In the latest issue:

Consider the Hermit Crab

Katherine Rundell

Emigrés on the Make

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Autopsy of an Election

James Butler

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

‘Cosmo’ for Capitalists

Stefan Collini

Kara Walker’s ‘Fons Americanus’

Cora Gilroy-Ware

So many ships and fleets and armies

N.A.M. Rodger

British Sea Power

Paul Rogers

Richard Holbrooke

Samuel Moyn

Four poems after Callimachus

Stephanie Burt

‘Your Duck Is My Duck’

Christian Lorentzen

On Paul Muldoon

Clair Wills

Leanne Shapton

Namara Smith

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton


Michael Wood

Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn

Two Poems

Rae Armantrout

Diary: In Monrovia

Adewale Maja-Pearce

On Hunger StrikeOmar Robert Hamilton

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.

After​ the shock and awe tactics of the Rabaa massacre last summer, when Egypt’s military regime murdered around a thousand supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, the rolling counter-revolution has played out mostly within the justice system, between police stations, prisons and courtrooms. The system is self-contained and unaccountable: graduates of the Police Academy are automatically granted a law degree and can move fluidly from police station to prosecutor’s office to judge’s bench. It is inconsistent and unpredictable: judges hand down idiosyncratic sentences, or drag cases out for paralysing periods of time. It is bound to the executive: judges routinely wait for ‘the phone call’ before ruling.

The Emergency Law which was introduced after Sadat’s assassination and remained in force throughout Mubarak’s presidency allowed the police to arrest people arbitrarily and then detain them indefinitely. Ending that law was one of the clearest demands of the uprising that forced Mubarak from power in February 2011. The law expired in May 2012 and although the military regime revived it briefly after the Rabaa massacre, it could not be reinstated permanently because it remained such a powerful symbol of the Mubarak era. Instead the regime devised a new Protest Law, which came into effect on 25 November 2013. A 1914 British law which banned mobilisation against the colonial administration was dusted off and the Muslim Brotherhood outlawed as terrorists.

This set the legal framework for the present assault on the traditional incubators of dissent: universities, independent media, the internet, NGOs, legal aid organisations, cafés, football matches, unions, street protests. One by one these spaces are being shut down. The streets of central Cairo are lined with APCs and riot police 24 hours a day. The internet is to be monitored by a new ‘electronic grip’, as the Interior Ministry has been calling it in leaked internal memos. NGOs are being told to choose between close oversight or closing down. Students have been expelled for criticising the government and killed for protesting. The last reliable figures, released in May, put the number of arrests since the coup at 41,000, of which 36,000 were at or following ‘political events’.

Some activists have been quickly tried and sentenced. Others are being kept in limbo. My cousin Alaa Abd El-Fattah is one of the best known. He has been imprisoned or charged under every Egyptian regime to rule in his lifetime (he was born in November 1981, a month after Sadat’s assassination); most recently he’s been accused of organising a protest on 26 November 2013. Three hundred people gathered outside the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house, to protest against a provision in the draft constitution that would allow civilians to be tried in military courts. Police in plainclothes and balaclavas attacked them with tear gas and water cannon: 46 people were arrested, of whom 24 were held in custody. Two nights later, a squadron of armed and masked police raided Alaa’s home, beat him and his wife while their child slept in the next room, and dragged Alaa off, blindfolded and barefoot, his hands tied behind his back.

Since then he has spent more than two hundred days in prison (he was released on bail between 23 March and 11 June) and appeared in court seven times. Because Alaa had formally accused the judge of election fraud in 2005 and 2010, the defence asked him to recuse himself. He would not. At the fourth hearing, on 11 June, he barred the defendants from court, found them guilty in absentia, handed down a 15-year sentence, and ordered that they be arrested outside the court as fugitives. When the automatic retrial began, as the law says it must for verdicts in absentia, the same judge was presiding. And then, on 15 September, he surprised everyone and recused himself. Alaa was released on bail.

He had been on hunger strike since 18 August. He announced it in a public letter and soon other prisoners were following suit. As I write there are 79 prisoners on full hunger strike and 295 solidarity strikers outside, including Alaa’s mother and sister. Day-long solidarity strikes have been held by political parties, NGOs, journalists and sympathisers worldwide. Was the judge’s decision to release him designed to sap some of the momentum from the campaign? ‘There are no courts, neither is there justice,’ Alaa said on his release. ‘There are only plots.’

The case isn’t over. And there is little room for celebration. In one of those five thousand hours lost to jail Alaa’s father died.

Ahmed Seif al-Islam was a human rights lawyer with a history of defending the most marginalised members of society. Jailed and tortured as a communist activist in the 1980s, he studied law in prison. In 1999 he helped found the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, one of the key incubators of dissent among all the independent radical institutions that fostered the revolution. Seif was arrested for the last time on 3 February 2011, the tenth of the 18 days that unseated Mubarak. An army unit stormed the HMLC office, arrested everyone inside and forced them into the unmarked microbuses of the deep state. After two days of interrogation, Seif was questioned by the head of Military Intelligence, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. ‘This time,’ the future president told him, ‘you’re not getting out.’

But he did get out and his decades of work flowered in those revolutionary months.

On 27 August he died of complications following heart surgery. He’d repeatedly postponed the operation because of what was being done to his family, for whom he was the leading lawyer. Two of his three children were in prison when he died.

Alaa’s 20-year-old sister, Sanaa, has spent most of the last two years providing support – food, clothing, laundry, beds – to detainees and their families. She is also a film editor. She was one of the team that won an Emmy in August for the film The Square. She couldn’t go to the ceremony because she was in jail.

The protest that Alaa is accused of organising was in fact organised by his other sister, Mona Seif, and her colleagues in the No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign. Six of them, all young women, were arrested at the protest. But the media uproar was so loud that they were all released. When they refused to leave the police station without their male co-protesters, they were beaten, dragged into a truck and dumped an hour south of Cairo in the desert. One way or another they got back to Cairo and the next day went to the Prosecutor’s Office to hand themselves in: they were the organisers, they said. They were the ones who had broken the new law, not the men in prison. They have been ignored.

Alaa received his 15-year sentence for assaulting a police officer as well as organising the protest. Lieutenant-Colonel Emad Tahoun claims that Alaa beat him and stole his walkie-talkie. On the day of the protest Tahoun was dressed in plainclothes, in jeans and a blue checked shirt, but he was clearly in charge. I was filming that day. Struck by his physical resemblance to the minister of the interior, Mohamed Ibrahim, I zoomed in and stayed focused on him. As uniformed officers arrived on the scene they shook hands, lit cigarettes and swapped jokes. The officers positioned their men where he told them to. He gave the order to turn on the water cannon. As a hundred police in body armour charged the protesters, Tahoun headed straight for two activists, Nazly Hussein and Mai Saad and threw both women to the ground. They were then dragged off into detention, Saad choking as her scarf was wrenched around her throat.

Tahoun moved on to the next group. Videos show him grabbing and beating anyone he could get his hands on. His shirt was ripped open and his belly exposed, but he didn’t stop scrambling for people to arrest. At some point, he lost his walkie-talkie. By 4.45 p.m. the protest was over: everyone had either run away or been arrested. Tahoun claims Alaa assaulted and robbed him at 6 p.m. When police testimony contradicted Tahoun’s, the prosecution removed the testimony from the file: two pages became one line.

The case is embarrassingly inelegant. In a court session in September the prosecution presented a home video taken illegally from Alaa’s wife’s computer, as well as video footage of the wrong protest. When they showed the right footage none of the defendants was visible. They had had ten months to prepare. The case continues.

When all the institutions of justice have shown themselves to be acting at all times in the service of the regime, few options are left. At the time of writing, Mohamad Soltan has been on hunger strike for 242 days. It is not clear how he is still alive. What is clear is that he is being kept in his cell when he should be in hospital. He cannot stand up on his own and is suffering from blood clots in his lungs. Every time he faints he is taken to hospital, treated briefly, and returned to his cell. But because of his perceived affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood he gets little public sympathy.

Alaa suspended his hunger strike when he was released on bail on 15 September. He is preparing to begin again in solidarity with his sister Sanaa. She has been on strike since 28 August. She states clearly in her case file that she organised the protest at which she was arrested. She has been held since 21 June. In these three months she has appeared in court only twice. The judge recently set the next trial date for 11 October. Sanaa weighed 55 kg before the hunger strike started. By 11 October she would be on her 44th day of hunger strike. Martin Hurson, one of the Irish republican strikers, died on his 45th.

26 September

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.