Torture: An Old Egyptian Art

Torture: An Old Egyptian Art

Mohamed El-Azbawy:  “Prison guard dogs are better than prison lashers”

Dr.  Rashad El-Bayyoumi:  “The regime finds pleasure in torturing the Egyptian people.”

Sayyid Nazeely: “Our brothers are facing annihilation in prison.”

Farid Abdul-Khaliq: “Where there is despotism, torture becomes common.”

George Ishaac: “The quickest development of torture is in Egypt.”

Hamdy Hasan: “The history of the current regime is the worst.”

Torture has been an old Egyptian art and the Egyptian regime”s most preferred means for confronting opposition after the era of the English occupation”s political police ended in Egypt. The art further developed with the setting in of the July revolution which toppled the old kingdom regime replacing it with an agency of foreign powers maintained through security assaults on and resistance of opposition.

The variety of literature on that era may confirm its cruelty.  With the triumph of the July revolution, people in Egypt were optimistic for the end of the political police era which did only in appearance as today political police have been replaced with war police. 

While individuals have changed, the sites of torture remained the same although new ones have been added to include new sectors of the society which have joined the security blacklist.  All the eras, however, shared one common victim: the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The following report reveals some of the history of torture in Egypt, but this time from the point of view of those who actually witnessed and experienced it.

The Art of Torture

Former MB MP Mohamed El-Azbawy confirmed that torture has been an old Egyptian art and explained that although a political prisoner”s freedom can be constrained, he still has the right to human dignity. “But what we see in reality is different.  Even the Abu Ghoreib prisons can”t be compared to those in Egypt,” he added.

Al-Azbawy further explained that a variety of torture techniques are used depending on the person”s capabilities and endurance ability illustrating that if the victim was an old man who couldn”t withstand lashing, his cell would instead be filled with water up to his stomach so that he was neither able to sleep, sit, or eventually move.

Prison guards would also torture prisoners by unleashing a group of fierce guard dogs in their cells to snatch on their bodies.  Speaking of guard dogs, Al-Azbawy recalled that once he saw a guard dog welcoming a prisoner from Menoufiyyah (who was not an MB affiliate).  When he secretly asked the prisoner for the reason, his reply was that it was one of those dogs whom he had mixed with in the cell and in which he found a loyalty not found in humans.

In addition prisoners could also be psychologically tortured through the prevention of visits to them for as long as 26 months.

Another technique for torturing prisoners, known as Arousa (bride), is that in which they are crucified and lashed until they collapse.  “They were creative in finding ways to torture us,” Al-Azbawy commented explaining, “for example they would offer us a type of date to eat which makes one very thirsty then prevent us from drinking water.  Later on when we noticed this, we avoided eating it.  They also used to hang us from the ceilings for long periods of time,” he added.

Moreover, they would also make prisoners run from the early morning to sunset with a soldier 6 beside them who was ordered to beat them from time to time, Al-Azbawy said adding, “when it was time for prayer, we would perform tayammum (an alternative form of ablution by rubbing hands and feet with dust) and pray while running.  After that, Azhar sheikhs would come and try to convince us that the government was good and that the ruler was the nation”s leader in order to “brainwash” us, according to an official, who had supervised and practiced torture on us, in his book.  There was nothing he mentioned in his book that wasn”t applied on us.”

Al-Azbawy recalled a related incident narrating, “After one Azhar sheikh finished giving his sermon, the Prison Head came to test us.  He called on one of us, Abdul-Fattah, and asked him, “so what do you think of the government?” Abdul-Fattah replied that he didn”t know the reason why he was in prison in the first place despite his innocence. Upon this the Prison Head ordered the soldiers to beat him again and prevent him from sunlight.”  Then he set another test date for them which was to be on the Commemoration Day of Egypt”s “67 Setback.

El-Azbawy added that torturers had reached the extent where they literally believed they were Gods above all people who had the power to reward their followers with Heaven and punish their opponents with Hell-fire. 

Al-Azbawy further held the Egyptian regime responsible for developing torture and teaching it to others affirming that it continues to be adopted by the State Security through forms such as blindfolding and handcuffing prisoners, a form of torture that is repeated daily, in addition to beating and dragging them.

Horrifying Brutality

Member of the MB Executive Bureau Dr. Rashad El-Bayyoumi says that words can”t describe the horrors they witnessed in prisons from killing, burning, and blowing, to the pulling out of nails and hair in addition to the long running that completely exhausts the body adding that at the same time no treatment was provided, no visits were allowed, our families were assaulted, and houses destroyed.

El-Bayyoumi recalled a personal incident when the Former Minister of Interior and State Security Vice-Head pulled out his twenty nails in the most brutal manner upon his arrival to prison.

El-Bayyoumi further explained that the Egyptian regime tortures all the Egyptian people through the state security”s control over everything such as “travel and elections, not to mention the miserable life and recurrent fires Egyptians are suffering. The regime has stolen the building blocks of the Egyptian society destroying its morale, morals, and values.  We are in a big calamity.”

Annihilation and Violence

Administrative Head of the MB in Giza Sayyid Nazeely points out that the Egyptian people in general and the MB in particular have been subjected to terrifying tribulations as thousands of them had been held in the Egyptian prisons and exposed to abnormal and fatal torture.  He further pointed out that this torture was not for the sake disclosing information but to destroy their morale.

Nazeely explained that they were tortured through beating, drowning in water, being dragged and running naked, or being crucified and lashed “until ulcers formed on our bodies from the pus; they would make us run in lines for 14 hours from 6 a.m. to sunset in the hot summer days; our cells were filled with people more than they could accommodate, for example seven prisoners in a cell that can accommodate only three; moreover, the cells would be locked for 23 and a half hours.  Similarly, we were tortured psychologically through the prohibition of visits, clothes, and food.”

Nazeely described it as a process of MB extermination that begins with starving and ends in different forms of continuous torture pointing out that even criminal prisoners are treated more humanely than them, the political prisoners, in spite of their higher educational, financial, and social status.

Commenting on the nature of torture in Egypt Nazeely explained, “It is marked by brutality and dominance because of its political essence as through it the regime is trying to retaliate from the MB.  Moreover, it has destroyed people”s spirits and spread looseness in the society through its false allegations of upholding democracy and constitutional law, while in fact it has been giving its complete dedication to dictatorship.” 

Nazeely also pointed out that imprisonment and violating someone”s rights are other forms of torture which has always accompanied investigations in which all means of torture are used such as shocking, beating and killing, a matter that is increasing in police stations and state security offices at the state level.

Various Reasons

Former Member of the MB Executive Bureau, Member of the MB Foundational Authority, and renowned Islamic propagator Mohamed Farid Abd El-Khaliq confirmed that torture has been a common practice in Egypt that continues to develop in terms of form, degree, methods and tools used. 

Abdul-Khaliq further explained that torture is prohibited in Islam, the international covenants, the UN Charter, and more so by all mankind as it is a crime against humanity that should be combated and eradicated pointing out that “there is a general rule that says wherever there is despotism there will be torture as a tool to suppress opposition. Hence it would be foolish to think that a tyrannical ruler would admit that torture exists under his rule.”

A Harsh Regime

Politicians also have their own views on this issue.  General Coordinator of the Egyptian reform movement Kefaya (Enough) George Ishaac says, “we haven”t seen such quick development of torture as in Egypt,” asserting that the Egyptian people will never forgive this crime.  He further condemned the killing of individuals inside police stations through brutal torture describing it as a dangerous transformation in the history of torture in Egypt.  “Torture was confined to prisons, but today it can also be seen in police stations,” Ishaac explained.

Ishaac also pointed out that political prisoners in history were known to have been treated in a way that respected their human dignity and that torturing to death and concept of the emergency law did not exist. 

As for Hamdy Hasan, Member of the MB Parliamentary Bloc, he sees that the Egyptian regime has a black history of torture and resistance to opposition confirming that the situation of torture in Egypt is aggravating and becoming harsher time after time and day after day especially in the post-Nasserist era as it became no longer limited to political prisoners but also extended to include the common citizen.

Hasan further mentioned some of the recent torture cases in which victims had been killed at the hands of police including the case of the pregnant woman, Mervet, the old man, Khalil, who was brutally burned, Hamada Abdul-Latif who suffers quadriplegia from exposure to beating on his backbone, the Salum child who was burned, Naser Girgis who was thrown out from the fourth floor, and Naser Ahmed who was dragged all the way to the police station, pointing out that these are absolutely the harshest and most degrading forms of torture.