For the past three years, I have had a recurring nightmare. I dream that my father, Osama Yassin, a pediatrician and former Egyptian Minister of Youth, will be executed by the Egyptian government.
On June 14, this nightmare took a step closer to becoming a reality. The Egyptian Court of Cassation has upheld the death sentence of 12 detainees, including my father, in the case of dispersal of the Rabaa site. In the summer of 2013, my father took part in peaceful demonstrations against the coup that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.
On August 13, 2013, security forces mercilessly attacked the sit-in at Rabaa Square in Cairo, killing more than 1,000 people. The assault is considered the worst mass murder in modern Egyptian history and the deadliest incident of state violence following the infamous Chinese government crackdown on a protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989. .
Every morning I wake up to the ringing of my phone as I pray that the news I fear will not be transmitted. At the time of writing, my father is still alive. Yet I fear that every day will be the last.
After my father’s detention in 2013, he spent eight years in prison. For six of these, he had been banned from receiving visitors and meeting with his lawyer. During the handful of times we could see him, it was apparent that his health was deteriorating significantly.
He never sees the sun and is deprived of food and water for days on end. This treatment is increasingly the norm for so many tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt.
In my head, I can imagine my father’s charcoal eyes; I tried to remember how they sounded without soundproof glass between me and them, how their spark warmed my soul. How can her bright eyes always be white?
Rabaa 12’s death sentences were handed down in a mass trial described by Human Rights Watch as “grossly unfair”, marred by violations of the legal process and human rights abuses. These 12 men are a small part of the numerous Egyptians whose human rights have been completely ignored in unjust trials.
In recent years, the Egyptian regime has accelerated execution. The Egyptian Front for Human Rights has documented a sharp increase in ongoing death penalties, going from 48 in 2019 to 126 last year; already in 2021, at least 57 people have been executed.
Numerous human rights organizations have repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities to stop these politicized trials and executions. It is in this context of growing slaughter that the thought that my father was killed now consumes my days and my nights.
My father and his fellow detainees who were sentenced to death have been accused of participating in unauthorized demonstrations and of having committed violence against security forces personnel. Yet there is no evidence to support the claim that he participated in violent acts.
My father was charged along with hundreds of other men, with no specific evidence presented against him alone. In truth, the sentences are intended to stifle legitimate dissent and to serve as a warning to any Egyptian who dares to challenge the absolute authority of the regime. Despite the allegations of orchestration of the Rabaa sit-in, some of the accused were detained before the Rabaa sit-in was attacked and disappeared. Meanwhile, no government official has been called to account for the Rabaa massacre.
We have now heard from our lawyers that the execution order of father and the other 11 men has been signed. All I have left now is to call on the U.S. government and President Joe Biden to intervene on behalf of my father.
Like so many Egyptians, I have closely followed President Biden’s strong statements in favor of human rights, and the fact that he upholds the values of freedom and justice has brought hope to my heart.
If my father is executed for peaceful protest against tyranny, then this will encourage even more arbitrary detentions, torture, executions as part of a growing repression of dissidents in Egypt and beyond. President Biden has spoken out repeatedly against brutal abuses.
My father, or let me call him, Baba, in my native language, since I feel closer to him in this way – and if these are really his last days, I want to feel as close to him as possible – is a known pediatrician. Parents have brought their sick children from all over Egypt to seek their help in their practice.
To this day I receive messages from people who credit my father for saving his life and health. He lived to serve his country, his community and his people. And to do so, he now languishes in prison, sentenced to death by a dictatorial regime that sees all political dissent as a cause of execution.
My father faces death for the crime of speaking out and defending for what he believes was right. Despite the risk that talking brings to my family living in Egypt, I too must defend what is right and try to save it. My remaining hope is that the Biden administration will intervene and use its leverage on the regime in Cairo to stop the executions, to save my father and countless others like him, and one day let him reunite. My dear father, I always hope you will be saved.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.