Our Sentence

My sister and I were requesting a case postponement when we found out that we had been sentenced to prison.
I had helped my brother borrow money for his daughter’s marriage.
I didn’t take any of the money myself; I only helped him out but he didn’t return the money.
My sister used to buy things which she would then sell.
But someone made her buy things that were worth 50,000 LE.
And then she disappeared. She left the house and we had no idea where she went.

We went to postpone the case and we got held in court
It was me, my sister, and 2 other guys in the cell.
Our lawyer left us there.
She didn’t want to tell us that we received a sentencing.
I banged on the court door and the officer outside asked me, “What is it?”
“Why are you holding us here? Did we steal something? Why are we locked inside?”, I asked.
“You can’t leave.”
“Why not?”
“Because you're being sent to jail.”

I was in shock.
I didn’t know what do or how to think.
“They’re saying we are sentenced to prison,” I told my sister.
“Are you kidding?”
“I swear.”
They took us to the detention center where we stayed for 2 days.
It was the first time I step foot into a detention center.
I was so scared that I peed myself.
I’ve always been afraid of the authorities because they might do something to me.
I thought this center is where people hurt each other.
That’s what I saw on TV anyway.
I was terrified, so I kept hiding behind my sister.

Then we found a woman telling us, “Come here!”
When she put her hand on me I asked her, “What are you doing?”
“Get your hand off, what are you doing!”
“There’s nothing on me!”
“Don’t worry, I’m only going to search you.”
And so she searched us.

We stayed in the other center for 15 days, and then we were sent to the city prison.
It’s the worst prison you can imagine. We saw horrors in there.
My sister was attending a court hearing when a police officer approached me and told me, “Let’s go, you’ve been sent to the city prison.”
“Let me just wait for my sister to come,” I said to him.
“She’ll come after us,” he said.

I left in tears.
I didn’t know what was going to happen to me there.
“Come on, don’t be scared,” said the officer.
I found my sister in the car as I was getting in.
“Don’t be scared. Get on,” she said to me.
She didn’t tell me what our sentencing was because she didn’t know how I’d take it.

I saw all sorts of officer ranks as soon I stepped in.
The head of the Intelligence Agency looked scary.
I peed myself when I saw him.
“Hurry up! Get inside, both of you,” we were told.
Everything in there was new to me. I was not used to being treated that way.
They searched our clothes when we got inside. They even searched our underwear.
I asked the guy why he was searching them.
“What’s the matter with you?” shouted an officer at me.
He was holding a taser in his hand. I had never seen one before.
I was frightened and hid behind my sister.
They told a lady there to search us.
“It seems like you’re good people. You’re not used to this kind of treatment,” she said.
She only searched our outer garments.

How was it like on the inside? you may ask.
Everyone was dressed in white.
No one was wearing any other color except us.
I thought we’d stay in our personal clothes.
“Take off your clothes,” said one of the inmates.
“Are you crazy? You want us to take off our clothes?”
“Here you’re only allowed to say “Yes, ma’am/sir.”
If you show disrespect, I’ll send you to the head of the Intelligence. Here you could get tased or beaten up.”
I started crying as soon as I heard these words.
“I can’t undress here. I can’t undress in front of people!” I said.

They wanted us to take off our colorful clothes so we would wear the white garments.

They took our pictures in there, which reminded me of El Limby movie.
They took our pictures with that god awful thing.
They made us hold a plate with numbers on it.
“I’m not a murderer! Why are you making me hold this! What’s going on!” I shouted.
“Hold this and stand still. This is your number. Everyone here has to take a picture with their number,” said the officer.
Our mugshots were taken and then we went inside.
It was the worst day of my life.
There were no less than 25 or 30 people in the cell.
There was a woman called Umm Bahaa in there.
It seemed that she was either burned by nitric acid or fire. She looked like a man.
“They're coming with me,” she said as soon as we entered.
My sister and I were shaking with fear. We were worried someone would hurt us.
I stood behind my sister and asked her, “What is she going to do with us?”
Turns out she was only going to take us to another cell.

We got tiny food portions and some bread in there.
I couldn’t sleep at night. There was no room.
If I wanted to turn in my sleep, everyone else would have to turn with me.
There were no beds in there. I couldn’t sleep at all the first night.
The person beside me was breathing loudly, anxiously.

I was met with a surprise when I wanted to go to the bathroom.
There wasn’t a bathroom in the cell. There were only buckets.
We could only go to the bathroom in the morning when the doors were open.
I woke up my sister and told her, “I’m dying to go to the bathroom. I’m going to burst. Do you think they’ll open the door if I knock?”
“If you knock?!” a woman said. “If you knock on the door the head of the Intelligence will come and get you.”
“Use the bucket.”

“I can’t use the bucket with everyone watching.”
I eventually used the bucket and went to sleep.
Another woman got up to use the bucket while she was half asleep.
She accidentally bumped into the bucket and it spilled all over us.
I shouted at the top of my lungs. I had had enough.
I eventually slept, but I spent the entire night crying my eyes out.

Then morning came.
The doors open at 8:00 am and everyone has to get up.
They took us out to the yard.
There were a lot of people there. People I had never seen before.
A girl called Sharbat came up to us and said, “You’ll come stay with me. This doesn’t look like your thing.”
“I’ll take them,” said Umm Bahaa.
I told her, “We’re going to stay with her not with you.”
I was scared of her.
She used to take our food and cigarettes by force.
Whenever we got visitors we’d find her waiting for us by the door when we got back.
She wanted cigarettes and food.
We used to give her what she wanted because we didn’t want any trouble.

A new inmate arrived one day and she had 5 LE and a sim card with her, which was contraband.
Sa’dia and Mofida, the supervisors, were sweeping the yard.
As soon as the new inmate arrived, she snitched to Umm Mahmoud and went up to the Head of the Intelligence.
There was a cell search the following day.
They found prohibited items with her and with an old woman.
They electrocuted her while she was blindfolded until she fell on the ground.
I fainted when I saw that.

You grow old in that place. You suffer the consequences of things you didn’t do.

Holidays in there were the worst.
I spent the worst Ramadan of my life in there.
I would spend the day before Eid crying until I passed out, especially since I would remember my mother and kids.

At home, we would prepare the food for iftaar.
But here, the doors close at 4 pm.
The stoves are in the yard, so we use boiled water if we want to heat food.
We put the food in the boiled water to heat it.
Otherwise we would have to eat frozen food.
The food rots in the summer heat.

I didn’t have any health problems when I first went there. But now I have a mental disorder.
My arm stiffens and my lips droop. All because of that place.
My hair turned white because of the fear I experienced there.
Our city prison is the worst prison in the entire country.
Cockroaches would feed on my body at night.
I would wake up to find bumps on my skin from the cockroaches.
I also got a rash from the prison uniform.
I had these health problems while my sister had colon problems.
She would get episodes of severe pain and couldn’t get painkillers.

We would find all sorts of prisoners in there, even ones who were convicted of debauchery.
We used to only see these people on TV.
Imagine seeing them in real life.
There was a prisoner with us who was sentenced to death.
I fainted when it was her turn.
We used to spend time together. But I woke up one day and I couldn’t find her.
Imagine how hard it is to part with someone who’s going to be put to death.
These were the most horrible days of our lives.

On the 25th of January, when there were shots being fired, we hid under our beds.
The bullets would reach us inside.
There were police officers surrounding the whole place to prevent mobs from attacking the prison.
But they couldn’t get inside. The prison was well-secured by the Head of the Intelligence.
He was the toughest Head of Intelligence in the country.
Everyone was afraid of him.

They sprayed us with water hoses one time.
We hadn’t done anything wrong.
There were also surprise cell searches.
They would search our food and ruin it. There wouldn’t be anything left for us to eat after that.
We didn’t do anything wrong.
My sentence was a year and 9 months, but I got out after a year and 3 months.
I got out on a presidential pardon.
I kept to myself in there. I didn’t misbehave.
We were humiliated in there. They broke us.

My worst experience in there was when my husband and son, Abdallah, were visiting me in court.
I was handcuffed.
My son wanted to play with the handcuffs but his father told him, “Stay away from those bad things.”
He took him away from me.
I felt sorry for myself.
I was crying the whole time on my way back to prison from the court.
“Why is this happening?” I thought to myself.
I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t steal. I was just helping my brother out.
My husband prevented me from seeing my children.
I didn’t see my children for a year and 3 months.
He didn’t want me to see them.
He sent me the divorce papers while I was inside.

That’s when they called me outside.
My sister was worried they would electrocute me, even though I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s well-known that anyone who’s called outside gets electrocuted.
They blindfold them and electrocute them.

So I went outside and asked them what was going on.
“Are you Marwa?” he asked. “Your husband sent you divorce papers.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”
“Are you not upset?”
“Why should I be upset?”
He abandoned me even though he knew I didn’t do anything wrong.
Why should I be upset over him?

I took my divorce papers and went inside with a smile on my face.
“What happened?” my sister asked.
“I signed my divorce papers.”
“He divorced you? Who cares. Don’t be upset.”
“I’m not upset. But I feel sorry for myself and my children. He married another woman. She’s going to raise my children and I might never see them again,” I said.

Hassan is on my side.
I found out that he spent 2 months on the streets. His father let him go to please his wife.
His wife was speaking ill of me so Hassan hit her. His father then beat him up.
That’s why he left. He lived on the streets.
Hassan came to see me as soon as he found out that I was released. He came behind his father’s back.
He’s been living with me ever since.
A guy once made fun of Hassan because his mother was in prison.
It’s not like I’m in prison for debauchery.

I helped my brother out so he wouldn’t be mad at me.
I don’t like it when anyone is mad at me.
If I had known I’d go to prison because of him, I never would’ve signed those papers for him.

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