A prominent Sinai activist working as an IT engineer in the UAE is facing deportation to Egypt after sharing Facebook posts from Massaad Abu Fager.
Inspired by the Egyptian contractor Mohamed Ali, over the past few weeks Sinai writer and former politician Abu Fager has released a series of videos on Facebook accusing the Egyptian government of key human rights violations in Sinai.
In one of his widely circulated videos, Abu Fager calls on authorities to release the names and identities of the 5,000 people the Egyptian military has killed since the war on terror began in Sinai.
Both Abu Fager and Hossam El-Rifai are outspoken about the war on civilians that is taking place in the peninsula, including extrajudicial killings, the erasure of entire towns and villages and the killing and disappearance of children.
El-Rifai applied for asylum at the UN refugee office in the UAE six months before his Egyptian passport was about to expire for fear that the Egyptian authorities would not renew it.
Key figures in Egypt’s opposition living in exile regularly have requests to renew their passports declined for security reasons. Early last year the actor and vocal government critic Amr Waked was told by the Egyptian embassy in Spain that he must return to the country – where there is a warrant out for his arrest – to renew his passport.
The UN told El-Rifai that he could not apply for asylum in the UAE but that if he could not go back to his country, they would arrange for him to get a temporary document to stay in the Gulf country.
El-Rifai was warned by close friends to leave the UAE, a key ally of the Sisi regime, but he didn’t want to. He maintained that the UN refugee office told him that even if his request for an official residence permit was refused, he would not be deported back to Egypt, which many activists and government critics fear.
However, the threat was very real. In March Malaysia deported four Egyptian dissidents back to Egypt and Turkey deported one in January, where they face severe risk of torture and ill-treatment. In July Kuwait deported eight Egyptian men, allegedly part of a terror cell.
Last year Spanish police forcibly deported Imam Alaa Mohamed Said and incarcerated him in the notorious Tora Prison.
Despite reassurances from the UN, El-Rifai was arrested two weeks ago. When he was questioned, they showed him printouts of Abu Fager’s Facebook posts, which they were alerted to when another Egyptian reported him to the Emirati authorities.
El-Rifai’s supporters are calling on the UAE not to deport him to Egypt where he will be arrested and faces a serious risk of torture.