11/28/2014 05:30 EST | Updated 01/28/2015 05:59 EST

My Husband Has Been Illegally Detained in an Egyptian Prison For Over 500 Days

I remember my daughter standing spiritedly, a wide smile radiating from her round cheeks as her arms stretched out to me. Her curly hair, entangled from her grandmother's comforting strokes, swung back and forth as she bobbed her head. She had forgotten about the previous few attempts at taking her first step, showing every indication she was ready for her next try.

I called her name: Tahrir, come to me!

Her grandmother began to let go of her slowly. Tahrir had no such reluctances, taking the tiny shuffles that feel like the biggest steps in a lifetime with a confident air. When she fell into my lap, my eyes began to tear. Instinctively, I looked up to share the moment.

Grandma's proud face was not what I was looking for. As lucky as I am to have her unwavering support, seeing her reminded that my husband would not have missed this moment for the world.

It had been just over six months since that horrific day, July 3, 2013 that saw my husband, Khaled Al-Qazzaz, illegally detained and eventually sent to Egypt's notorious Scorpion prison. He had been working day and night to improve the country's human rights record in the presidential office.

Despite the support of many human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and their direct demands for his release, Khaled's inhumane conditions remain the same.

He has now suffered more than 500 days without charge or any semblance of evidence in a two by two meter, insect-infested cell. He has spent 23 hours of most of those days in solitary confinement, having no access to even the most basic of possessions. There are times when even the guards have commented in surprise about the fact my husband has not gone insane.

To my worst fears, his health has recently deteriorated to a dangerous point. He is currently on temporary medical release awaiting critical surgery in a hospital to treat a herniated Level L4-5 disc. He had been suffering from severe pain in his back and legs for some time, before the campaign by international doctors helped make his transfer to hospital successful.

When my husband wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times at the one year anniversary of his detainment, he asked the world a question which continues to haunt me: "My brothers and sisters in humanity, I know why the Egyptian military government demands my complete silence, but please answer me this: Why are you so silent about me?"

I continue to campaign to echo that question and in hopes that the international community will continue to demand his release. I have reached out to all UN HRC mechanisms that deal with arbitrary detention and human rights violations to document my husband's ordeal and request positive action. I have received support from MPs from across the political spectrum in Canada. I have written an open letter to the Egyptian Prosecutor General to ask that he personally intervene in my husband's case.

Despite all this, however, the fact remains that it has now been 500 long days since Khaled's unrelenting detainment. As he continues to suffer from those horrifying conditions, he is also missing his children growing up. Tahrir has now lived longer without her father than with him. My five-year-old daughter, Fatema, has drawn more pictures than I can count for her dad, and is saving them for the day he comes home. Amena, my six-year-old, lost her first tooth and started elementary school this year. Abdelrahman, who is eight, picked out a new pair of glasses. He is able to see the world with a more clear understanding than his sisters, so I worry for him the most.

The worry is often too much to bear.

Although Khaled has been transferred to hospital, the lack of adequate medical care has increased his risk of permanent disability and physicians have advised that transfer to a Canadian medical facility is critical. It is my hope that before the holidays, Khaled comes home to Canada, is reunited with our family and is able to receive the medical care he needs.

To commemorate 500 days of Khaled's detainment; friends, family, and those touched by Khaled's story have come together to join in on a global movement to spread Khaled's kindness, generosity, and dedication with random acts of kindness. On his behalf, I am urging fellow Canadians to participate in the #PayitForward4KQ campaign.

My hope is rekindled when I recognize that Khaled's voice is in fact being heard and continues to steadily grow. For every time I speak or write, there has always been an ear or a reader willing to learn about my family's story. I am grateful and incredibly touched at how frequent I am told that it is a story that they would be willing to share and campaign for.

It gives me hope that the next steps of my children's life will be watched over by their father.


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