TORONTO — An Ontario poet is hoping that a poem she wrote will bring attention to the plight of her father, a Canadian man, who has been imprisoned for more than 400 days inside a Cairo jail notorious for its human violations.
Oakville, Ont. resident Amal Ahmed Albaz wrote the poem for her father, who spent his second birthday in a row at the Tora Prison despite having no charges or accusations laid against him.
Yasser Ahmed Albaz, a 52-year-old Canadian engineer, has been imprisoned at the jail since February 2019 after he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip.
“It was the second birthday that he spent in prison alone and that was very devastating for us,” Amal told CTV News Toronto. “My father has always been one of my biggest supporters as a writer and as a poet and he has an absolute love for poetry.”
Amal said she is hoping the poem will remind Canadians and the government of her father’s situation. The Albaz family are concerned at the lack of progress made on the case since the imprisonment. The global COVID-19 pandemic has also heightened their worries.
“We are very grateful that the Canadian government considers this to be top priority, but at the same time, we have not seen any results and the question is why?” Amal said.
“Clearly, the Canadian governments approach is lacking something and it needs to be fixed … It’s about time our government intensified the negotiations for my father’s release and just brings him home.
“He is Canada’s responsibility. Every Canadian has the right to safely return home and we need to see that happen.”
It’s not the first time a Canadian resident has been arbitrarily detained in Egypt. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian doctor, spent seven weeks in Tora Prison without charges. Mohamed Fahmy, an award-winning Canadian journalist, had also been imprisoned for over a year.
Several other countries, including Germany, France and Australia, have successfully brought their nationals home after pressuring the Egyptian government.
Canadian officials have said they have tried to discuss Yasser’s case with Egyptian authorities, but Amal says that no progress has been made.
“The Prime Minister raised this case directly with the Egyptian President on the margins of the 33rd African Union Summit,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CTV News Toronto.
Hundreds of emails and thousands of letters and phone calls have been made to the government from Canadians urging immediate action, Amal said.
“It came as a complete shock to everyone and this why everyone is completely devastated,” Amal said. “The fact that everyone has mobilized for him really speaks to his character and the type of man that he is.”
Amal’s poem to her father illustrates some of the grief and loss she and her family have felt. They have had no communication with Yasser since he was detained.
“To this day, there absolutely no justification, no charges laid, not a single accusation as to why our innocent father is unjustly detained or how he’s robbed of his freedom completely unexplained,” she writes.
“Baba, how can I sleep in my warm bed when you’re sleeping on cold, concrete floor? How can I be in comfort when I know your entire body is sore?”
She writes that her father has missed his youngest daughter’s wedding, his son’s graduation and all his grandchildren’s milestones—events, she said, that are painful to get through without him.