Halawa family prepare bedroom in advance of return to Ireland
‘He’s saying I miss the Irish milk, the Irish yoghurt, the Irish dairy’
Posting and photograph by Ibrahim Halawa on his Facebook page on Friday: “Finally the day where I can see the sky without bars, smell fresh air, walk freely and smile deeply from the bottom of my heart. But I miss one thing and it’s being home. I wanna thank the team at the embassy who worked very hard. The ambassador Sean O’Regan, former ambassador Damien Cole, Shane Gleeson, Vincent Herlihy. Thank you to everyone who helped I love you all.”
Ibrahim Halawa’s family said on Sunday night his safety remained a concern until he boards a plane and leaves Egypt.
Mr Halawa, from Firhouse, Tallaght, in south Dublin, was released from prison in Cairo on Thursday night, one month after his acquittal on all charges relating to a protest against the military coup in Egypt in 2013.
One of Mr Halawa’s three sisters, Omaima, who was detained with him in August 2013 but released on bail three months later, said the atmosphere at home was “full of excitement” but they were “constantly waiting for him to leave Egypt”.
“We’re hoping that he leaves there safely... Once he gets on the plane, that’s when we can truly relax. We’re really concerned about his safety at the moment,” she said.
Over the weekend, his family in Ireland have had only brief contact with him over the phone as he is “busy sorting out paperwork” for travel back to Dublin, and meeting friends and family in Egypt.
She said her brother had been sending them pictures through a family group chat documenting the moments since his release.
“He’s found a lot of changes on social media networks. He keeps asking me. ‘How do I do this on Facebook? How do I do that?’ He’s sending us pictures in the family group chat and updating us. It’s kind of like him trying to go back to his daily life. He’s trying to refill the gap that was left,” she said.
Mr Halawa was arrested in Egypt when he was 17. Now 21, his sister said he had been reminiscing about life in Ireland and hoping to go back to how things were.
“He’s saying I miss the Irish milk, the Irish yoghurt, the Irish dairy... All he wants is to just feel like he’s home. He wants to go back to the breakfast he used to have, the food he used to eat even the clothes he used to wear,” she added.
Ms Halawa also said she briefly discussed with her brother his plans when he comes back to Ireland. She said he wanted to start driving when he comes back home.
“The other day I was like, ‘Ibrahim you need to start studying for your theory test [if you want to drive]’ so I started sending him links of the theory test. What we’re trying to do is tell him you can still pick up where you left,” she said, adding that it would still be a difficult adjustment as so much time has passed.
“His friends have graduated and have started their careers,” she said.
“We were speaking about what he plans to do with his studies and he said ‘I can’t stay for a whole year without going back to some sort of education, because four years of my life have already gone’. He knows that he’s lost so much time and he’s not willing to lose anymore,” said Ms Halawa.
She reflected on their experience after they were released. “When someone is released, it’s not possible to pick up where you left. You’re trying to cope with everything that changed… It’s very hard to just go back.”
She said they are preparing for his homecoming. “We’re preparing his bedroom and getting it ready. We’re all getting him gifts as well.”
Ms Halawa told her brother about the gift she got him: a coffee machine, a shared interest between her and her brother.
“When I was telling him about the present I got him, he said, ‘Oh Omaima, I haven’t had a proper cup of coffee in four years,” she said.