The Fahmy Foundation was founded in 2015 by award-winning journalist and author Mohamed Fahmy while he was serving a 7-year sentence in Cairo Scorpion Prison on fabricated charges of terrorism. Before his arrest he had served a multi-decade career with media organizations such as CNN, BBC, and he was the bureau chief of Al Jazeera English when he was arrested in December 2013. Sitting in his dingy cell, he was shocked and inspired when he learned that the country of his citizenship, Canada does not have a legal legislation that obligates the government to intervene when one of its own is unjustly jailed and facing sheer human rights violations. The intervention remains at the discretion of a government minister---a controversy that shocked him when he learned that countries such as US, Germany, Mexico, and many nations of the European Union have some sort of legislation or law the forces their governments to intervene rather than leave the matter to the discretionary of a Canadian minister. He witnessed the sheer loop holes in the Canadian counselor services as he waited for the Canadian prime minister to contact the Egyptian president. He endured a case described by world leaders, press freedom organizations and the United Nations as a “travesty of justice”
His prominent British-Lebanese lawyer, Attorney Amal Clooney, the wife of actor George Clooney, submitted a written defense in 2015 to the Egyptian judge at the time stating that Mr. Fahmy is considered to be a prisoner facing torture because according to the UN Declaration of Rights, any prisoner who spends prolonged periods of incarceration in solitary confinement is considered a prisoner enduring torture and that was the case with Fahmy, who spent more than a month in solitary confinement in a filthy cell infested with insects with no sunlight. He was not allowed reading material for most of the time and was only allowed of out of his cell once a day for an hour after he served his time in solitary. His small cell even lacked a bed for most of the time he spent there.
Mr. Fahmy publically praised the advocacy work of the Canadian ambassador in Egypt and his team at the time but he felt that the diplomatic mission in Cairo was “shackled” by the slow decisions taken by Mr. Stephan Harper, the Canadian prime minister at the time who failed to intervene to the highest order of the Egyptian government in a nation known for its ill-treatment of prisoners and a poor record of human rights. Mrs. Clooney conducted TV interviews and publicaly criticized Mr. Harper for not doing enough at a time when the Australian president, representing journalist Peter Greste, a colleague that was arrested and jailed with Mr. Fahmy had spoken directly to the Egyptian president over the phone more than once which resulted in the release of Mr. Greste many months before Mr. Fahmy.
In a rare pardon, the Egyptian president pardoned Mr. Fahmy in September, 2015 for a crime he didn’t commit. He immediately started applying the skill he learned in winning his own freedom and took to the TV and the press defending other unfairly prisoners jailed worldwide and accepted a job as an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He lectured hundreds of students about his experience in jail, his longtime career as a journalist and the importance of press freedom and human rights. He also spoke in public lectures and to his students about the value of using social media to raise public awareness—a weapon he used to garner support during his battle of freedom with the help of Canadian-based communication expert Samantha Monckton who launched a powerful social media campaign followed by millions of people where she stressed on encouraging the Canadian prime minister at the time Mr. Stephan Harper to make a phone call to the Egyptian president to help release Fahmy. He introduced to his students the debate about the need for creating a law in Canada to obligate the government to intervene at the highest level when a Canadian is unjustly jailed abroad and facing human rights violations. There are hundreds of Canadians jailed abroad and a few have faced death in the in the jails of authoritarian countries such as Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi who was tortured and killed in an Iranian prison in 2003.
Fahmy also reflected on the time when he worked in 2007 as a protection officer for the International Red Cross Committee in Lebanon where he was part of a team in charge of protecting political prisoners, refugees, and the missing.
The Protection Charter
Upon his release, while teaching at UBC, the Fahmy Foundation partnered with Amnesty Canada and wrote with the help of numerous prominent lawyers, scores of former Canadian prisoners and former diplomats a 12-clause Protection Charter that aims to better protect the hundreds of Canadians jailed abroad. Obligating the government to intervene at the highest level remains clause 1 of the charter. In 2016, Mr. Fahmy and Mr. Alex Neve the former president of Amnesty met with the Canadian foreign affairs minister, members of the Canadian counselor affairs team, and prime minister Trudeau and presented each clause of the charter hoping for tangible reform. On February 2018 Mr. Neve and Mr. Fahmy testified and presented the Protection Charter and testified about their experiences in the field in front of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons.
Mr. Fahmy’s experience in an Egyptian prison and the human rights atrocities he witnessed during his multi-decade career working as a journalist for Western and Middle Eastern media mostly as a war correspondent covering wars, revolutions, and conflict zones left him face-to-face with the price humans pay when their basic right are violated. His one-year stint at the International Red Cross Committee, an organization he considers as a human rights life-line especially during times of war has also inspired him to form the Fahmy Foundation to raise awareness globally and remind people that protecting human rights should be a priority for everyone. He believes the injustice he witnessed in prison and during his coverage of atrocities as a war reporter could happen to anyone at a whim.
Mohamed Fahmy- Founder of Fahmy Foundation