Egyptian poet Galal El-Behairy to escalate hunger strike on 1 June 2023
Galal El-Behairy, the Egyptian poet and lyricist who has been unjustly imprisoned since March 2018, has announced his plan to escalate his hunger strike on 1 June 2023, refusing fluids.
In February 2023, PEN International received a message from El-Behairy, announcing that he would begin a hunger strike on the fifth anniversary of his arrest, 5 March. His family has expressed their concern about his deteriorating condition following recent visits, and confirmed that he suffers from depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, and severe back and joint issues.
In May 2023, PEN raised concerns about his deteriorating health after 60 days on hunger strike, and the continued violation of his rights.
Galal El-Behairy sent the following message to be released ahead of his intended escalation (translated by PEN International):
Against the life of coercion and the prison’s grave
Against the colours of the cell’s walls
Against the iron’s logic
Against the sensation of the sun behind bars and the wires
Against the prison’s uniform and food
Against the shining lights in my cell 24/7
Against the 20 minutes of the allowed time for the prison visit
Against the ban on pens and papers
Against the ban on lighters
Against the ban on all colours but white… the ban on white
Against 1912 nights in which I only saw the moon once, and by chance
Against every dream that dies over time and joins all my wasted dreams. Dreams of love, a home, establishing a family, fatherhood in my thirties, being beside my little sister in every hard step she takes in the sea of life, my dance with her on her big night, being there for my mom and dad as they are slowly devoured by time
Against myself, against every day I get away from the human inside, and become a concrete thing in a concrete place, under a concrete law
Against all this, and to save what is left, on the 1 of June, I will start a life strike to regain my life.
PEN International and English PEN urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Galal El-Behairy and drop all charges against him, and ensure his urgent access to adequate medical care pending his release. The organisations call on the international community to support his cause, pressure the Egyptian authorities to immediately release him, and call for an end to the human rights crisis in Egypt. Supporters can show solidarity with Galal by sending him messages through English PEN’s PENWrites campaign.
PEN members are also encouraged to:
Take part in a Twitter storm on Thursday 1 June 2023 between 12– 3 pm Egypt / 10am–1 pm UK time with the hashtag #FreeGalal, targeting:
o Egypt’s Public Persecutor’s Office: @EgyptianPPO
o The President of Egypt: @AlsisiOfficial
o Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: @MfaEgypt
 Here El-Behairy refers to the colour of prisoners’ uniform who are being held in pre-trial detention, and to his own experience of that.
 Referring to the idea and principle of goodness.
 Against myself, against every day I get away from the human inside [me], and become a concrete [cement] thing in a concrete [cement] place, under a concrete [rigid] law.
 Against all this, and to save what is left, on the 1 of June, I will start a life strike [escalate my hunger strike] to gain my life back.
Photo credit: private collection