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In the mirror of truth

Two days before the anniversary of the revolution, Amnesty International issued a report under the heading, "Roadmap to Repression: No End in Sight for Human Rights Violations". It painted a bleak picture of the current situation in Egypt. Another Amnesty report was released last week: "The third anniversary of the revolution marred by police brutality". It covered the events witnessed in Egypt on January 25th this year.

The first report was about 49 pages long and concluded that over the last seven months (since the coup), "Egypt has witnessed unprecedented levels of institutionalised violence as human rights were completely ignored and abused. Thus, the demands from the January 25th revolution, for dignity and human rights, remain more elusive than ever."

Egypt has descended further down the path of repression and confrontation, with the authorities deliberately clamping down on freedom of expression and assembly. "The implementation of repressive laws," said Amnesty, "makes it easier for the government to silence its critics and suppress protests. This grants security forces the opportunity to act above the law, in whatever way they please, and without the possibility of being held accountable for any violations they commit. Repression has now become the norm and, therefore, it is not punishable."

Amnesty's second report painted a picture of some of the things we knew and didn't know about the events that occurred on the anniversary of the revolution last month. "The number of arrests that occurred on January 25th was lamentable. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of the Interior, over 1,000 people were arrested in a single day. It was also reported that 64 people were killed (although independent sources reported that 103 people were killed and those names were listed on the internet). Hundreds of others were wounded in the violence that erupted after police forces tried to break up anti-government protests."

Human Rights Watch also quoted one of the protesters upon his release saying that those arrested, including women and young girls, were beaten. He added that he noticed that the cell where he was detained was stained with blood. He himself was subject to beatings on the head and slaps on the face for criticising the police and the army.

The report also quoted a young girl who said that a police officer beat her with a shoe all over her face and body and that this punishment was used on every individual who was detained at the police station that day. Many of those detained were blindfolded while they were beaten, including children. One fifteen-year-old girl was arrested for having a gas mask and a first aid kit in her handbag. When she was escorted to the police station, she found that the police had forced many young men to take off their under garments and kneel down, blindfolded, as the police proceeded to electrocute them. The report also revealed that many lawyers had complained because the public prosecutor denied detainees the right to a medical examination. The lawyers noted that signs of torture were clearly visible on the prisoners' bodies and faces and that many of the investigations had been conducted in their absence.

The Amnesty report concluded that many of the men, women and children who were detained had merely been exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly, or had been passers-by. One detainee was quoted saying that he did not open fire yet the police agreed to release him only after he declared his support for Abdul-Fatah Al-Sisi.

The picture painted by the above reports recalls the violence, abuses and suffering of the Mubarak era. These actions constitute a self-defence mechanism against those who are sceptical of this era's return and continue to hold on to the values of the January 25th Revolution. These current events attempt to erase the legacy of the revolution and confirm the victory of the counter-revolution.

The second Amnesty report provides a sample of the January 25th events and brings to mind the stories of the 1,020 detainees who have been held in prison camps and security institutions over the past 7 months. This report also reminds us of the fate of the 2,060 individuals who were killed during that period.

The report exposes human rights organisations in Egypt that have remained silent over these haunting violations and accuses them of cooperating with security forces to cover up these atrocities. Only a handful of organisations can be excluded from this accusation and they have attempted to report the events of these abuses without sugar-coating the reality or attempting to be politically correct.

The authorities in Egypt are responding to such reports in one of two ways. The first is one of total denial in which they claim that the organisations preparing such reports are unaware of the reality of the current situation in Egypt, despite the fact that they have their own representatives living in the country and they are among the closest people to the current events. The second is to accuse the organisations responsible for such reports of being prejudiced and trying to conspire against Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. These accusations are also being directed towards the American, German and British media, specifically towards Time Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Guardian. The authorities are also directing similar accusations towards the European Parliament.

At a time when the thunder of Egyptian scandals echoes across the world, we in Egypt are playing dumb as we send delegations around the world in an attempt to improve our country's image. The foreign minister continues to knock on the doors of various European and African capitals as he tries desperately to foster the image that Egypt is living in a golden era of freedom and democracy after June 30th. One of the biggest problems facing Egypt today is that we Egyptians do not have the courage to face our own reflections in the mirror of truth. In our attempt to fool the world around us, we are only fooling ourselves.

This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Shorouk newspaper on 9 February, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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