Fiancée of imprisoned Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy speaks out

Marwa Omara says she and Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy were happy and planning a life in Canada when he was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison, essentially for working for Al Jazeera TV.

Marwa Omara says she and Fahmy were happy when Muslim Brotherhood government removed

Jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and his fiance, Marwa Omara, in happier times. (Photo courtesy Marwa Omara)

Mohamed Fadel Fahmy is my fiancé and the love of my life. The world knows him as a brave and passionate journalist, serving a seven-year prison sentence for the crime of working for Al Jazeera Television's English channel.

I've decided to break my silence to give Canadians a chance to get to know the man that I love.

Marwa Omara is the fiancée of imprisoned Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, sentenced to seven years in jail in Egypt. In a estate exclusive she tells the story of how they met and fell in love, and what lies ahead for them as Fahmy launches his appeal against his conviction.

Mohamed and I first met at a Christmas party back in 2011 in Cairo. He was signing a copy of his new book, Egyptian Freedom Story.

He was working for CNN at the time and the crowd at the party had gathered around him to congratulate him for his brave reporting. I admired his eloquence in analyzing the never-ending discourse about Egypt's Jan. 25 revolution.

That New Year saw the start of our romance. I did my research and accepted the dangers of dating a dedicated journalist.

Until then I had an apolitical approach to life, and my attention was always turned to the latest fashion and hairstyles. 

But gradually, I got sucked into the world of news. I started a Twitter account, and became glued to CNN, watching Mohamed's reporting day and night. My Facebook wall became a collage of articles he wrote for CNN, Foreign Policy, and others.

From left, Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, and correspondent Peter Greste, appear in Egyptian court in March on terror charges. On July 23, an Egyptian judge released his reasoning for harsh sentences issued against three Al-Jazeera journalists, saying they were brought together "by the devil" to fake news reports with the aim of destabilizing the country. (Associated Press)

It became the norm for Mohamed to show up to our dates reeking of tear gas after covering a protest.

I learned to laugh when he pulled a disappearing act during social gatherings, only then to suddenly appear on TV, reporting yet another breaking news story for CNN.

He always told me that his love for adventure and uncovering the truth is what drew him to journalism. But he promised to never let the profession take over our life.

Nevertheless, he worked seven-days-a-week for three years straight. He slept with his phone and his ringer turned to the loudest level, tucked under his pillow. It became evident to me that his passion lay in investigative journalism, and his area of expertise was terrorism.

Happy when Morsi removed

On June 30th, 2013, millions of Egyptians took to the streets. The military supported their call to bring down the Muslim Brotherhood government and oust President Mohammed Morsi.

We literally hugged and danced to patriotic tunes when Morsi was removed.

Around the same time, my love finally resigned from CNN and took a step back for some time off. We tried to avoid the clashes and politics as we concentrated on planning our wedding. We dreamed of stability and a new life in Canada.

Mohamed holds a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship and sounded like a poet whenever he spoke of his memories of Vancouver and Montreal.

But fate had other plans for us when the director of news at Al Jazeera English channel called Mohamed, and offered him a job to run their bureau in Egypt. It was a totally new challenge for Mohamed.

But the Al Jazeera brand had become toxic. The Egyptian government shut down the offices of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the Arabic outlet of the network that focused on Egypt.

Mohamed worked hard to differentiate between the professionalism of the English channel and the pro-Muslim Brotherhood tone of its sister channel Mubasher Misr, which was now broadcast into Egypt from Qatar.

But the reality was that the public and the police did not differentiate between the two channels. The staff were terrified of getting arrested, and security was discussed at length before each report.

On the night of Dec. 24, 2013, Mohamed went on air from the Marriott hotel to report on the bombing of a police station. The next morning his colleague, Peter Greste, reported extensively on the new government's decision to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and list them as a terrorist organization.

BBC journalists and staff in London, some with black tape over their mouths to illustrate the silencing of free speech and journalists around the world, hold a minute of silence in support of the jailed journalists in Egypt on June 24, 2014. (Associated Press)

Five days later, an anti-terror squad raided their makeshift office at the Marriott Hotel, and arrested my fiancé and Peter who had only been in Cairo for 17 days.

Their producer, Baher Mohamed, was arrested at his home soon afterwards. Baher and Mohamed were jailed in the terrorist wing of the notorious Scorpion Prison alongside hard-core jihadists. Peter was kept at another prison with the secular anti-government prisoners.

Funded by Qatar

Months of a farcical trial left thousands of people across the globe, including journalists and world leaders, shocked at the lack of evidence or any logic behind the proceedings.

The lead investigator revealed in court that his whole investigation was based on Al Jazeera's Mubasher Misr channel. He did not even know Al Jazeera English existed.

He shocked us all in court when he said, "If you work in Al Jazeera, then you must be in the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist, funded by Qatar!"

But being tied to the Muslim Brotherhood is unfair and unjust. Mohamed and I oppose their ideology and anything related to their government.

During weekly family visits, Mohamed's mother and I were the only unveiled women waiting among hundreds of distraught females there to see their imprisoned men.

Seeing my fiancé in the prisoner's cage was not easy, but we drew strength from each other inside that courtroom. Even the judge noticed.

One day he deviated from the trial and yelled at me, with a smirk on his face, "Are you going to wave at him all day and make those faces?"

During our last prison visit before the verdict, we were positive and almost tasted freedom. But on June 23 came the gut punch. A courtroom filled with journalists, diplomats, and family members broke into tears as the judge announced the seven-year sentence.

But our love has not been challenged or threatened by his draconian sentence. We have submitted a request to the ministry of interior to allow us to have our wedding in prison alongside our immediate family members.

This celebration of our eternal love will also serve as a message of defiance echoing Mohamed Fadel Fahmy's favourite phrase: "Free behind bars."

Mohamed Fahmy's Twitter account is @Repent11. His family's Twitter campaign for his release can be found @free_fahmy. And stay tuned for the The fifth estate's documentary about Fahmy and his colleagues coming up in the fall.