What connects Ibrahim Halawa and Walli Ullah Safi? The fact they’re both 21.
Well, that’s for starters. They are also locked up in prisons far away from the countries of their birth.
Walli Ullah Safi is from Afghanistan. He was found on the side of a road in Ireland a month ago, arrested for having no ID and sent to Cloverhill prison.
‘So?’ you may say. ‘He came to Ireland illegally, broke the law, should do the time.’
This all ignores one little fact. Walli probably qualifies as a refugee. Life in Afghanistan can be brutal.
I had the privilege of knowing a young lad in similar circumstances. He managed to get into Ireland as an unaccompanied minor. He had managed to flee Afghanistan. And why did he flee? He witnessed his father’s murder. One day a group of militants came to his house, and with the family present took his dad outside and shot him.
Cold, fast, brutal.
So this young lad came to Ireland, got an education and realised that our laws wouldn’t look kindly on him. You see our system is very hard for refugees and asylum seekers. We lock them into direct provision centres, and we deport a lot.
I’ve since lost contact with him as he had to disappear in order to stay in the country.
It’s against this kind of a backdrop that Walli has fled his home country, it was with some hope that he came to Europe, and it was with some lack of humanity that he was sent to prison.
In prison Walli had the misfortune to be singled out during a riot and was left with a broken arm and his face slashed. Fáilte, Walli.
Ibrahim Halawa, however, is an Irish Citizen. 2 years ago he travelled to Egypt with his sisters and was caught up in the protests which were part of the Arab Spring. They were arrested in a Mosque – Ibrahim suffering a gunshot wound to the hand in the process.
Ibrahim has now been in jail for almost 2 years. His trial has been repeatedly delayed, his hand has never been treated properly, in fact the structure of the trial will pretty much guarantee it won’t be a fair affair. Amnesty International has taken up his case.
The Irish Government claims it is actively working to free Ibrahim. So far these efforts do not include our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, calling directly on the Egyptian President to free him. Apparently it is not the right time for him to do so. Maybe another year, so.
So, Walli and Ibrahim are both 21. They both have this connection with Ireland, and they have both been let down by Ireland.
For an excellent summary of the issues around Ibrahim’s case, read this article from the Irish Times