• Press Release

Launch of Mustafa Kassem Fellowship in Memory of U.S. Citizen Who Died in Egyptian Prison

February 11, 2021

Amnesty International USA is launching the Mustafa Kassem Fellowship named after the detained U.S. citizen who died in an Egyptian prison one year ago. Today would have been his 56th birthday.

Mustafa Kassem, an Egyptian-American from Long Island, New York, was detained in August 2013 while visiting family in Cairo. Like countless others in Egypt, he was beaten by security forces and jailed for being a bystander during the violent dispersal of a sit-in protesting the Egyptian government.

Kassem was tried alongside hundreds of co-defendants and charged with protesting the government in a sham mass trial. During the trial sessions, prosecutors failed to submit evidence establishing the individual responsibility of each of the 739 defendants, nor did the court insist on the need to establish such responsibility, rendering this a grossly unfair trial. 

After spending more than five years in pre-trial detention, Kassem was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Shortly after his sentencing, and despite suffering from diabetes, he began a series of hunger strikes to protest his unjust imprisonment. 

Kassem repeatedly appealed to President Trump and the U.S. government to intervene with the Egyptian government on his behalf. “I no longer recognize myself. I don’t want my children to remember me this way, but I am going on a hunger strike because I am losing my will and I don’t know how else to get your attention,” he wrote.

On January 14, 2020, Kassem died at 54 years old from a heart attack induced by his hunger strike.

One year after Mustafa Kassem’s tragic death in an Egyptian prison, and on his 56th birthday, Amnesty International is announcing a fellowship opportunity in his name. The Mustafa Kassem Fellow will have the opportunity to work on federal advocacy on human rights issues in the Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on Egypt and Saudi Arabia, working directly with AIUSA’s Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

Interested candidates should apply here.