حب فقد اشتياق

love, loss, and longing

Hadeer Mahmoud

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Since the Egyptian revolution on January 25, 2011, a large number of arrests have taken place in Egypt– many of them unfounded. Separated from their lovers, heartbroken women are telling stories of love, loss, and longing. Some found relief in my project, which offered them the opportunity to share their experiences and shed light on their husbands' situations. Others were afraid that participating in the project might cause more problems for their husbands. This series shows the stories of Sara, Omnia, and Eliane.

Egypt

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Sara Mourad, 26 years, is a former journalist. Her husband, Mohamed Abdlah, an accountant, was arrested on January 1, 2015 as he boarded a plane to Qatar to attend his own wedding celebration to Sara.

Sara, living in Qatar, couldn’t follow up on the case from abroad. She started saving all her vacation days to go to Egypt and visit him in prison. Eventually she lost her job, so she moved back to Egypt and moved in with Mohamed’s family.

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Sara usually has her meals alone now and she misses sharing them with Mohamed. They share sandwiches together when she visits him, a small detail that makes her happy and offers some hope.

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Sara celebrated Mohamed’s birthday for the second year alone. It is forbidden to bring him a cake in prison.

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Sara now struggles with guilt every day about living freely while her beloved is in jail. She tries to fight these thoughts so she can remain strong and support him.

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Sara wears makeup and new clothes when she visits Mohamed in jail. She didn’t get the chance to do this as a newlywed because of his arrest.

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Sara and Mohamed met through common friends at an event organized to learn about the electoral process. Sara had cooked a dish for the event and Mohamed confessed his attraction to her after tasting her food.

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Her own family lives in Qatar and while Mohamed’s family loves her, they don’t compensate for his absence.

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Sara and Mohamed met over food and they loved to explore different restaurants together before his arrest. Now Sara feels jealous when she meets other couples at the restaurants they used to visit together.

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Mohamed’s verdict on his case keeps getting postponed. She constantly asks herself when it will be over: when will the trials end, when will her husband be back.

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Sometimes, after an exhausting day of preparing food and waiting long hours for the visit, Sara will face harassments from the female inspection officers at the prison. If they choose, they can refuse to let her in with food, clothes, or other basic necessities she brings for her husband.

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Sara’s friend was married two months ago. Weddings bring tears to her eyes. She Says: “As the wife of a detainee, I get very emotional. It's not envy, I just wish I could have that happiness too.”

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Sara financially depends on both her family and her husband’s family. She fills her time with studying English and taking classes in sewing and social media.

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Sara loves to cook for Mohamed. She brings his favorite meals to the prison and also feeds his fellow inmates (an average of ten people in a 4x5m cell): stuffed zucchini, eggplants and grape leaves.

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During a medical check-up the nurse asked if Sara was pregnant. Touching her belly, she remembered that the dream of a family became impossible after her husband was detained. Sara was overwhelmed with tears when she held her friend’s baby. She had named him Omar, the same name Sara would like for her first baby.

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"Three years have passed since Omar was arrested. At first, I thought I would fight with all my powers but I let myself down. I thought the love, dreams, partnership and friendship I shared with Omar would motivate me to confront the difficulties in life. I disappointed Omar. No, life disappointed both of us. Pain and separation disappointed us. Separation was stronger, the burden was heavier than what I expected."

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"At the first year of Omar's detention, I was constantly beside him, doing my best to set him free. I was overwhelmed with love. I contacted human rights organizations, spoke up in conferences, and contacted lawyers. It was very difficult for a shy and introvert person to do all this."

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"The next year, depression and deep anger started to invade my heart and my soul. I resisted it. I attempted to commit suicide which coincided with arrest of Omar's father. Depression took control of me. It was the hardest and most difficult fall..."

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“Omar decided to leave me. I was shocked and decided to wear the wedding dress which I didn't get to wear before [his arrest]. I don't know whether it was a farewell to Omar and our dream or in defense of our rights...He was imprisoned and I was depressed. Visits with him became an unbearable pain and torture...I detached and hid silently from everybody."

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"I refused to continue shooting with Hadeer, although I believed that her idea would hugely help the case and I was very enthusiastic, I had lost my way... I lost myself and everything.”

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Eliane is a 29 year old German student of social and cultural anthropology. She came to Egypt to study and met Ahmed, her partner.
Ahmed was arrested at the Clashes of Mohamad Mahmoud Street, and now Eliane stays in Egypt to support him.

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Eliane does a job that isn't of her interest or specialty. She hates it, but she has to do it to be with Ahmed. There's no other work Eliane can do.

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Eliane found some comfort in details like the poem Ahmed wrote her from the prison.

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Eliane traveled to Germany with Ahmed as he was released after a year and a half in prison with a presidential pardon.

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Hadeer Mahmoud

Egypt, 26

Hadeer Mahmoud is a photojournalist and documentary photographer. Since joining newspapers El Tahrir in June 2011 and El Watan in March 2013, she has been covering events of political significance stemming from the Egyptian revolution. Hadeer is also a contributing member of @EveryDayEgypt.