The Theatre of Empty Stomachs

Today,  Ittihadiya detainees including rights activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Abdel-Fattah, will receive a verdict. Abdel-Fattah, like a number of other arrested activists, has been on a hunger strike for the last 60 days. Stories like hers were dramatized last week in a production titled “Cannula: Stories of Empty Stomachs”:

10440715_759915717406624_2629139376965320274_nThe production, staged by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), tells the stories of detainees “who have decided to stage a hunger strike in protest against their trials, which failed to meet international standards of due process, and their inhumane treatment in prison.”

It focused on the stories of 14 people who have been detained in different prisons, in connection with various cases, over the past year and a half. Among these are field medics, journalists, students, and peaceful demonstrators, and bystanders.

That’s just a fraction of the more than one hundred detainees on hunger strike, along with 1,081 solidarity strikers.

According to a CIHRS release:

In their preparations for the production, members of CIHRS’s Alumni Club collected testimonies of hunger strikers, obtained through prison letters written to families, letters some detainees have managed to publish online, as well as videotaped statements. The alumni club members also contacted detainees’ families and friends who have visited them in prison to gain an accurate understanding of their conditions, the hardships they face, and their motives for going on hunger strike. The play also explores the hunger strikes’ impact on the families and friends of the detainees, and those standing in solidarity with them outside prison. It also tells the story of some of the detainees’ children through letters they have written to their loved ones behind bars.

The play was staged last Sunday at the AUC Greek Campus Theatre and reviewed on Daily News Egypt.

CIHRS organizer told Daily News Egypt that the performance reflects a human element that’s absent in most discussions about hunger strikers.

Other recent intersections of politics and theatre in Cairo:

Mada Masr: Laila Suleiman’s Whims of Freedom

News on Ettehadiya protesters:

Mada Masr: Lawyers denounce charges against Ettehadiya protesters, verdict expected Oct 26

Daily News Egypt: Amnesty calls for release of activists on trial under Protest Law

Ahram Online: Trial for Egyptian activists Sanaa, Yara adjourned for final verdict