Fears are growing over the whereabouts of a 22-year-old Egyptian student who was last seen being dragged away from a Cairo metro station by a group of men, shortly before security forces raided his family home.
According to witnesses, unknown men apprehended Omar Khaled at a metro station in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, on Thursday while he was on his way to meet friends at university.
Officials told Khaled’s mother, Ghada Rifaat, that they did not know where her son was. Security forces, she said, raided the family’s home shortly after he disappeared.
“There was absolutely no warning or indication … he was going out normally to meet his friends and was kidnapped on the way,” Rifaat told Al Jazeera on Monday.
“Had it not been for another student on his course tweeting that she had seen him being dragged away from the station by men in plain clothes, they would’ve had no idea about what happened to him.”
Rifaat describes her son, a student of engineering, as apolitical.
“Omar wasn’t politically active,” she said. “He’s just an Egyptian student that loves his country and wants the best for it.”
She added that her requests for more information from police have so far been met with “shrugs”.
Khaled’s friends at Cairo’s Ain Shams University have responded to his apparent arrest with open defiance.
Several of his classmates planned to wear T-shirts demanding his release. Egyptian activists on social media used the hashtag “Where is Omar Khaled?” to raise awareness about his disappearance. A Facebook page demanding his release was also set up.
Rights groups accuse Egypt of abducting and torturing hundreds of activists.
In a report published in July 2016, Amnesty International said children as young as 14 were being forcibly disappeared by the state security apparatus.
Amnesty’s Egypt researcher Mohamed Ahmed told Al Jazeera that some of those “disappeared” do not resurface for months, until their trials.
“Shockingly, the Egyptian ministry of interior continues to deny that it has subjected hundreds of people to enforced disappearance, including children,” Mohamed said. “Almost all those who disappear resurface months later in prisons and face charges based on confessions obtained under torture.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Egypt has tortured and imprisoned tens of thousands of political dissidents, particularly those linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew the Brotherhood-aligned former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, later presiding over a bloody crackdown on the group.
“It is disgraceful that while hundreds of children, students and other members of opposition groups are being abducted and tortured on a daily basis, world leaders are welcoming President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and committing to new arms deals to Egypt, which is being used to facilitate the commission of such human rights violations,” said Amnesty’s Ahmed.