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Egyptians demand answers on 'disappeared' family and baby

Relatives say they hold government responsible for safety of Madhar family, including their one-year-old girl, not seen since Saturday
Alya's photo has been shared on social media (screengrab)

An Egyptian family and activists are demanding information about four relatives, including a 14-month-old baby, it fears were abducted and "disappeared" while travelling between Giza and Asyut on Saturday.

Abdullah Madhar, his wife Fatima, baby Alya and his brother-in-law Mohamed Diya al-Deen, were last seen at Giza train station as they were preparing to travel to Asyut, according to a Facebook post from Madhar's sister, Maryam.

Since then, nothing has been heard. The reason for their disappearance is unknown, but Maryam Madhar stated that neighbours witnessed the family's home in Cairo being raided by security forces in the early hours of Sunday.

"The family holds the interior ministry responsible for the safety of our family members, and we ask to quickly be informed of the fate of the family," the Maryam's post said.

Middle East Eye contacted Giza's main police station but was told queries could not be answered until Thursday. The interior ministry did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Activists launched calls for the release of the family, and the hashtag "where is Alya?", in Arabic, and "FreeAlya" were being used on Twitter.

Friends also began raising awareness about the Madhars.

Social media users shared disbelief at the news. Alya is one of the youngest reported disappeared in Egypt, where security forces have abducted hundreds of critics of the government, human rights groups say. 

They went missing days before Egypt's polls opened on Monday in a presidential election expected to deliver a sweeping victory to incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

About 60 million voters in the Arab world's most populous country have until Wednesday to choose between Sisi and his sole challenger, Moussa Mostafa Moussa.

Moussa registered right before the closing date for applications, saving the election from being a one-horse race. He has denied he is a "puppet" despite having led a Sisi re-election campaign until the moment he registered as a candidate.

Allegations of enforced disappearances during Sisi's presidency have not been uncommon, with Amnesty reporting an 'unprecedented' spike since early 2015. 

The practice has seen hundreds of students, political activists and protesters, including children as young as 14, vanish without trace at the hands of the state. On average three to four people per day are seized according to local NGOs.

According to Stop Enforced Disappearances, a campaign launched by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, from 2015-2017 there have been 1,400 accounted records of forced disappearances in Egypt.

In July 2017, 61 cases of extrajudicial killings were recorded and at least 24 individuals who had been forcibly disappeared were found dead.

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