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The hidden history of the Egyptian revolution

We are not just demanding the protection of the dreams of Egypt's revolution but also the protection of its memory. The public campaign intended to defame the revolutionaries was preceded by another, silent, campaign aiming to erase the facts of the revolution itself.

I am referring to the farce that plays around the events of the 18 days that it took the Egyptian revolution to overthrow the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. There are now two narratives: one is written by lawyers and investigators; the other is written by saboteurs and state security officers.

As I have said many times before, the former was erased and ignored. The latter, however, has been adopted, spread and employed by politicians and the media.

Fortunately, the first post-revolution administration formed a fact-finding committee to investigate what happened. The task was assigned to a team of leading lawyers and experts renowned for their integrity and trust, headed by the former President of the Court of Cassation, Adel Koura.

Due to the fact that the events were fresh, the team, who hired other investigators and experts to help them, completed their task in about 55 days and presented their 400-page report on 19 April 2011 to the acting authority at the time. The 45-page summary of the committee's report was released in press conferences. I believe that the revolution's third anniversary is an appropriate occasion to recall those sections which have been erased and ignored.

After the historical events were reformed in security reports, the police were acquitted of all charges relating to the murder of protesters, despite the fact that the fact-finding report condemned explicitly the actions of the police and held officers responsible for all of the crimes that occurred. The report stated: "The committee found that the police used rubber bullets, cartridges and live ammunition against the protesters, as well as snipers on the rooftops of buildings overlooking Tahrir Square, especially the Interior Ministry building, the Nile Hilton Hotel and the American University. This was cited by the statements of those asked by the committee, as well as medical reports which indicated that the deaths were mostly as a result of gunshots and cartridge bullets to the head, neck and chest, noting that gunfire can only be fired after authority is issued by a committee headed by the interior minister and senior officers of the Ministry of the Interior, which is then granted by the president to the police, who then enforce it."

The report also stated that the police used excessive force against demonstrators as follows:

  • Most of the fatal injuries were to the head and chest, indicating that some had been shot by snipers. As for the victims who were wounded but not killed, their faces were disfigured and their eyes were damaged.
  • The bullets and cartridges fired by the police hit people who were watching events unfold from the balconies and windows of their homes facing police stations. Their injuries were due to random shots or deliberate shooting to stop them from filming police assaults on people in the streets.
  • Armoured police vehicles crushed some protesters deliberately.

The report also looked at the "Battle of the Camel", the case in which the officials who were accused were acquitted:

  • On the morning of Wednesday, February 2, a number of the former regime supporters gathered in Mustafa Mahmoud Square, on the Arab League Street. They did so based on guidance from some of the National Party leaders. Other supporters of the former president, who came from various Cairo neighbourhoods, gathered in the streets leading to Tahrir Square and blocked them in order to prevent the demonstrators opposed to the regime from reaching the square and to trap the protesters inside the square. Meanwhile, some undercover policemen, supporters of the regime, hid within the crowd in the square and another group positioned themselves on the rooftops overlooking the square.

    In the afternoon, large numbers of them began storming the square, especially from the direction of the Abdel Moneim Riad Square, the October 6 Bridge and the entrance to Tahrir Square from Talaat Harb Street. They threw stones, slabs of marble and Molotov cocktails at the demonstrators.

    At the same time, the police fired live ammunition, rubber cartridges, and tear gas at the demonstrators, while some snipers fired live ammunition from the tops of buildings overlooking the square. Then, groups of men riding horses and camels and carrying sticks and metal rods stormed the square. Most of them came from the Nazlet El-Samman area and met in Mustafa Mahmoud Square, then headed to Tahrir Square and went through the metal barriers put in place by the army to protect the demonstrators. They beat the protesters and caused injuries, some resulting in death, while the regime supporters continued throwing solid objects, stones, and marble on the demonstrators.

  • The demonstrators were able to capture some camel riders and supporters of the former regime who were in the square attacking them. After discovering their identity cards, it was revealed that they were police officers dressed in civilian clothes and that they were members of the National Party; they were then handed over to the Armed Forces in order for legal action to be taken against them. The Committee addressed the Armed Forces to inquire about their identities and actions taken by them against the attackers, but it did not receive a response.
  • The committee heard a number of witnesses, and it is enough to say that some of figures of the National Party and members of parliament and the Shura Council belonging to the party, some police officers (especially from the Criminal Investigation Department), and some men from the local administration had orchestrated the demonstrations in support of the former president on 2 February 2011, which started from neighbourhoods in Cairo and Giza and headed towards Tahrir Square. The demonstrators were equipped with sticks, stones, flammable materials and cold weapons. Moreover, a number of National Party members and policemen in civilian clothes joined the hired thugs and the horse and camel riders to attack protesters in Tahrir Square.

In the investigation of the lawlessness that had occurred during the revolution, the committee report mentioned that this occurred as a result of the unleashing thugs on the protesters to drive them out of Tahrir Square, and then spread them across Cairo and Giza to cause chaos after the police withdrew deliberately.

Because the committee realised that this involved the release and escape of some prisoners from prisons near Cairo, some committee members visited the prisons in Wadi Natrun, Tura and Abu Zaabal, as well as the Al-Marg Prison and Al-Qatta Al-Gadeed Prison.

From the committee's visits, two scenarios were possible:

  1. One possibility believed that what happened falls within the scope of the deterioration of the police performance in all sectors, and the desire of some officers to terrorise citizens. Those promoting this possibility base it on the following:
    • A videotape, which was seen by committee, surfaced showing a group of people wearing black uniforms similar to the uniforms worn by the Central Security Forces opening cells in one of the security centres in Fayoum and telling those inside to leave quickly and return to their homes.
    • Scenes from another videotape showing the inmates fleeing a Wadi El-Natrun prison while carrying their personal belongings in the presence of uniformed security forces members urging prisoners to leave the prison quickly.
    • The statements of a number of prison inmates in Wadi Natrun and Tora prisons, who stated that the prison administration cut off the water and electricity several days before the prisoner rebellions, which, naturally led to their agitation and discontent and gave enough justification to create unrest and resistance, then the security rebellion.
    • Some prisoners in prisons where no one escaped confirmed that the police fired bullets and cartridge in cells and wards where no one rebelled and that a number of prisoners were killed or injured while they were in detention.
    • Brigadier Issam Qusi and other police administrators in Wadi Natrun Prison confirmed that on 29 January 2011, a rebellion occurred in the prison and was accompanied by an attack by a number of armed people from outside. These people fired Grinov guns and other firearms at the prison; the guards in the watchtowers fired back until they ran out of ammunition. However, after inspecting the prison walls, there was no indication or traces of gunshots on the wall or towers, which suggests that the statements made by the aforementioned police officers were false.
    • An examination of the Wadi Natrun Prison proved that the acts of vandalism, the removal of the locks and bending the door and window bars would have taken a lot longer than the time mentioned by the prison officers.
    • Manal El-Batran stated that her late brother, Police General Mohamed El-Batran, called her on the phone before he was killed and said that "Habib El-Adly burned the country and there were 18 police stations opened and prisoners were allowed to escape. If the matter is repeated in the prisons, it would be a disaster, and he will not allow it."
    • The prisons from where the prisoners escaped were close to Cairo and held criminals, which indicates that it was done deliberately to spread confusion and panic amongst the people in Cairo and surrounding areas as a part of a security scare plan.
  2. Those who believed in the second possibility say that the prisoners were released after the armed attacks on prisons, and based it on the following:
    • An examination of the prison areas in Abu Zaabal (which has four prisons) proved that it was subjected to an external armed attack, the traces of which are clear. There were gunshots fired on the main prison gate, as well as the east wall near Abu Zaabal prisons 1 and 2. There are also traces of heavy artillery (Grinov) fire on this wall.
    • It has been proven that the Abu Zaabal prisons hold individuals charged with criminal charges from northern and southern Sinai. There was also proof that there were five Hamas prisoners in Zaabal prison 1, as well as 24 others from Hamas and Hezbollah in the prisons attacked. The media immediately reported their return to their homes a few hours after their escape, which confirms the external attacks on the prisons were planned for them to escape.
    • The statements of the Armed Forces officer tasked with securing the Qatta Prison proved that it was subjected to an external attack and that the Armed Forces confronted it successfully. Moreover, the three owners of the farms near the prison stated that they were successful in preventing armed groups from heading towards the prison to storm it and release their imprisoned children.
    • In the conclusion of this part of the report's investigation, the committee noted that the investigation of the Wadi Natrun prison area must be stopped, as the evidence found by the committee when examining it does not suggest the occurrence of an attack that the police failed to deal with. Therefore, there is no strong justification for the occurrence of lawlessness and the escape of the prisoners from the prisons of Wadi Natrun.

There is much more said in the report that is no less important and it provides a different reading of the rest of the events occurring during that period, but I wanted to present what it reported regarding police responsibility for killing the protesters and for what happened in the Battle of the Camel. I also wanted to refer to the story of the prison escapes, especially in the Wadi Al-Natrun prisons, which the report gave a completely different slant to, because the information mentioned reveals the extent of the boldness used in flipping and falsifying the facts and re-ordering them in a manner that would fit the politics and its variations.

This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Al Jazeera net on 27 January, 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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