“Thanks to those who supported me” – Corriere.it

“Thanks to those who supported me” – Corriere.it
“Thanks to those who supported me” – Corriere.it
from Marta Serafini

At Patrick Zaki’s home, with the people who hugged him first after 670 days. “Seeing the Italian diplomatic representatives in the courtroom during the hearings gave me strength”

MANSOURA AND CAIRO – «I’m still a bit confused, everything is going fast. But now I’m happy, I’m here with my family, with all the people I love. That’s all”.

He no longer wears the white overalls of inmates awaiting trial, Patrick Zaki. He is sitting in the living room of his childhood home in Mansoura. Behind him a sponge tapestry depicting Christ. He is the calmest of all in the room. Around him, the magical “dream team” of women.

His sister Marise, his girlfriend, a friend, mother Hala who, after 22 months of distance, anguish and fear, now do not lose sight of him for a moment. They were waiting for him outside the Mansoura police station from which he was released yesterday after 670 days of detention. And they are there as Patrick enters the apartment where he grew up and on the car to Cairo.

In the living room, meanwhile, Papa George doesn’t stop smiling for a moment. Zaki changed her glasses (“I lost the other one during a transfer from one cell to another”). The beard is long, the smile that of the photographs from before the arrest. Under the dark sweater, the University of Bologna T-shirt. Then the favorite jeans. The palms, black upon release, are now clean. Around, the little dog Julie wags her tail happily.

Patrick, first of all well found. When did you know you were going to be free?

“They didn’t announce that I was going to be released. Suddenly they took me to the police station, and started taking my fingerprints. I didn’t understand what was happening, there were no signs that they were about to release me. I was confused. I cannot say all the details and I prefer not to talk about the conditions of detention. But then I realized there was hope. Hope, you know, is the hardest thing to keep alive when they take away your freedom. ”

You hugged your mom first, then your girlfriend and finally your sister Marise. What was the first thing you said to this group of women who have been fighting for you for 22 months, together with your father and all the Eipr staff?
“I said thank you. And then “Temam”: everything is fine ».

Patrick laughs, stops.

The phrase you have always repeated to your mother since she was in anguish in 2011 at the time of the revolution and you moved to live in Cairo …
“Already. One of the things that makes you suffer the most when you are in prison is the thought of the pain you cause to the people you love. I just have to say thank you, thank you to Italy for being close to me and my family. Thanks to everyone who kept the light on. And the list is very long ».

We have time now.
«Friends all over the world, who have worked hard for me. But also your diplomatic delegation that came to the hearings. Then the University of Bologna. All the fellow masters, but in particular there is one person ».

Who is?
«Professor Rita Monticelli. He is my mentor at the Gemma master in Bologna (when Patrick was arrested in 2020 he was attending the first semester). A person who treated me like a son. And he not only passed on knowledge but also values. Empathy, respect. And listening. And then my sister Marise. But surely this will make someone angry, I’ll stop here. ”

Italy has worked towards your release on several levels. Prime Minister Mario Draghi has been constantly following your case. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio gave you a public hug. Ambassador Quaroni called you on the phone.
“Seeing your diplomatic representatives in the courtroom during the hearings gave me strength. And I’m sure there are dozens and dozens of other people I will have to shake hands with ».

Civil society also played a key role. “We have been waiting to see that embrace for 22 months,” commented Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy.
“I will never forget all the times when during the visits I was told about the demonstrations, about the squares. And of all the initiatives organized to ask for my release in these almost two years ».

Senator Liliana Segre voted to apply for citizenship, saying that she is in the Chamber ideally like your grandmother, as a person who knows what it means to be locked in a room from which you cannot leave. Do you want to tell her something?
“It filled me with pride to know that someone of your level and moral stature was interested in me. I want to meet her. Absolutely. I hope this will happen as soon as possible ».

Patrick now you are free but the charges against you have not dropped. The judge has scheduled a hearing in early February as your attorney Hoda Nasrallah says. Do you think you can go back to Italy one day?
“I hope, of course, this will happen soon. I don’t know if there is a ban on traveling abroad. For now I know I can go back to Cairo. ‘

Your letters showed great pain for the master in gender equality studies at the University of Bologna that you could not finish. Will you take it back?
«I really hope soon. As soon as possible. I can’t wait to be able to hug my classmates again, my professors. And there is a place where I would like to go sooner or later, in Italy ».

“Naples. I’ve never been there. My great-grandmother Adel came from Naples. I don’t speak Italian that well, but the accent of that part of the country has always fascinated me. I love Neapolitan authors very much ».

Could you read in prison?
“Yup. Dostoevsky, Saramago. Then The brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante. My favorite, perhaps. University books, on the other hand, were more complicated to have. I also tried to write a few times but I wasn’t always allowed to keep the block ».

Yeah, write … Do you like it?
«It allows us to re-elaborate, to process what happened. A person close to me taught me this ».

Patrick looks up, and in return he gets a smile back. But in those eyes there is also a reproach, sweet. Just talk to others. Take your time, Patrick. Remember what they did to you, those eyes seem to say.

Courier service
last November 20 you received an award that we hope to be able to deliver to you very soon in person, the award in memory of Maria Grazia Cutuli, the correspondent killed in Afghanistan in 2001 …
“Yes, my sister told me. Maria Grazia… this award means a lot to me. I don’t deserve it, there are heroes out there who fight, in Egypt, more than me, much more than me. But it is an award for which I sincerely thank, Maria Grazia is very very important to me, and this recognition represents a great support that I have received from Courier service, as an institution. And soon I hope to write my diaries, what I’ve been through, on the Courier service. Wait for me! ».

December 9, 2021 (change December 9, 2021 | 07:05)


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