The campaign – particularly the Urgent Action Week at the UvA with Amnesty International – for the release of Rami Sidky has paid off, according to a statement from Vivienne Matthies-Boon on Tuesday, 21 May.
Thanks to Matthies-Boon’s initiative, more than 42,863 signatures were collected and around 2000 postcards were written by UvA students and staff asking for Rami’s release. The Egyptian musician and UvA alumnus Sidky was detained and imprisoned without due process in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison. He was accused of involvement in a song critical of the Egyptian president. Sidky was in no way involved with the writing, production or performance of the song in question.
The signatures were presented to the Egyptian Embassy in The Hague on Friday 10 May in the presence of Dr Matthies-Boon, Amnesty, and the Dutch media. During Sidky’s hearing the following day (11 May) the court decided to issue a decision for Rami’s unconditional release. This was put into effect after clearing significant bureaucratic hurdles. Rami is now at home with his parents. He once again has a bed to sleep in (after a year on a concrete floor) and normal food to eat. He will still be required to report to the police three times a week until the entire case is closed. While this is a great burden after his ordeal, at least he is home again.
Sidky wrote the following words shortly after hearing about his conditional release:
To all the amazing people, the beautiful souls. My dear friends, UvA management and students, and the zealous fighters at Amnesty NL.
I’ve been briefly updated with your massive actions, unbelievable efforts and sincere participation through my dear friend and campaigner Dr Matthies-Boon and my parents. Being truly overwhelmed by your tremendous support, I cannot help but risk writing you this short thank you note.
Words fail to describe what I feel. It’s been a year since I last saw the sky, but I can see it clearly now through you. As I gradually started getting my memory back over the course of my detention, it wasn’t hard to remember spending the best days of my life in Amsterdam. It used to be really painful to retrieve such memories here in this place, but now it’s not because of you. Studying at the UvA was totally a life changing experience. What I learned from and shared with my professors and peers introduced me to the most interesting concepts and knowledge, and inspired me to create a positive change in my life and that of others as well. I never wanted these days to end. However, even after my inability to renew my Dutch residence permit and my inability to resume my human rights career due to the civil repression in Egypt, I found myself using what I learned from UvA and my whole experience in the Netherlands to pursue my alternative career as a musician and initiate a collaborative platform for young artists. And now with UvA’s support in my darkest times, I am even more proud to be a UvA alumnus.
I feel more than honoured and grateful to receive all this support emerging from a joint action by UvA management and students, and Amnesty NL. It is particularly heart-warming and breath-taking at the same time to see this happen at the Roeterseiland campus, where I spent my best times gaining knowledge, making friends and sharing thoughts, stories and experiences in a truly friendly and vibrant environment. Please know that you all are lighting up the darkness that we live in. Please know that you are refilling me with the humanity and hope I’ve been losing all along. Please know that you are effectively compensating for the lack of public solidarity in my own country due to fear and oppression.
Your fight against injustice will always stand out.