Saturday 23 September 2017

Returning Halawa sisters call for release of brother

BACK HOME: Sisters Fatima and and Somaya Halawa are greeted by friends and relatives as they arrive in Dublin Airport yesterday after being released from prison in Egypt. Photo: Tony Gavin
BACK HOME: Sisters Fatima and and Somaya Halawa are greeted by friends and relatives as they arrive in Dublin Airport yesterday after being released from prison in Egypt. Photo: Tony Gavin
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

THERE were scenes of jubilation and tears of joy at Dublin Airport yesterday as three sisters who were imprisoned in Egypt for almost four months finally arrived home.

Sisters Fatima, 23, Somaia, 28, and Omaima, 21, Halawa and their brother Ibrihim, 17, were imprisoned in Egypt last August after they sought refuge at the al-Fateh Mosque in Cairo during a day of protest against the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi, which was called by the Muslim Brotherhood.

"We're grateful to be home," Fatima told the Sunday Independent. "I think we could say it's been more of an adventure and we're looking at it as a positive outlet more than a negative outlet. So thank God. We're hoping for Ibrihim's release soon too."

While the sisters were released two weeks ago, following a three-month detention without charge, their brother continues to be held in an adult prison outside Cairo, with his period of detention extended by 45 days on November 16.

"We have appealed and we still didn't get any answer on that," Ibrihim's older sister, Nosayba, said yesterday.

"I can't describe how happy I am, but our happiness is not complete. Ibrihim is still there and my mum and sister are still in Cairo to be near him. We hope that we will all be here together soon and then our happiness will be completed.

"We have had very strong and very good support from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Government," Nosayba added.

"There are a lot of people who have helped us and I have got messages of support from all over Ireland. I want to thank all of those people and ask them to keep supporting us and keep praying for Ibrihim until we have him home."

The four Halawa siblings are the children of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Ireland's most senior Muslim cleric and the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh.

"I pray up to Allah that we can get Ibrihim home," Sheikh Halawa told the Sunday Independent yesterday.

"I am happy for my daughters, but I have still something in my heart about my son. He is under 18 years, he is young. He is not a big man."

The Halawa sisters thanked all of their supporters at Dublin Airport yesterday. "We're relieved, the excitement is overwhelming," Fatima said.

"We're just thankful to everyone who has supported us and helped us".

The Halawa sisters will now focus on securing Ibrihim's release and say they are looking forward to spending time with family and friends in Dublin.

"They are their usual selves, but it hasn't been an easy thing for them," Hajar Al-Kaddo, a close friend of the Halawas, said yesterday.

"It's difficult, we don't know what's gone on and I don't think they're ready to share that even, but we're really excited to have them home finally."

Sunday Independent

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