Report from Cairo
from . - 08.06.2005 13:23
What happened on the day of the (historic!) referendum is an additional black spot in the history of the Egyptian regime and its security authorities. A day before the Minister of Interior had announced that he will meet any breach of "legitimacy" with severe firmness!! And so it was. The police prepared itself for this firmness in proportion to the "historic" nature
of the day.
The Police Leads Ruling Party Thugs to Attack
Small groups of demonstrators were gathering to express their opinion regarding the referendum concerning article 76 of the constitution; a referendum which the coalition of opposition parties (7 parties) and the Egyptian Movement and Popular Campaign for Change have called to boycott.
The demonstrators reached the meeting location in the Darieh Sa'ad area at the city center. As usual tens of antiriot police cars were waiting for them. Before the demonstrators even started, news arrived that members of the Labour Party were arrested. A few minutes later microbuses arrived carrying dozens of young men, some of them younger than sixteen. Neither their language, nor their age indicated that those were
members of any political parties, as clearly shown later in the day. They were groups of hooligans carrying banners, some of which in English, and pictures of Hosni Mubarak. The demonstrators had already been encircled by the police and pushed to a narrow pavement. The rest of the street was cleared for the hooligans, who did not only occupy it but also started moving towards the encircled demonstrators, after the police had opened a small path for them to enter. They climbed on top of parking cars, and started harassing the demonstrators, beating them, using obscene language and accusing them of betrayal and treason.
Those "troops" beat the demonstrators, while the police stood by and watched before they decided to lead some of the demonstrators to a nearby pharmacy, allegedly to protect them, leaving a few to guard them. Those few were among the very same troops which were beating them up 10 minutes earlier!!
After about an hour and to avoid a massacre which seemed inevitable the demonstrators decided to move to the press syndicate to join the protestors there. At once the hooligan
contractor, wearing a badge "National Democratic Party" called in his microphone ordering his troops to move at once towards the press syndicate.
The following are some of the testimonies of that "historic" day.
Dr. Laila Soueif (Lecturer at Faculty of Science, Cairo University)
We were harassed by those hooligans several times. They verbally and physical aggressed us several times in front of the police. At the end they continued to beat us uninterruptedly. Then the police interfered and pushed us into one of the pharmacies "Pharmacy Iman" in Nubar Street under the pretext of protecting us. Then they withdrew and left us in the guard of tens of hooligans who locked us up inside. With me was Alaa Seif, Bahaa Risk, Rabab and Hend
Dr. Magda Adly (Physician at El Nadim Center)
After most of the demonstrators had left for the Press syndicate we heard that Dr. Laila Soueif and others are held inside a pharmacy in Nubrar street called Iman Pharmacy. I hurried with Aida Seif El Dawla towards the pharmacy. We tried to enter. We were met by a large number of men. Some of them blocked the entrance of the pharmacy and pushed us away. The remainder of the men hit us, pushed us around and tried to strip us of our clothes. Again this tookplace n the presence of a number of police offices, some of them high rank police. I addressed one of those high rank officer and told him to get Dr. Laila Soueif and the rest of our colleagues from the pharmacy. He said: OK, but those men have to leave first. How do you think can I enter into the pharmacy with those men blocking it!!!!
We were standing on the stairs of the press syndicate. A large number of men arrived. The police was also there. They led them towards us. We kept retreating. The security prevented us
from entering into the syndicate. The hooligans occupied the whole of the stairs. We jumped from the stairs and went into the garage. The officer told us: "Stay here .. we shall protect you!" They brought a line of soldiers and encircled us
completely except for a single point of entrance towards the stairs and from there they let those hooligans in and a group of bodybuilders (very tall men, very muscular men, like cinema
doubles). And they stood by and watched. They beat us brutally. We screamed for help. They tore out clothes. We had a journalist among us. He told them he was a journalist. They beat him all the same. I fell to the ground and crawled
between the legs until I reached outside the police circle. I had several other colleagues with me. When we left that horror circle, the hooligans kept running after us until Kasr El Nil Street. We jumped into taxis and left.
Engineer Adel Wassily
After we reached the press syndicate and stood on its stairs the hooligans came. The police lead them to the stairs where we were standing and encircled both groups with large troops of police. They started pulling us one by one and beat us. The women were terribly humiliated and harassed. I saw a woman journalist. They beat her and tried to open her trousers to strip her. Another pregnant women was kicked in her abdomen. Some were injured and were bleeding. I pulled the journalist out of their hands. They surrounded me and beat me brutally. The police closed the gates of the syndicate preventing any of us to enter for protection. I tried to leave with engineer Mohsen Hashem to seek refuge in the nearby bar association. They ran after us. They pulled us and tried to kidnap Mohsen Hashem. With great difficulty we managed to reach the bar association and cold not leave because it is encircled with dozens of hooligans.
I went to join the Kefaya demonstration in the press syndicate. I was wearing the KEFAYA badge and was leaning at a wall because I have recently had an operation in my neck. Those men attacked me and beat me brutally and tore my clothes and underclothes until I was naked. The police was standing there, watching. What has happened is a major violation, a molestation of women in the streets of Cairo. The streets became an Abou Ghraib prison. It was clear those were the instructions of the police. I caught the hooligan who tore my clothes. But he was helped to escape by the police authorities. I shall file a complaint. I know how he looks like. I shall not let him go.
Lawyer Safaa Zaki Murad
We went to Zein El Abedin police station to look for the demonstrators who were arrested from the Dareeh Sa'ad area. We were not allowed to enter. The police station denied their presence. We were surrounded by a number of hooligans. A while later we were attacked by butchers from the nearby slaughter house. They came with their cattle, cows and sheep. In the minutes when we were distracted by escaping the attack by the cows and butchers, they had transferred the arrested demonstrators, put them in a car and took them to an unknown destination. Until now we do not know where they took them.
Those are the testimonies we have received until now (3 p.m., 25th of May 2005).
The police has arrested a number of demonstrators. The following are the names we have identified until this moment:
Tamer Wagieh, Hani Riad, Mohamed Mahmoud, Diaa El Sawi, Akran El Irani, Yasser Soliman (camera man of El Jazeera).
Egyptian Association Against Torture
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
El Nadim Center
Arab Network For Human Rights Information
Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights.
Foundation for Egyptian Woman's Issues
Egyptian Center For Women's Rights.
Cairo 25 May 2005