Egyptian government holds UT alumni in solitary confinement for 100 days

Brooke Vincent

UT alumni Ola al-Qaradawi and Hosam Khalaf passed the 100-day mark of living in solitary confinement Monday after being detained by the Egyptian government.

Without any official charges brought against Ola al-Qaradawi and Hosam Khalaf, their family and lawyers learned about unofficial allegations through the state-run media, which reported the two green card holders are part of and fundraising for the Muslim Brotherhood, an illegal political group in Egypt. The Egyptian government has cracked down on people they believe are a part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Only once every 15 days are the detainees allowed to speak with their lawyers.

“A month ago, my mother (Ola Al-Qaradawi) got really sick, and they had to move her to a hospital,” said U.S. citizen Aayah Khalaf, daughter of the detained. “You can just imagine at her age, 55 years old, sleeping on the floor with no mattress. They don’t give her clean food or clean water, and she has access to the bathroom only five minutes in the morning. She is not even getting sunlight.”

The UT Amnesty International student organization began writing letters last month to the Egyptian government and informing the UT administration of the human rights violations.

“We always say Longhorns take care of each other, so I think UT has a big role in this case because they have such a strong tie to the University,” UT Amnesty International president Alisa Hernandez said.

The Daily Texan reached out to the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., but the embassy has not responded as of this publication.

“These are informal allegations lodged by the state-run media with no substance or evidence to back it up,” said the detainees’ international human rights lawyer, Jared Genser. “What is crystal clear is that Egypt is not following its own laws or international laws in how they are treating Ola and Hosam in their cases.”

Ola al-Qaradawi’s father, Youssef Al-Qaradawi, is a Muslim scholar and chairman of the international Union of Muslim Scholars. However, Aayah Khalaf believes her parent’s detainment has more to do with her mother being a Qatari national and the recent conflict between Qatar and Egypt.

Aayah Khalaf, who is spearheading the “Free Ola and Hosam” movement on social media, is hoping, through her efforts, her parents will be released.

“My kids are really affected,” Khalaf said. “They count the 15 days, and they wake me up on the day and ask me if something happened. I wake up to the sound of them praying that something would change that day.”

Correction (10/14): A previous version of this article misstated Hosam Khalaf as Aayah Khalaf's mother, when that is the name of her father. We have also corrected an error that stated Ola al-Qaradawi is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.