Patrick Zaki is not alone: ​​the women on his side

Qhen on December 9th Patrick Zaki was released from the Mansoura police station after 22 months of imprisonment, there was a small group of women waiting for him. A “dream team” that he never stopped fighting for the release of Patrick, a student of the University of Bologna at the Gemma master in studies for gender equality.

The first of all to hug him was mom Hala. In her fifties, Hala is a woman who has never had a second of peace since her son’s arrest on February 7, 2020 until a few weeks ago.

Patrick Zaki is released from prison in Egypt: the touching hug with his mother, sister and girlfriend

Free Zaki, mother’s embrace

“I can’t sleep at night thinking about what she must have been through. And sometimes I regret not having forbidden him to return here to Egypt “he told us in his mansion in Mansoura a few hours before his release, as he pointed to the green trolley with which Patrick arrived at Cairo airport on the day of his arrest.

Patrick Zaki with his mom

From Facebook Patrick with his mom

“Patrick and I are very close to each other. When I had him, we were living in Alexandria and I took five years off to take care of him. With him I learned to be a motherHe told us. Employed in a ministry in Cairo, since Patrick was released from prison, Hala has started smiling again and, during the hours following her son’s return home, always wrapped in a black and white raw wool shawl, did not stop for a moment to enter the room to check that Patrick was really there.

The sister and friends, who has always been there

By his side all these months, Marise, Patrick’s younger sister. An economics student in Cairo and the only English speaker in her family, 25, she has put on her shoulders the management of relations with activists who support her brother and the campaign to free him.

Now I want to take a breakHe said a few minutes before hugging his brother again. An affectionate word for all those who worked for him, then Marise was among the first to run to meet him at the exit of the Mansoura police station. And she was among the first to announce the good news. Small in stature and determined, always one step behind her brother, she remained close to him even in the days following his release, the more delicate ones, protecting him and making him a shield. And now, every now and then, he even manages to have a coffee in peace with his brother at Starbucks in Cairo, as they did before the arrest.

Among Patrick’s closest friends, there is Yousra, a second sister, one of her closest friends. They met Patrick in Cairo at the German university, when he was studying Pharmacy and she was studying Human Resources. She too was born in 1990, a few moments before the release of her friend “Patricoo”, now laughs and jokes over a coffee and a slice of cake. But he knows how necessary it is to protect him. “Patrick has always been a very empathetic person” explains. Then, suddenly, he changes the subject: «Now we have to deal with one thing above all: that haircut. It is not fashion at all. I am her friend and I can tell. ‘

Patrick Zaki free with his sister (bottom), girlfriend (left) and friend Yousra.  On the right, one of the demonstrations in his favor in Rome.

Patrick free with his sister (bottom), girlfriend (left) and friend Yousra.

Missed calls

In Patrick’s “dream team” a special place is occupied by Reny, the student’s girlfriend of the University of Bologna. Born in 1996, also a student abroad, she says she began her relationship with Patrick shortly before his arrest: “I was looking forward to his arrival, I woke up in the middle of the night and found a message from him, which said the flight was about to take off. We agreed that he would spend a few hours with his family. “I go to my grandmother like every Friday and then I’ll see you for dinner” we told each other ».

Of that night, on Facebook, Reny says: «I kept trying to write and call you, I could not contact you until 5 pm. Twelve hours after your arrival in Cairo. I was in a panic, I knew in my heart that you had been arrested, but I was denying it, I kept telling myself that you were probably just busy with your family. Eventually I found the courage to write to Marise George, whom I didn’t know at the time, and she told me there was “a problem at the airport”. I went there to meet you and stayed there until 1am. I didn’t know where you were until the next morning when you appeared in Mansoura. Just when I started to breathe, knowing where you were, I received the news that you were brutally tortured“.

Since that day Reny and Marise have never stopped fighting side by side. And on the day of liberation, after she untied her long red hair, Reny was finally able to hug her partner again and celebrate with him in a club in Cairo. “And who knows, maybe one day we’ll write this whole story together.”

patrick zaki

The embrace of his girlfriend Reny, his friend Yousra and his sister Marise.

A boy who never stood still

Even outside his family and friends, Patrick was mostly followed and supported by women. “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” he told us Lobna Darwish, director of the Eipr which Patrick worked with prior to his arrest and who took charge of his defense. Originally from Alexandria, studied in the United States, Darwish she is the spokesperson for the most active NGO on the human rights front in Egypt (and more in the crosshairs of Al Sisi’s government) and is an expert in gender equality. “I was Patrick’s first boss and I remember perfectly thinking, the first time we met, ‘This guy never stands still.’ And in fact it is really like that ». Short curly hair, Lobna worked day and night on Zaki’s case. “And now, even here at Eipr, we are taking a break,” he says as we say goodbye.

The legal strategy

Last in order of appearance but not of importance it is Hoda Nasrallah, Patrick’s lawyer. She too, like her client, is of Coptic origin. Born in Cairo 40 years ago, daughter of a civil servant, graduated in Law, after practicing in some studios in the capital, Nasrallah started collaborating with organizations dealing with human and trade union rights. And he made a personal choice about his profession. After his father’s death, he had challenged in court the inheritance law based on sharia, the Islamic law, which provides for an unequal division of assets between men and women.

After taking the petition to three different courts, she managed to assert the Christian doctrine that provides for gender equality with regard to inheritance. “I did it,” he explains. “Now I want to bring these same arguments into Patrick’s defense.” It is indeed for an article on the Coptic minority appeared on the Lebanese portal Daraj that Zaki is still on trial. An article that, according to the Egyptian prosecutor, spreads false news and could cost the student a five-year sentence. “Patrick is now free. But the charges against him still standExplains Nasrallah. Preparing to return to court for a new hearing on February 1st. “With the hope that it will be the last. And that he sees full acquittal recognized to Patrick ».



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