I received an invitation to celebrate the 90th birthday of Jane Boktor in a cultural center in Garden City. I went without hesitation and stayed for two hours, happy to be with a great woman who gave a lot to her country.
Jane Sidarus Boktor, a true Egyptian of Egyptian parents, was a member of a communist organization in the 1940s that demanded an end to the British occupation like all other national movements. She was arrested without investigation under King Farouk in the late 1940s and was released less than a year later.
In 1959, she and most leftist Egyptians were arrested under President Nasser for almost five years and many of them were tortured to death.
Boktor talked about her life in prison and how the prison administration used criminal inmates to discipline the political prisoners. She also talked about the officers who had no conscience and about the wonderful spirit of sharing the prison with other prisoners despite cultural and class differences. Then she told us about how she was released and forced to leave Cairo for Aswan, where she worked as a tour guide.
At the age of 75, she studied cinema and directed several documentary films, of which “The Cinema of the Ancient Egyptians” was screened that evening. Also presented that evening was her book “In the Women's Prison: The Other Face of Life,” which she wrote at the age of ninety.
Other inmates who spoke at the ceremony were Thoraya Shaker, wife of Fawzi Habashy who was brutally tortured in the men’s prison, Soad al-Tawil, Omayma Abul Nasr and Boktor’s son Magdy, who was arrested by Sadat during the student movement. Throughout the ceremony, Boktor was as active as a girl in her twenties.
Today, 55 years after her imprisonment, other fine women sit in the same Al-Kanater Prison whose only crime is that they love Egypt and call for freedom for all Egyptians. Perhaps their only consolation is that they know we love them too.
Arise O Egyptian, for Egypt always calls for you.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm