Jubilant scenes as Halawa sisters are welcomed home

Omaima, Fatima and Soumaia reunite with friends and family after detention in Egypt

Halawa sisters arrive home

Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 13:46

There were scenes of jubilation in Dublin Airport this morning as the Halawa sisters, Omaima (21), Fatima (22) and Soumaia (28) were greeted by friends and family after having spent almost four months in detention in Egypt.

Having first stopped to hug their nephew, Khalid, the Halawa sisters spoke briefly to the waiting media.

“We’re just thankful to everyone who has been supportive of us, who has helped us in any way,” Fatima said, her smile spreading wider each time she recognised a familiar face beyond the media scrum.

However, the homecoming was tinged with the knowledge that their brother, 17-year-old brother Ebraheem, remains in prison in Egypt.

Yesterday supporters carried not only flowers and sweets to welcome the sisters home but also placards bearing the his image, one of which read ‘More than 106 days in prison for NO reason’.

Fatima Halawa she said they had no further update on the release of their brother: when asked about his potential release she replied that there was “nothing certain, but hopefully soon”.

Their father and imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, spoke of his joy and relief at his daughters’ return: “These are my daughters, this is my heart. I am very, very happy,” he said.

“I would like to thank all the people, thank the media, thank our people, thank our neighbours, thank the Government, thank the Taoiseach, the ambassador in Cairo.”

However, he expressed concern for his son who remains in prison in Cairo, especially given his age: “He is under 18 years, he is young, he is not a big man,” he said, adding that his wife and another daughter remained in Egypt and were visiting him weekly.

Asked if his daughters would return to Egypt he replied: “In this time I think no. No...it’s not secure”.

Soumaia Halawa said she was still trying “to take it all in” and was most looking forward to “spending some time with my family”.

Hajar Al-Kaddo, who has known the sisters since she was 11-years-old, was among the friends and supporters gathered at the airport to welcome the sisters home. “We’re all a bit like family in this community: even if you’ve gone to school with somebody it’s just like as if you’re family and sisters. We have that bond.”

She said the four months had been difficult, especially given that there was very little information as to how the siblings were being treated.

However, she said the sisters were in good spirits: “Their spirits are so high. It’s really inspiring from our perspective because we’re the ones breaking down on this side and they’re saying ‘no, we’re fine, we’re coming home’.”

The four siblings were detained in August after they took refuge in Cairo’s Al Fateh mosque having been arrested during clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and security forces. They three sisters were released on November 15th.

Members of the Egyptian Irish Forum also gathered at arrivals in Dublin airport, many of them holding placards including one which read “The West must speak up for human rights in Egypt”.