Writer Ahmed Naji was prevented from leaving Egypt early on Thursday morning. On attempting to fly out of Cairo International Airport, he was informed that he is still banned from travel, based on a decision issued by the public prosecutor’s office.
On May 21, Naji won an appeal against a two-year prison sentence — 300 days of which he had already served — for “violating public modesty” when a chapter of his novel Istikhdam al-Haya (The Use of Life, 2014) was published in the weekly Akhbar Al-Adab newspaper. He was released from Tora Prison in December, after the South Cairo Criminal Court suspended his prison term.
“This [travel ban] decision comes despite the verdict by the court which accepted the appeal against my two-year sentence, and me being declared innocent of the charge of violating public morality,” Naji, 31, wrote in a statement on his personal Facebook profile on Thursday.
“I am in a terrible state to be honest, and I don’t know what else to do,” said Naji in his statement, adding that “there are pressing personal and familial circumstances that necessitate my travel as soon as possible.”
In the statement, Naji said that upon learning of his travel ban, he went directly to the public prosecutor’s office in Rehab City and submitted a request to remove his name from the no travel list. His request was registered, and he was told to come back in two weeks.
Speaking to Mada Masr in May, Naji had said that he and his wife planned to leave Egypt in the near future. “If the travel ban is lifted we plan on traveling, at least for the coming year or two. I have no other professional plans, simply because I have no option to work in this country anymore.”
Naji was awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in May 2016.