Petition Closed
Petitioning Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman and 3 others
This petition will be delivered to:
Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor- US Department of State
Michael H. Posner
Prime Minister
Dr. Kamal El Ganzory
Egyptian Air Force Commander
Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez

In Jail for Love

Members of the Egyptian military are prohibited from doing many things others in democratic societies take for granted. They may not vote or join a political party. They may not protest or criticize the military or government, even in the privacy of their own homes. They are required to stay in the military a minimum of ten years, and can retire only when, and if, the military approves their request for retirement. Members of the military may not complain of treatment to any human rights groups. They cannot visit an embassy for any reason. Members of the Egyptian military cannot marry foreign citizens.

Before our marriage it was made clear to Ahmed, through his commanding officers, that he would not be permitted to retire, despite the fact that he had more than completed his required term of service because Ahmed’s qualifications as a helicopter pilot are scarce in the Egyptian Air Force. If he were to remain in the military, we would either have to wait over 20 years to marry or marry secretly and hope the military never found out. For a man like Ahmed, neither were good options. My husband is not a coward who will hide, nor would he deny the woman he loved the commitment of marriage.

My husband, Ahmed Azzam was a model officer. In 11 years of service, he was never, ever reprimanded, or even late. He passed every test, received a promotion at every opportunity, and maintained a perfect record. By choosing to be upright and honest, he earned the chance to travel and train with the US military seven times. He excelled in his field, is a senior instructor pilot for the Blackhawk helicopter, and certified by the US Military. Ahmed was a trusted helicopter pilot, in charge of safety issues as his base, and was regularly entrusted to pilot for major leaders. Ahmed is well respected among his colleagues and friends.

On October 16, 2011, Ahmed and I were legally married under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. The marriage is legal and binding under Egyptian law. He reported his marriage to his commanding officers himself, hoping that his flawless record, devoted service and honesty would prompt the Egyptian military to give him justice and recognize that he is the person best able to choose his wife.

Military officers who get married to foreigners are not supposed to be sued before a military court, they are only supposed to be discharged from service. Item 74 (1983) states that officers who marry foreigners should be discharged from military service. Item 70 (2000), Id. reinforces Item 74 from 1983, specifically stating that military commanders cannot bring officers to trial or punish them in any other way besides expulsion from the military. Yet on November 28, 2011, Ahmed was brought before a military court (case number 5134 from Military Misdemeanors, East Cairo Military Prosecution) and charged with disobeying military orders (Items 153 and 166) because he married me, an American citizen.

On December 3, 2011, Ahmed was sentenced to one year in military prison for marrying me. He is currently held in prison with violent offenders; men charged with crimes such as murder, theft, and drug use. Ahmed faced a biased court, with a verdict that was decided before he even walked in the door. Though the judge admitted the charges did not fit the crime, Ahmed was still found guilty. There is no presumption of innocence, and no recognition that an officer in the Egyptian military is entitled to any form of reasonable justice.

We request that Air Marshal Reha Mahmoud Hafez, Commander of the Egyptian Air Force immediately release Ahmed Azzam from military prison and discharge him from service with the Egyptian military. Additionally, we request that Egyptian lawmakers and the Prime Minister work to check the powers of the military, even within its own ranks. The Prime Minister must ensure the human rights or all citizens, especially those who give their lives to the service of their country. The United States government, as the biggest and vital financial supporter of the Egyptian military, needs to take responsibility for ensuring that its ally upholds basic human rights before continuing their support. 

This is a clear-cut, systematic, and repeated violation of human rights that is enforced and supported by the military at the highest ranks: the Air Force Commander himself must approve the prosecution and the sentencing. How can the Egyptian military be trusted to move the country forward when they cannot act with justice and fairness to people within their own organization? Do not dismiss it because it involves one individual, or involves a personal decision. It is hypocrisy at its worst to ignore individual freedoms as we push for democratic reform; individual freedoms are the basis for a fair democracy.


Letter to
Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor- US Department of State Michael H. Posner
Prime Minister Dr. Kamal El Ganzory
and 1 other
Egyptian Air Force Commander Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez
We have created, supported, and signed this petition to request the immediate release of Ahmed Farouk Ahmed Mohamed Azzam from Egyptian military prison and his discharge from service with the Egyptian military.

Ahmed Azzam is a major and helicopter pilot in the Egyptian Air Force. He is a model officer. In 11 years of service, he was never, ever reprimanded, or even late. He passed every test, received a promotion at every opportunity, and maintained a perfect record. By choosing to be upright and honest, he earned the chance to travel and train with the US military seven times. He excelled in his field, is a senior instructor pilot for the Blackhawk helicopter, and certified by the US Military. Ahmed was a trusted helicopter pilot, in charge of safety issues as his base, and was regularly entrusted to pilot for major leaders. Ahmed is well respected among his colleagues and friends.

On October 16, 2011, Ahmed and Jessica Albrent (an American citizen) were legally married under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. The marriage is legal and binding under Egyptian law. Ahmed reported his marriage to his commanding officers himself, hoping that his flawless record, devoted service and honesty would prompt the Egyptian military to give him justice and recognize that he is the person best able to choose his wife.

Military officers who get married to foreigners are not supposed to be sued before a military court, they are only supposed to be discharged from service. Item 74 (1983) states that officers who marry foreigners should be discharged from military service. Item 70 (2000), Id. reinforces Item 74 from 1983, specifically stating that military commanders cannot bring officers to trial or punish them in any other way besides expulsion from the military. Yet on November 28, 2011, Ahmed was brought before a military court (case number 5134 from Military Misdemeanors, East Cairo Military Prosecution) and charged with disobeying military orders (Items 153 and 166) because he married an American citizen.

On December 3, 2011, Ahmed was sentenced to one year in military prison for marrying Jessica Albrent. He is currently held in prison with violent offenders; men charged with crimes such as murder, theft, and drug use. Ahmed faced a biased court, with a verdict that was decided before he even walked in the door. Though the judge admitted the charges did not fit the crime, Ahmed was still found guilty. There is no presumption of innocence, and no recognition that an officer in the Egyptian military is entitled to any form of reasonable justice.

The signers of this petition object to what has happened for two reasons. 1) Love and marriage are sacred and private matters. No government can dictate whom a man chooses to love or marry. 2) The arrest, trial, and sentencing are both illegal under military law and unjust. The rule of law must be followed and those laws must be just.

There are many documents recognized all over the world that support the right of every individual to marry and to choose the person they marry. The UN recognizes this need for love and marriage in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ”Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Additionally, the Qur’an specifically exhorts the support and encouragement of marriage, "You shall encourage those of you who are single to get married. They may marry the righteous among your male and female servants, if they are poor. GOD will enrich them from His grace. GOD is Bounteous, Knower," (Qur’an 24:32). Not only is one to marry, but one is encouraged to marry for love, because love is a reflection of GOD, "Among His signs is the fact that he has created spouses from among yourselves, so that you may find tranquility with them; and he has put love and mercy between you. In that are signs for people who reflect," (Qur’an 30:21).

The military must follow its own rules. The fact that the military has blatantly ignored their rules in order to follow an agenda and prove a point shows that there is something deeply wrong. A man, even an officer, is not there to prove a point or teach others a lesson. He is an individual, entitled to justice and fair treatment under the law.

Once again, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines these rights. Articles 1-3 state that EVERYONE, including officers and soldiers, have basic human rights that cannot be denied. Articles 6-9 state that everyone is entitled to fair protection under the law and must be recognized first, as human. Articles 10 and 11 state that one must be given a fair, impartial trial, and that no sentence can be heavier than dictated by law. In the arrest, trial and sentence of Ahmed Azzam, the Egyptian military has violated every one of the above articles.

Islam, a guiding light in the development of Egypt is firm and clear on the expectations that one give justice and rule with fairness: “GOD commands justice and fair dealing...” (Qur’an 16:90). “…If you judge, judge between them with justice…” (Qur’an 5:42).

Under the military’s own laws, under the dictates of Egypt’s religion, what has been done to Ahmed is patently and clearly illegal. It violates both the laws and morals that are supposed to guide Egypt, and it is these laws and morals that a military strives to protect and enforce.

Additionally, the sentence of one year is, by far, too extreme. Ahmed Azzam fell in love. He followed his conscience and his duty to his religion and beliefs by marrying the woman he loved. To do otherwise would have been wrong. He is not a violent criminal and does not deserve a jail sentence.

After the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, the Egyptian military was charged with leading Egypt into a new era of democracy and freedom, an era where human rights would be protected, and the prerogative of a dictator was not the rule of law. People seeking justice drove the revolution. Today, the Egyptian military struggles to control the country and maintain order. Indeed, the Egyptian military denies basic human rights to its own officers and service members; justice and the laws are elusive. If the Egyptian military cannot act with fairness and justice within its own ranks, how can they possibly ensure it for the average citizen?

We request that the Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawy and Air Marshal Reha Mahmoud Hafez, Commander of the Egyptian Air Force immediately release Ahmed Azzam from military prison and discharge him from service with the Egyptian military, in accordance with military law. Additionally, we request that the Egyptian military commanders be held (and hold themselves) accountable for following military law. The Prime Minister and the Parliament must ensure that the military is governed by Egyptian laws and there must be checks on military powers. We strongly urge the Egyptian government to pass and enforce laws that defend the rights of all citizens and ensure that military officers are protected from tyranny.

Further, the United States government, as the biggest and most vital financial supporter of the Egyptian military, needs to take responsibility for ensuring that its ally upholds basic human rights before continuing their support.

This is a clear-cut, systematic, and repeated violation of human rights that is enforced and supported by the military at the highest ranks: the Air Force Commander himself must approve the prosecution and the sentencing. Do not dismiss it because it involves one individual, or involves a personal decision. It is hypocrisy at its worst to ignore individual freedoms as we push for democratic reform; individual freedoms are the basis for a fair democracy.

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to ALLAH, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor...” (Qur’an 4:135).

Sincerely,