My husband, the hunger striker

What revolution unites, no man can take, writes wife of a journalist detained in Egypt.

Egyptian journalist Abdullah Elshamy has been detained for more than six months [Al Jazeera]

If you aren’t the kind of person who bristles at any type of limitation to their freedom, you might as well not read on. You will see my words as some sort of exaggeration, or a plea for sympathy. That’s not what I’m seeking.

My words are just those of an ordinary human being, not a “legal expert”, nor even an “Egyptian revolutionary” – even though I have been all of these things at one time or another.

This letter is from a wife whose husband has been detained and held for more than six months.

My husband is Abdullah  al-Shami. In our part of the world, he is legendary for his heroic stand and for being on a hunger strike for more than a month now. He is a journalist whose conscience refuses to let him do anything other than report the truth – the whole truth – even if he has to pay his life for it in the end.

Abdullah will be released one day. He will be stronger, and I will be even more supportive.

You may have heard about him, because his plight has been reported across media outlets. But everything you heard pertains to Abdullah the journalist. Very few knew about Abdullah the human being.

Abdullah is 25 years old with the heart of a warrior and the mind of an explorer. In recent years, he didn’t spend more than one month in one place. He always dreamt of  traveling around the world, to learn something new from each destination, and give back whatever he can.

He is repulsed by inequity and injustice. He hates to see it, and he hates to live in its squalor.

What brought us together as a couple was our mutual disgust for restrictions, any restrictions, on our freedom. We promised each other to break down any barrier that comes our way.

We got engaged during the Egyptian uprising, which we thought was a revolution. I was in the streets of Cairo, and he was under gunfire in Misrata, covering the events of the Libyan revolution. 

My definition of “home” was really narrow before I met Abdullah. He taught me that home is wherever we are at that moment; no borders, no labels. We agreed that the issues we cared about were not limited to Egypt or the Arab world, but anywhere in the world where injustice was the norm.

Almost every day since we got engaged, I have thought to myself that I may lose Abdullah to a jail somewhere, but I never thought I would lose him to a jail here in Egypt! Now the days and months pass by and he’s still jailed in his native land.

Inside Story – Journalism on trial in Egypt

So he began his open-ended hunger strike, and my heart beats faster every day. Every time a fellow prisoner asks him if he is protesting against any mistreatment, he becomes furious. He gets angry if he hears that someone asked me that question, too. He’s not starving himself to get preferential treatment in jail. He went on hunger strike because he can’t accept that he is in jail.

We all know too well that his detention is baseless, unfounded, and full of technicalities that render it invalid. So now Abdullah has been held for 193 days, with no charges. He may be sitting in a jail, but make no mistake – he is a free man, whether they like it or not.

Freedom is a spirit, not a body. If anyone thinks that Abdullah would prefer to cut his ties to his employer so that he can secure his release, they are mistaken. If anyone thinks that he will stop reporting what he sees with his own eyes, they are mistaken. And if anyone thinks he will change his mind about his profession because of what I am going through, they are mistaken.

Abdullah will be released one day. He will be stronger, and I will be even more supportive. 

Gehad Khaled is an Egyptian activist and the wife of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah al-Shami.