Naming a donkey results in time in an Egyptian prison

The Case

When you name your donkey you don’t expect to have to consider that there may be consequences for your choice. And especially that the consequences may include prison. That is what has happened to Omar Abul Maged, a 31 year old Egyptian farmer who has been sentenced to over a year in prison for naming his Donkey ‘Sisi’. Field Marshal el-Sisi was the Minister of Defence from August 2012 until he resigned just over a week ago to run for President. He was also Commander in Chief of Egypt’s Armed Forces so naming a donkey after him has been considered to be “humiliating the military”.  While this may well have been the intent it is also certain that the case would have attracted far less attention, both inside and outside Egypt, had there not been charges.


"It is bad enough that the former head of the Army should be the front runner in the upcoming presidential elections. Following what was essentially a coup d’etat against the Muslim Brotherhood this does not give a good impression about the health of Egypt’s democracy. A democracy that is rapidly heading back to the Mubarak era so undoing everything the Arab Spring was about. What is worse is that it appears that this is a dictatorship that will brook no criticism. This sentencing for naming a donkey after Sisi may seem farcical but a year in prison is no laughing matter. A year’s sentence is out of all proportion for the crime and shows a complete lack of freedom of speech in Egypt (or humour on the part of the Egyptian government). In its lack of proportion to the crime committed it is very similar to the recent sentencing of 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters a week ago for the killing of a police officer; they were all sentenced to death regardless of their individual culpability. The hope that Egypt would develop into a democracy with all that brings; free speech, press, association and a vibrant civil society and opposition has clearly been comprehensively dashed. All that remains is the final act of voting the Army once more in as civilian President. That will take place on May 27th."

-          Alex Helling

The report on the sentencing for naming a donkey:

Just in case you thought it might be an April fool’s joke (despite it being published on the 31st) there are also news reports from the arrest in September

Egyptian justice does not

Egyptian justice does not really seem to deserve the title at the moment. This mass sentencing to death was for the most part reduced to 25 year sentences - still rather harsh and indiscriminate for the crime but at least it is not the death penalty. but there were still 37 sentenced to hang. Moreover there has now been another mass sentencing to death of 683 men for the same crime. Hopefully more of these sentences will be reduced but it still seems a travesty. Even if all are reduced justice should not be a roller coaster ride designed to scare everyone. It should be about finding the individuals responsible rather than some form of group punishment.

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