My Visit to My Husband in Aqrab Prison
My Visit to My Husband in Aqrab Prison
Monday, April 4,2016 05:06

On Thursday, with a heavy heart, laden with a sea of boundless worries, concerns and sorrows, I travelled to Aqrab Prison – part of the high-security Tora Prison Complex (in a southern Cairo suburb). After a long and painful wait, I managed to book a visit to my husband for Friday. We must travel to the jail twice: once to register our names for a visit, and the second to actually visit our loved ones. 

My worries and sadness are doubled by the thought that the prison administration may ban all visits, without warning, and without giving any reasons, after all the trouble, expense and anxiety we go through. They have done so, so many times before.

So, today (Friday), I arrived outside the gate to Tora Prison Complex at one in the morning. I sat in a long queue between piles of rotting garbage and swarms of hungry mosquitoes. I spent six and a half hours praying the visit takes place without mishap. Last week, I spent the whole night, every night, in front of this Tora gate, managed to book visits, but was invariably, absurdly  not allowed to enter at the end.

Today, we did enter the Tora Prison complex. We went to the Aqrab block. We waited and waited... hours and hours. But no matter how long these hours extended, I felt a certain warmth glow in my heart, just for being in the same place where my husband resides. A few walls separate us, but we share the same breeze, breathe the same air – almost… and our eyes share the same views.

However tired I felt, from the long hours of waiting, in my heart is a thrill, a feeling of comfort and tranquility and longing to meet my husband. I almost wished for these hours, this wait not to end, so I would not have to move away from the place that will bring us face to face, albeit for a brief few minutes.

At six-thirty in the morning, some prison wardens came out and called our names. We entered. We spent many more hours in extremely squalid places and waiting rooms. They kept moving us from one "room" to another, with most humiliating searches repeated over and over again, until we reached the visiting area.

Earlier, in previous visits, I managed to identify my husband's cell, by listening to the voice of the prison guard as he called for him to come out for the visit. As soon as I entered the area that surrounds his cell from the outside, I'd stand behind the cell wall, with a fence and an empty 5-meter forecourt separating us. The forecourt is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. I'd stand against this wire in silence, sensing my husband's voice behind the wall, when he replies to the prison guard's call, saying: "Yes, sir". Suddenly, my heart throbs back to life, smiling on hearing his voice, happy the moment of meeting him is soon. I find myself repeating to myself: "Finally, I heard my husband's breath, and meeting him will actually take place".

I stay next to this wire for a while, listening for my husband's voice from behind the cell wall. I warmly hug my husband's voice as he speaks with his cell-mates. What does he say? How was his day? What are his feelings as he prepares for the visit?
After a long wait, the guard came out to call us. Today, I have my mother- and father-in-law. They walk slowly, a normal pace.

I rush, running through the visiting-booth corridor. I search through all the faces, looking for my husband. They never tell us which booth is assigned to us.

Today, my husband was in the last visiting booth. I had to go through all the booths before his... I opened the door, peered through, greeted an inmate… and rush over to the next booth, until I found my husband. In every booth, I saw one of the prisoners behind the glass partition waiting for his family – in his eyes a sad look that transforms into a smile once I open the door, a smile that quickly fades when he realizes that I opened the door by mistake.

When I opened the door to my husband's booth, and his face lit up with a smile, my soul burst with joy. I entered, approached the glass barrier between us, and placed my hand where his was on the other side. They were magical moments.

His eyes were so loving. We stood there yearning for reunion.

As our eyes met, our souls embraced… and our love ignited intensely, blissfully for a moment of eternity.

I prayed to God this moment would not pass away quickly. But soon my in-laws arrived into the booth. I left the phone headset, and made way for them to come closer. I stood next to them, leaning against the glass barrier, exploring the features of my husband's face and clothes, hoping my thirst would be quenched – at least a little bit.

After only seven minutes, a prison guard called my husband, declaring the end of the visit – after all the hours of waiting. We went out with sadness hanging over us.

My mother- and father-in-law came out. I walked out slowly, walking one step, pausing to look at my husband silently. He looked back at me, for a moment forgetting what will happen to him for not responding to the guard's call. His sad look amazed me – indescribable. It told me so much, most of it too painful to say.

I went out, but as I walked toward the door. The guard cried out: "Handshakes!" This was a surprise return to personal goodbyes, without the glass barriers, although only for a couple of minutes. I turned around quickly, rushing back to the so-called "Handshakes" booth. Then, I remembered his mother and his father. I stopped. Out of respect, I let them lead the way back to my husband.

My husband came running, with open arms. His mother staggered into his arms. He is her only son. As his mother hugged him, he could not hold back the tears. He turned to his dad, hugging him, too. But, soon, his mom returned to his arms. I was filled with joy and longing as I stood behind her looking at him.

Then my eyes embraced his and I cried...

Tears of joy to see him, tears of grief for parting again..

My husband came towards me, with his mother still in his right arm, he pulled me into his left arm, against his heart. I lay my head on his chest and listened to his heart beating. He just hugged me like that for a few moments. With his hand on my head, I buried my face into his chest – calm, reassured, content. I felt all my concerns fading away from my mind, my heart, and I forgot everything around me. I closed my eyes, and flew far, far away, to a world in which joyful minute details abound, and my big world worries fade in the distance.

I told him faintly: "I miss you... Hug me forever!" He hugged me some more. I could hear every beat of his heart, feel his breath on my face, telling me what words failed to say. I buried my face into his neck, smelt him – the most beautiful perfume. I moved my head away a bit, without removing it from his shoulder, just to look at him, all his face. He looked at me. As our eyes met silently, they told all we did not get the chance to say. Our hearts, too, spoke, aware of what we both suffered, and the longing we felt.

I tried to pull away, to give him the chance to better hug his mother, but he pulled me back and hugged me more firmly. He kept us both, me and his mom, in both arms until the last available moment. These valuable moments were only three minutes in total – to say our goodbyes. The whole visit lasted ten minutes in all.

My husband turned to his father and kissed his hands and forehead. My father-in-law tried to kiss my husband's hand, but my husband took his hand away gently and dived to his dad's feet and kissed them. He then stood up and kissed his hands again. My father-in-law cried and went out of the booth. My husband turned back to his mother; kissed her head and her hands and wiped her tears with his hands.

Then, he turned to me and hugged me. In his arms, I felt my broken heart healing, my scattered breaths calming.

He kissed my hands, my head, my forehead and my eyes. Those were all he could see from my Niqab (the full Islamic veil). I kissed his hands. We had to finally say our goodbyes.

I cried again…

With joy to see him, with sorrow to part so soon...

Suddenly, I felt a deep sinking feeling in my chest – I felt lost!

I stood away overwhelmed by my painful wounds and my confusion... He stood in the distance looking at me.

His eyes touched my wounds, my confusion... They touched the wounds of longing, the wounds of missing him... They silently exhorted me to be strong, despite the pain and the helplessness.

Here is the harsh high-security Aqrab Prison and the terrorists it holds!

Here is the notorious Aqrab Prison, filled with feelings one might not see outside with all this depth, honesty and purity.

Here is Aqrab Prison killing us, breaking our hearts.

Here are the feelings in our hearts, the hearts of families of Aqrab Prison detainees, the terrorists… the blood-thirsty extremely violent fanatics – or the gentle, guiltless patriots.

I was truly touched by how my husband treated his mother and father and me at the same time. My heart was filled with love and respect for him.

With every beat of my heart, I will love you and cherish you

I will tenderly fade into you

There is nothing more beautiful than being yours alone

I live for your love, I breathe your love

With your love my soul lives on