A balloon spelling out "LOVE" is added to a plant at an Egyptian flower shop. (H. Elrasam/VOA)
A balloon spelling out "LOVE" is added to a plant at an Egyptian flower shop. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Despite pressure from Islamists, Valentine's Day continues to be a big day for many Egyptians to express their feelings of love.  In Egypt's prisons, where human rights groups estimate as many as 60,000 political prisoners are languishing, love remains alive as detainees and their lovers find creative ways to open their hearts on this day.  VOA correspondent Hamada Elrasam interviewed and photographed loved ones of several prisoners for this photo essay.

A group of volunteers, family members, and friends
A group of volunteers, family members, and friends of political prisoners make origami gifts for the prisoners. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Manar El-Tantawy, wife of political prisoner, jour
Manar El-Tantawy, wife of political prisoner, journalist, and human rights defender Hisham Gafaar, finds solace in rosary beads that he made and gave her last year for Valentine's Day. "Last Valentine's, Hisham made two of these rosaries: one for me and the other one for our daughter," she said. "This year, Valentine's Day means more than ever. Hisham is suffering kidney failure and losing his sight." (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Activist and photojournalist Esraa El Taweel was d
Activist and photojournalist Esraa El Taweel was detained along with her fiancé, Omar. Esraa was released but Omar remained in prison. "We got married last May with Omar in custody," she said. "Now, I can visit him when visits are allowed. We used to exchange handmade gifts and letters even while we were in the prison and also after my release. He wrote my name with beads and made me paper flowers and soap sculptures." (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Every month new volunteers join the origami worksh
Every month new volunteers join the origami workshop to show solidarity with political prisoners. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Egyptian prisons administrators don't allow any
Egyptian prisons administrators don’t allow any type of gift if it can be turned into a hard or sharp object. In Cairo, Egypt. Friday, July 21, 2017. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Farha Nader, a politics researcher, shows a paper
Farha Nader, a politics researcher, shows a paper heart bearing her name. It was a gift from her friend, Gamal Abdulhakim, who made it for her while in custody. "In the early days of Gamal’s detention, it was super cool," she said, "He was able to video call me for hours from his cell. He used to remind me when to take my medications." But that changed when prison authorities transferred him to Burjj Al-Arab prison last October, where conditions are harsher. "Now no one can visit him but his close family, and any message I want to deliver to him is through the lawyer,” Nader said. “I really miss him," she said. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

Islamists protest Valentine's Day in 2013. (H.
Islamists protest Valentine’s Day in 2013. (H. Elrasam/VOA)

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