Free Khaled Al-Qazzaz


Who is Khaled Al-Qazzaz?

Khaled Al-Qazzaz was born on July 3, 1979 in Cairo, Egypt. He is a loving husband and a dedicated father of four young children, all of whom are Canadian. Khaled grew up in the United Arab Emirates and returned to Egypt to do a Bachelor’s degree at the American University in Cairo (AUC). He moved to Canada in 2000 to do his Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto. While in Canada, Khaled became a Permanent Resident of Canada, a status that he still holds.  After obtaining his Master’s degree in 2005, Khaled moved to Egypt with his wife, where they started a school (Kindergarten to Grade 12).    


Who is Sarah Attia?

Sarah Attia is a Toronto-born Canadian citizen married to Khaled Al-Qazzaz.  They have four children together.  Sarah and Khaled met in Canada while both studying at the University of Toronto.  Together they moved to Egypt in 2005 to launch an education project. Once Khaled was detained, Sarah worked arduously to lobby for her husband’s release and return back to Canada.

How did Khaled end up working for the Egyptian Government in 2012?

During the events leading up to the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Khaled was amongst the youth who helped topple the dictatorial Mubarak regime. When the first free presidential elections were announced, Khaled become a volunteer campaigner for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). During this time, Khaled was recognized for his talents and identified as an effective communicator with a wealth of experience from his studies abroad. He was able to envision a brighter Egypt, and to inspire and drive others towards that goal. 

After the FJP won the democratic election in June 2012, Khaled was asked to work for the government as a civil servant. Khaled took on the foreign relations profile and worked directly with foreign diplomats, promoted democracy and good governance in Egypt, and worked on the human rights portfolio. He also worked arduously to promote women’s rights in Egypt.

What is the story behind Khaled’s detention?

When the military regime overthrew the Egyptian government in July 2013, they detained President Mohamed Morsi and eight of his aides from their place of work. Khaled was one of those in the room.

Khaled was initially held at an undisclosed military location with no access to legal counsel or family. On December 17, 2013, Khaled was moved to the notorious Tora Prison where he was held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison called Scorpian.  His cell was no larger than a broom closet. Details of Khaled’s detention have been documented by human rights organizations and can be read here. Throughout his detention, there were no allegations against Khaled. Khaled was held illegally.

Was Khaled a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?

No, Khaled was not a member of the Brotherhood. Before the 2011 revolution, Khaled was not involved in Egyptian politics at all. As a permanent resident of Canada, Khaled could have stayed in Canada to pursue a life of comfort. He chose to return to Egypt to make a positive contribution to the country.  For several years Khaled focused on education and had no political activities of any kind. Khaled only got involved in January 2011 when the Egyptian people protested 30 years of dictatorship en masse. Khaled joined with young people of his generation to realize the vision of a modern civil state, with freedom and dignity for all.

Was Khaled ever accused of inciting violence?

No. Khaled was never accused of inciting violence.  In fact, on several occasions during Khaled’s detention, Amnesty International reported that any charges brought against him would be trumped up. The United Nations working group on arbitrary detentions also made it clear that Khaled’s detention was in violation of Egyptian and International law. Khaled’s detention did not come through any legal process, let alone one that would be consistent with international standards of due process and individual rights.

While in solitary confinement at Tora Prison, Khaled shared a hand-written statement.

“10 Months of Detention:

I, Khaled Al-Qazzaz, husband of Sarah Attia and father of Abdelrahman (8), Amina (6), Fatema (4), and Tahrir (1), a previous employee of the Egyptian Presidency until July 3rd 2013, is under forced detention since the same date.

I confirm that I am against all forms of violence and that I am/was/will not be part of any group that uses to violence to achieve their goals.

I was a young professional civil servant with special interests in promoting a Human Rights agenda at the Egyptian Presidency for the first time.  Prior to that I studied and worked as an educator and an engineer. 

I hope for a bright future for Egyptians in a country that respects rule of law and provides basic human rights and equal opportunity for all. I also hope to be reunited with my family in Canada very soon.

Khaled Al-Qazzaz May 1 2014 Tora Prison, Scorpion Wing, Solitary Confinement”


Why was Khaled transferred to a hospital? What medical care has he received?

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) from June 15, 2014 and eight independent doctors’ reports found that due to more than eight months of solitary confinement in a 2 by 2.5m cell, Khaled suffers from spinal stenosis as well as herniated discs in his neck and lower back. Surgery is required to prevent Khaled from permanently losing use of his arms and legs, loss of bowel and bladder control, and loss of respiratory function resulting in death.

On September 23, 2014 Sarah Attia submitted an ‘Open Letter from International Medical Practitioners’ to Egypt’s Office of the Public Prosecutor, Egypt’s Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights, and Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, urging for Khaled’s release on medical grounds.  Amnesty International also released an urgent call for action demanding Khaled’s release on medical grounds.

While Khaled was transferred to a private hospital on Sunday October 26, he only received his first surgery on January 5 – over two months since his transfer to hospital, and a week after the Attorney General issued an order for his release.  The hope is for subsequent operations to take place in a hospital of Khaled’s choice, with Canadian standards of care.  The family has already raised funds and made arrangements necessary for Khaled to receive appropriate medical care in Canada upon his return home.  

Why was Khaled eventually released?

On Monday December 29, 2014, 558 days since Khaled Al-Qazzaz’s illegal detention, the Attorney General issued an order for his release. On January 6, 2015, Khaled was released from his hospital room where he had been for over two months. 

Egyptian authorities have not offered an official explanation for his release, but reports of medical pardon based on Khaled’s deteriorating health have been made.  


Where is Khaled now?

Khaled is still in Egypt.  He is unable to travel since he has lost his passport over the course of the 18-month ordeal. Khaled’s legal team in Egypt has been working diligently with local authorities to process all necessary paperwork to facilitate his return to Canada. 

While supporters celebrate Khaled's freedom, they remain very concerned about his health and reuniting him with his family in Canada.  They are hopeful that the Egyptian and Canadian governments will expedite the processing of this humanitarian case so that Khaled can finally come home to his wife and children in Canada. 

What has been the involvement of the Canadian government in efforts to free Khaled Al-Qazzaz?

Sarah Attia, Khaled’s wife, called on the Canadian government to urgently assist in securing Khaled’s immediate release.  The Canadian embassy in Egypt offered consular services to Sarah and attended Khaled’s court proceedings on a number of occasions.  The Government of Canada also engaged in quiet diplomacy with Egyptian officials, encouraging them to provide Khaled with medical care on humanitarian grounds.


What have reputable human rights organizations said about Khaled’s detention?

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Code Pink, and the United Nations Human Rights Council all issued statements to request the release of Khaled al-Qazzaz. You can find a list of these statements here

A number of organizations also signed an Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advocate on Khaled’s behalf.  These include the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG); Ligue des droits et libertés; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); and the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association, amongst others.


Who are the Friends of Khaled?

When Khaled was first detained, the Friends of Khaled came together to stand with Sarah Attia in her efforts to bring her husband back home to Canada. While the Friends of Khaled began as a group of university alumni who knew Khaled while he studied at the University of Toronto, overtime the Friends of Khaled grew in size and scope.  Today the Friends of Khaled have grown across Canada and globally.  They include advocates of human rights and believe that the premise of Khaled’s detention is a clear violation of several international treaties, and amounts to torture.    

Why did so many Canadians, international activities, professionals, academics and artists advocate for Khaled's release?

Khaled’s illegal detainment and the struggle of his wife, Sarah Attia, to bring her husband home, is a reflection of the injustices faced by many around the world.  Theirs is an unfortunate story, and one that is moving to anyone who believes in the universal values or freedom, justice and human dignity. 

Furthermore, Khaled’s work, both in Canada and in Egypt, had far-reaching positive impacts for many around the world (please read the 'About Khaled' section on this website for details on Khaled's work and his contributions).  As a public servant in Egypt, all of Khaled’s work was dedicated to peace and to the promotion of dignity for all persons.