To mark his third year in prison, Egyptian blogger, software developer and political activist, Alaa Abd El Fattah penned a moving letter from his prison cell.
In the letter, which has been deemed "inspirational" and "hopeful", by his family and colleagues, Fattah, defiantly paints "a picture of an activist outside his cell." Using his words, he explains that his incarceration is only physical, placing no boundaries on the freedom of his thoughts.
Fattah writes about defeat, hope and revolution, he writes about the person he was when he permanently moved back to Egypt in 2011, hopeful and optimistic. He writes about meaning that people tried to find during the revolution and how authorities destroyed it.
The activist invested all he had in designing open-source software when he arrived back in the country. Along with his wife Manal, he launched the blog Manalaa.
In his letter, Fattah also writes about intense state censorship that complicated the work of activists, explaining that "the state had made up its mind, meaning was dangerous and triumphing for it is a crime."
Ending his letter, the husband and father of one, sent a defiant, hopeful message to all those who believe in his cause, writing:
"We were, then we were defeated and meaning was defeated along with us. But we aren’t extinct yet and meaning hasn’t been murdered. Our defeat was possibly imminent, but out of the chaos taking over our world today, a new world will be born. A world that will be ruled by those who triumph. No one will lay out the lines of justice and freedom, or determine public spaces, or the possibility of co-existence other than the weak who believed and held on to the triumph of meaning, even after their defeat."
"You know what's most disheartening?, Alaa is still able to inspire us and give us hope from inside his cell, and we're completely unable to do the same for him."
A complex case
Fattah's case history is long and complex. He has constantly been persecuted by Egyptian authorities since uprisings against Hosni Mubarak's regime began in 2011.
In 2013, he was handed down a fifteen year jail sentence, which was reduced to five years, during a 2015 retrial of cases against 25 Egyptian activists.
And his alleged crime?
He violated a law that prohibits protests without government permission in Egypt.
"Let him be happy"
Fattah, has been in isolation since the beginning of 2015. There are severe restrictions on his rights "to read, and receive information or correspondence."
In recent months, the prison administration refused to allow the entry of a large number of publications and books to inmates of the prison, including Fattah, without providing any justification.
Many organizations including PEN English have spoken up about Fattah's case. The organization is holding an event in his honor on Saturday.
His sister also penned an emotional letter, posting it on her Facebook page on Monday.
Fattah's supporters took to Twitter and other social media platforms to share his letter and remind him that he is not forgotten.
"Even after three years in prison Alaa Abd El Fattah still writes with the same openminded, hopeful, inspiring and enlightened rhetoric."
The price of dissent
Fattah's years in prison took a toll on his health and even on his ability to write. In 2016, he published a letter on Madamasr. In the letter, he wrote about losing his words.
"It’s been months since I wrote a letter and more than a year since I’ve written an article. I have nothing to say: no hopes, no dreams, no fears, no warnings, no insights, nothing, absolutely nothing. Like a child showing signs of autism, I am regressing and losing my words."
His sister often posts updates on her Twitter account, to remind the world of the price of dissent that her brother – and many other activists – continue to pay.