Mahdi Akef: lived in the open, buried in secret

Drawing source: Arabi 21 ‘A Prisoner across all Ages’

Under the leadership of Muhammad Mahdi Akef, in 2004, the Muslim Brotherhood published the first truly comprehensive reform programme for Egypt and, in 2005, Akef led the Muslim Brotherhood to its largest electoral victory prior to the 2011 Revolution.

Following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in the July 2013 coup, he was arrested at the advanced age of 85 years and held, like many of Egypt’s 40,000 political prisoners, under absolutely brutal conditions. According to his family, he was diagnosed with cancer last year, and despite declining health, was nevertheless held incommunicado in Junta prisons. Despite the fact that he was acquitted of all (the trumped up) charges against him in January 2016, yet continued to be detained, for another 20 months, away from his family, as his health declined visibly, until his death.

Akef was widely celebrated for refusing to be nominated for a second term as the Brotherhood’s guide, vacating the post in 2010 after the election of Muhammad Badie. He remained one of the few leadership figures who appealed to a wide cross-section of Muslims. His repeated court appearances over the past four years, white-haired, and wrapped in a white blanket posed a strange contrast with the heavy security around him. Needless to say, his family were denied a public funeral by Sisi, who also forbade the “absentee prayer” from being said in mosques in his honour. As Palestinian scholar, Kamal Khateeb, tells us: when Akef fought alongside Palestinians for their rights in 1948, his jailer was still only a ‘black spot on his father’s back’.

Over the course of these four years not a single Western government issued a statement opposing his incarceration or appealing for his release. These governments continue to support the tyranny of Sisi despite its ferocious stench, for profit. The murder even of their own citizens means little to them beside the draw of the filthy lucre. Yet their politicians and intellectuals continue to bore the world with their insistence on ‘Western values’…