Egypt: Torture for Bloggers and Activists
|Saturday, May 17,2008 18:41|
|By Amira Al Hussaini|
Egyptian bloggers, cyberactivists and activists on the ground continue to pay the price for speaking up against the rising cost of living and calling for higher wages and a better life. What started as a call for a strike on April 6, quickly spiralled out of control, with a face off between rioters, protesters and the police. Here"s an account of what has happened and is still happening to some of the activists who have used the worldwide web to spread news of what is happening at home.
During the unrest, on April 6 and 7, Egyptian bloggers worked round the clock telling the world about the workers" revolt that shook their country, as thousands rioted at a textile mill in Al Mahalla. They were also among the first casualties of the unrest, which left some killed, scores injured and an undetermined number of activists, organisers and mere spectators behind bars. Their coverage came in the form of blog posts, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, Flickr shots, Facebook messages and all other online tools they could get their hands on.
The saga seems to continue, as some activists are still detained, six weeks after their arrest, prompting calls from their colleagues for their immediate release. Others, allegedly harassed, physically abused and later released by the police, continue to use online tools to tell the world their story.
This is one of many images of the back of Egyptian Facebook user Ahmed Maher, taken by award winning blogger Wael Abbas and posted here, under the title: The Newest Egyptian Method to Find Out Your Facebook"s Account Password.
Ahmed Maher is the real founder of the Strike"s Facebook Group and not Esraa Abdulfattah as everyone assumed. The reason why her name alone appears on the group until now is because Facebook suspended Ahmed Maher"s account because he used to send huge numbers of messages daily for new members to join the group. It was as a result of this effort that more than 70,000 members joined. They considered him as a spammer and closed his account while Esraa"s role was to help in administrating the site and deleting derogatory comments only. Some media organisations, which were looking for an exciting story and a balloon to blow, were not concerned with the accuracy of the story or looking for the truth. This has negatively impacted the national movement for change overall and the credibility of cyberactivists, in particular and this is an issue we can"t forgive.
Elijah Zarwan tells us what happened to Maher:
I’ve just heard from a friend that Ahmed Maher, a 27-year-old engineer quoted in the Western press as a May 4 Facebook activist, is alleging that he was beaten in State Security custody. Details are still sketchy, but apparently State Security called him in for a "friendly" coffee earlier this week. When he didn’t go, my friend tells me, State Security took him from his home in the middle of the night, beat him, and released him with the warning that they were "just pulling his ear" this time, and that next time would be worse. He is reportedly in hospital now.
And Abbas posts the following video showing the extend of torture Maher has been subjected to:
In the video [Ar], Maher says how his clothes were ripped off by the police and then shows us scars on his back which he says were caused by policemen beating him on his back with their bare hands.
Blogger Hossam el Hamalawy links to a newspaper report on what happened to the Facebook user and how he was arrested and tortured by police here.
In an interview with el-Badeel, released Karama Party activist Ahmad Amin Ahmad Eid said that:
Kareem el-Beheiri was tortured in Mahalla’s State Security Police office for more than 18 hours. He told me his torturer was listening to the Quran while torturing him. I saw in Mahalla’s 2nd Police Station children no more than 13 years old, whose eyes and bodies were injured by rubber bullets. They said police kidnapped them from the hospital where they were receiving treatment and accused them of participating in the strike.
Hamalawy also reports that Mohamed Maree, a translator who was arrested along with American photojournalist James Buck, while interviewing the families of those arrested in Mahalla, has been tortured. While Buck was released and asked to leave the country, Maree continues to languish in prison, despite an outcry from activists for his release. Hamalawy writes:
The latest information we have on Mohamed was by rights lawyers who visited Bourg el-Arab Prison on Saturday:
We managed to visit Bourg el-Arab Prison today. It turned out that translator Mohamed Saleh Maree is detained as a ‘criminal’ after he was detained in the company of US journalist James Buck. The latter was released by the police in Mahalla after pressures from his embassy, but Mohamed Saleh was kept in custody despite a release order from the prosecutor. We couldn’t back then find out where he was kept. Today we visited him, and he mentioned he was tortured by beatings and electric shocks in Mahalla’s State Security office. Mohamed was also banned by the prison administration from taking his exam at the university.
Buck continue to fight for his colleague"s freedom and is spearheading a campaign to draw the world"s attention to his friend"s plight. He has also set up a petition on his blog calling for Maree"s release.