The Case of Patrick Zaki and Giulio Regeni
February 19th, 2020
On the 3rd of December I attended a conference entitled “International Cooperation and the Evolving Shapes of Global Governance: Peace, Development and Humanitarian Assistance.” The conference was organized by a professor from our curriculum (International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage) and held at the University of Bologna – Forlì Campus.
One of the students in attendance that day was Patrick Zaki, a 28 year old Egyptian national and current graduate student in gender and human rights studies at the University of Bologna. Although I did not speak to him, I realized that Patrick was an articulate and intelligent individual when he put forth a difficult question to a panelist, concerning the underlying political motivations that are inherent to NATO aid—things which are rarely discussed by the Western media, much less the organization itself.
The fact that much of this aid had more to do with deterring communism—rather than actually “helping” developing countries in the Cold War, along with countering Russia’s global influence in the present day cannot, of course, be denied by sensible scholars, but it must be denied at a conference in which one of the panelists in attendance is not an academic, but an employee of NATO. Newly declassified documents reveal that the USSR was given repeated assurances by NATO that it would not expand past Germany, a promise which has been broken multiple times.
“So it goes,” Billy Pilgrim famously said—an expression of utter resignation to the world. Perhaps, however, this is all beside the point. The actual charges brought against Patrick are the following: dissemination of fake news; attempting to stir up protests without permission; and exploiting social media for negative purposes. Naturally, the charges are serious and could bring a long prison sentence in a country like Egypt.
Italian authorities are especially concerned because of another unfortunate event which happened roughly four years ago: The case in question concerns an Italian national and doctoral student, Giulio Regeni, whose mutilated body was found on the side of the highway in 2016; Regeni had been carrying out sensitive research on trade unions and this was seen as the main reason for his murder; thus far, however, Egypt has stonewalled the investigation and no concrete answers as to why Regeni (pictured left) was murdered have been given by Egypt.
Reports from the Italian government indicate that Zaki was interrogated about his activities in Italy and possible connection to Regeni; authorities, thus, fear a repeat of 2016.
There is documented evidence that Zaki did speak about the Regeni case during his time as a human rights activist and researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EPIR). In an August 30th, 2018 Dire article by Alessandra Fabbretti entitled, “Egitto, l’attivista Zaki: ‘Macché stabile, qui la povertà aumenta,’” Zaki criticized the human rights violations in Egypt and said that activists continuously face great threats inside the country, criticizing the way Egypt handled the Regeni case.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for Patrick’s immediate release. A protest is being planned by the students of International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage with support from Amnesty International to demand the immediate release of Patrick Zaki. The city of Ravenna has graciously agreed to provide permits which will allow the event to be held in Piazza del Popolo, the city’s main square, on the 21st of February.
A petition has also been created by Amnesty International to help Patrick get through this ordeal and hopefully allow him to resume his studies at the University of Bologna. Additionally, the family of Giulio Regeni has likewise called on Italy to do more with regard to securing the release of Patrick Zaki.
Please take a moment to sign the petition here.
About David Garyan
David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.