The Washington Post
Reem Mohamed Desouky and her 13-year-old son Moustafa stepped off a plane in Cairo last month to visit relatives in the city. But Desouky, who is a dual U.S.-Egyptian national, never made it to her family. After being detained and interrogated at the airport, the art teacher from Pennsylvania was jailed for allegedly criticizing the Egyptian government on Facebook. Authorities have not revealed which posts led to her arrest.
Last week, Desouky’s brother and son went to visit her at Qanatir Prison in Cairo, where she is being held. Moustafa was not allowed in, and his uncle never reemerged. The boy remains under the care of family members in Cairo, unsure of what to do when school starts back home at the end of August. It shows an unusual level of spitefulness to seize a man who comes to see his sister in prison. Now, all her relatives fear even trying to visit her.
Her story reveals the rampant erosion of freedom under the regime of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whom President Donald Trump has enthusiastically embraced.
Egypt’s crackdown has intensified since 2017. In 2018, the Egyptian parliament passed a law granting extensive censorship powers to the government, muzzling everything from critical journalism to social media posts. According to Human Rights Watch, Desouky is one of three U.S. citizens currently detained on politically motivated charges, and without due process, by Egyptian authorities. Michael Harker, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, wrote in an email to The Post that “we are aware of Desouky’s case and are providing consular services at this time.”
The White House, which sporadically has shown interest in freeing similarly held Americans in the past, should step up. Last year, Ahmed Etiwy was released after nearly five years of imprisonment for a protest he did not attend when Vice President Mike Pence put pressure on Sissi’s regime. In 2017, humanitarian aid worker Aya Hijazi was freed after a prodding from Trump. The administration should not forget Desouky and her lawless detention.