hijazi was accused of physically and sexually abusing the children. Her family and human rights groups say the charges are completely false. Since her imprisonment a petition on change.org, calling for the US state department to arrange the release of Aya and her husband, has garnered up to 28,955 signatures.
In an article for the Washington Post, Aya’s sister, Alaa Hijazi, spoke of the family’s ordeal:
“It is terrifying to imagine my young sister, imprisoned in a country whose judiciary is often a mockery of justice on horrifying, bogus charges of child trafficking and sexual exploitation that can carry a life sentence — and with no certainty that we can do anything to free her.”
In recognition of her 900th day of imprisonment, the #FreeAya hashtag was reignited across social media as thousands took to facebook and twitter to call for her release.
Aya should be praised as a hero who cared for the neglected and vulnerable, not jailed 900 days for imagined crimes. It's time to #FreeAya.— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) October 17, 2016
Arrested for 900 days without a conviction, Aya Hegazy was imprisoned for helping street children. Don't let this go unnoticed #FreeAya— Tarek Abdel Kouddous (@takouddous) October 17, 2016