Jailed in Egypt at 17, He Wrote to Survive and to Share His Long Ordeal

8:49 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments


Abdelrahman ElGendy envisioned the ending of his book would be inspiring, despite all the horrors he would have to recount.

Starting at age 17, Mr. ElGendy spent six years and three months in squalid prisons in Egypt, and one way he survived, he said, was to imagine the memoir he would publish if he were ever freed.

He knew the harrowing abuses he witnessed and endured during his detention — including guards whipping prisoners and beating them with batons and wooden chair legs — would make for a powerful story, if hard to read and even harder to share. But the thought of the book also gave him an existential purpose at a time when his life was little more than suffering.

He knew he didn’t want his memoir to be about only pain and degradation. The idea that, somehow, it could also be about hope helped ease his despair, letting him dream that all he was going through could have a positive meaning in the end.

“This is how I want readers to receive my work one day: What you’re holding between your hands, this is it. This is how I survived,” said Mr. ElGendy, now 27 and studying for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Pittsburgh. His autobiography is his thesis project.

Mr. ElGendy was arrested at 17 in Cairo in October 2013 as he sat in a car with his father while taking pictures and filming a protest.

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