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Photo via Free Asmaa/ Facebook
“Made in Prison” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when shopping for unique, handmade items. But one university student in Egypt has found an opportunity where most would only see adversity.
(Photos via Facebook)
Dentistry student Asmaa Hamdy was one of the many young people in Egypt arrested for taking part in the protests against the military faction that removed the democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi, from power in the summer of 2013. While completing her 5-year sentence, Hamdy decided to take up knitting and has shown entrepreneurship in the most difficult of circumstances.
What started off as knitting bags for friends and family soon spawned an unconventional small business for Hamdy. Her handiwork garnered attention from other prison inmates, who then requested her knit bags for their own relatives. The Guardian reports that she had knit 50 bags, which were each sold for about $9 each.
But Hamdy does not intend to continue knitting bags solely for financial gain. Her ability and choice to further her own goals within the confines of prison demonstrate the spirit of protest against the military government that seeks to squelch any voice of opposition.
Hamdy’s fiancé, Ibrahim Ragab, tells The Guardian, “It’s just to deliver a message. Even if you’re jailing us, you can’t stop us: our souls are free. Whatever happens, prision won’t stop our imagination. As Asmaa is always saying, we’re beyond breaking point.”
Hamdy has already gone beyond her initial offering of bags. Scarves, bracelets, and knitted pencil cases have been added to her repertoire of items for sale, which can now be ordered from her Facebook page.
The demonstrations in Egypt that Hamdy protested the military ouster of Mohammed Morsi. He had served from June 2012 - July 2013 and had been the first democratically elected president in the nation’s history. Morsi faces a slew of charges, including inciting murder and violence and remains in jail and his trial is mired in controversy. Ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took power after the military coup.
Egypt as a whole continues to face political unrest, and university students represent some of the last bastions of defiance. Thousands were arrested and over 900 students remain in prison, according to the New York Times. As the government continues to repress protest, Asmaa Hamdy’s prison workshop thrives and serves as a small but powerful stand for the movement for democracy.