Mohamed Soltan

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Mohamed Soltan
Mohamed Soltan
Mohamed Soltan

c. 1988[1]
EducationBachelors of Science in Economics
Alma materOhio State University
Known forHuman Rights, Activism, Politics, Egypt

Mohamed Soltan (Arabic: محمد سلطان‎, born c. 1988[1]), an Egyptian-American human rights advocate who was a political prisoner in Egypt from August 2013 to May 2015. Soltan was shot, imprisoned,[2] tortured, and sentenced to life in prison on trumped-up and politically motivated charges after protesting against the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In protest of his unjust detainment by the Egyptian authorities, Soltan entered into an open-ended hunger-strike on 26 January 2014.[3] The hunger-strike was supported by a world-wide campaign effort that led to his freedom. The U.S. government intervened at the highest levels and successfully facilitated his release and return to the United States on 31 May 2015. His hunger-strike lasted 489 days.[4]

Since his release, Soltan has dedicated his life to advocate for freedom, democracy and social justice.

Personal life[edit]

Soltan is an Egyptian-American human rights advocate. He was born in Egypt and moved to the US in the mid-1990s at the age of 7 where he lived in several cities (Boston, Kansas City, Detroit, Columbus). Soltan played junior varsity and varsity basketball in high school, and was active in his local community. From a young age, he took initiatives to helping people, and frequently volunteered in local soup kitchens.[citation needed]

Soltan is the eldest of five children, and his mother and father are middle school sweethearts from a small village in Egypt. He grew up in a loving and supportive household that always emphasized independence and creativity. His father, Salah Soltan, is a prominent scholar of Islamic jurisprudence, who taught at many distinguished Islamic educational institutions, and has authored over 80 books on varying issues from the obligation to vote in the US, to married life in the West and women's inheritance in Islam. His father is ideologically affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood,[5] but Mohamed and his family have confirmed that he is not a member of that group or have any other affiliations in Egypt.[6]

Arab Spring[edit]

Soltan took an open-ended break from his school when the 2011 revolution broke out and went to Egypt to join the youth's revolution for freedom. He and his friends at Ohio State University created shirts for the youth coalition to wear in the entrances of Tahrir Square. Soltan joined the sit-in in Tahrir and was on the frontline at the presidential palace in Egypt when President Mubarak was forced to step down. Weeks after, Soltan returned to the US and toured university campuses to speak about his experience during the revolution.

Return to Egypt[edit]

After graduating from Ohio State University with a bachelors of science degree in economics in 2012, Soltan moved back to Egypt, to aid his ill mother who was receiving treatment for cancer. He worked as a business development manager for an Egyptian petroleum service company.[3] During that time, his father served as the Deputy Minister of Islamic Endowment in the 2012 Morsi administration.[7]

Rabaa Square[edit]

Soltan has been making international headlines since August 2013, when he was swept up in the crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrators protesting the 3 July 2013 Military Coup de'état. In protest of the return of military rule, Soltan joined the Rab’aa Al-Adawiya sit-ins, where he served as a de facto citizen-journalist and often coordinated with foreign journalists and the protestors.[8] As a result, he became a first hand witness to the violent dispersal of the sit-in, where he sustained a gunshot wound in the arm by snipers while live-tweeting what later came to be known as the bloodiest massacre in Egypt's recent history.[9]


Soltan was subsequently arrested, along with three journalists by Egyptian security forces on 25 August 2013 shortly afterward, while recovering at his family home in the suburbs of Cairo. He disappeared for two days, and was blindfolded, beaten, and interrogated by state security officers about his father's whereabouts. During the first months of his imprisonment, he was tortured, beaten on his broken arm and was deliberately denied medical attention. Soltan wrote a letter to his mother, letter to President Obama, and a letter home describing the circumstances in which he was living.

Hunger strike[edit]

Months into his imprisonment, Soltan began an open-ended hunger strike that lasted 489 days to protest his unjust imprisonment and the inhumane detention conditions.[10][11] On 30 May 2015, shortly after an Egyptian judge sentenced him to life in prison along with 37 others, including 13 journalists,[12][13] the United States government spoke out against the sentencing and the White House condemned Soltan's sentencing, and demanded his immediate release.[14][15] According to a Guardian report citing an independent medical report facilitated by the US embassy, Soltan had lost at least a third of his bodyweight and was unable to stand unassisted on his 100th day of hunger strike in jail.[16]

On 27 May 2014, a video showing Soltan was released by CNN's Christiane Amanpour in which Soltan asks President Obama and the international community for help.[17] [18]

#FreeSoltan Campaign[edit]

Soltan's hunger-strike was supported by a world-wide campaign effort, both locally in Egypt and Internationally in the US and Europe. The campaign was managed by Soltan's older sister and consisted of family, friends, lawyers, human rights defenders from across the world. The campaign focused on managing messaging, channeling it effectively in legal and governmental circles. The campaign succeeding in rallying thousands of people from all walks of life behind Soltan's plight.

The #FreeSoltan campaign has accused the U.S. government of not doing enough to push Egyptian authorities to resolve or drop his case, which they say is politically motivated.[3] Supporters of Soltan have also called the charges against him to be politically motivated.[1] The hunger strike by Soltan has sparked criticism of the Egyptian authorities on social media and led to mass petitions and demonstrations to highlight his imprisonment.[18] A US embassy official has said embassy representatives have visited Soltan several times at the Tora prison outside Cairo and have been present at Soltan's hearings.[3]

The campaign became the complementing component in the formula that eventually led to Soltan's freedom.


Following his release, Soltan has briefed many senior government officials.[19][20] He testified in congress to the Lantos Commission on Human Rights. Soltan also briefed non-governmental organizations, human rights organizations and other advocacy groups to discuss the gross human rights violations he had faced in prison and that many continue to face. He has been highly effective in highlighting the grim reality of political prisons in Egypt by providing a first hand account of the grave injustice many young people like him have endured.[citation needed]

Soltan hopes to bring his story and the story of thousands like him to the attention of the public. He has dedicated his time to tireless advocacy for the voiceless.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Hunger-Striking American Mohamed Soltan Faces Egyptian Court". NBC News. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Egyptian Military Crackdown Leads to Arrest of American Citizen". Time. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Egypt: American on hunger strike in Cairo prison". Washington Post. 4 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Mohamed Soltan, U.S. Citizen Imprisoned in Egypt, Is Released" aljazeera online, 31 May 2015
  5. ^ "Salah Sultan". The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch.
  6. ^ "Mohamed Soltan, U.S. Citizen Imprisoned in Egypt, Is Released". New York Times. 31 May 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  7. ^ Erin Cunningham (3 May 2014). "Egypt: American on hunger strike in Cairo prison". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Egypt: Rab'a Killings Likely Crimes against Humanity". Human Rights Watch. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  10. ^ "An American's Plea From an Egyptian Jail". - Video. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  11. ^ "After 489 days on hunger strike in prison, Mohamed Soltan gives up Egyptian citizenship, deported to US - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  12. ^ "The depths of Egypt's human rights crisis". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Opinion | Egypt Sentences an American to Life". Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  14. ^ "The Conviction of Mr. Mohamed Soltan". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Statement by the Press Secretary on the Conviction and Sentencing of American Citizen Mohamed Soltan". 11 April 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  16. ^ "Fears for US citizen on hunger strike in Egyptian jail as health worsens". The Guardian. 9 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  17. ^ "American hunger striker in Egypt makes video appeal to Obama". Middle East Eye. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  18. ^ a b "American on hunger strike in Egypt demands action" (The Stream). Al Jazeera. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Taken Question: Readout of Secretary Kerry's Meetings With Mohamed Soltan". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Samantha Power on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 10 July 2018.