Sunday, August 23, 2009

Translation of Alaa Al-Aswany's article on torture in Egypt

Four videos to entertain Mr. President!

President Hosny Mubarak and Barack Obama met recently in Washington to discuss issues of mutual interest to Egypt and the US. Their discussions were fruitful as they tackled the Iranian nuclear weapons file, the peace process and the situation in Darfur. Both presidents expressed their deep concern about the deterioration of human rights in Iran, the Iranian protestors, forging the elections, torturing innocent Iranian people...and all of the unspeakable crimes committed by the Iranian government. They discussed how the international community and the Egyptian government are doing their best to expose and stop such practices. Finally, Obama felt confident that democratic reform in Egypt is a long and complex process, yet it is ongoing and will not stop, God willing, as Mubarak assured. Obama reiterated his profound appreciation of Mubarak's wisdom, justice and bravery. All of this is anticipated and understood. However, I thought of something else: the journey from Washington to Cairo takes more than ten is Mubarak going to spend it?
Undoubtedly, Mubarak's airplane is fully equipped. Still. the journey is too long, how is the president going to kill time? Is he going to seize the chance of a comfortable nap, to rest his fatigue-ridden body? Is he going to have a conversation with the editors-in-chief of the local newspapers whom he summons every journey? They will, as usual, compete in praising the president's achievements, momentous decisions and historical leadership. The repeated praises will shure bore him, is he going to enjoy some book on the way? Did he take Mahmoud Samy Al-Baroudy's anthology of poems, since he is his favourite poet? I am not exactly sure what the president prefers to do, so I suggest he watches some good videos. They are not long at all; just short documentaries starring not professional actors, not even amateurs, but ordinary citizens. There is nothing particularly special about them. They are among millions of Egyptians who go through hell just to feed their kids and lead dignified lives. The nominated videos are:

1- The first video...we see a young Egyptian man from Port Said being brutally tortured in a police station. In the first scene, the young man appears to have sustained severe cuts and injuries on his back and torso as a result of beating. He has been hung by the hands. He is pleading the police officer for mercy: "Enough...please...Mr. Mohammad...for the sake of the Prophet...enough...I'm dying...Mr. Mohammad."
In the second scene, he is blindfolded and totally devastated. He is crying and begging for sympathy in half-broken sentences: Mr. Mohammad, please have mercy on me, we are human, not animals.
We do not see officer Mohammad, but we can clearly hear him angrily telling the young man to stop and calling him names. Why does Mr. Mohammad sound angry? It's because the young man is screaming while being tortured...which is of course and offense to Mr. Mohammad. It is inappropriate, so the officer believes, that anyone raises their voice to a police officer, even if he is beating and torturing him.
2- The second video...stars an Egyptian woman in her thrities. She is unveiled and dressed in blue jeans and a black t-shirt. An officer beats her severely everywhere with all his might: on her feet, her arms, her head. She screams until her voice fades. In the following scene, we see her hanging horizontally by her hands and feet on an iron bar. Viewers have stated that this position is used in police stations and state security headquarters and called the 'chicken position'. It causes severe pain and tears the muscles apart. It could also lead to breaking body bones and even snapping the spine. The officer continued beating her using a thick stick until she screams: "Please "Pasha" enough...I'm the one who killed him...I'm the one who killed him..."
We can thus infer that the officer is investigating murder and that using this effective method, he caught the murderer and so justice has been done.
3- The third video...we see a man in his fourties trembling as a police officer is hurling abuse at him, raising his hand and beating the man severely. In the moment the man closes his eyes to brace the slap, the officer stops and gives him the finger. He then breaks into a fit of laughter and roams the room proudly. The officer then gets down to business, approaching the man while smoking a cigarette and using his hands to slap the man repeatedly. When the man reacts by covering his face, the officer calls his mother names, tells him to keep his hands down and continues slapping him.
4- The fourth video...the officer sits behind the camera, so we only see an old thin man over sixty years of age. He appears to be poor and ill-nourished. He is held by a muscular detective and we can hear the officer telling the detective: "Beat him, Abdul Rasoul!"
Abdul Rasoul obeys and starts beating the old man harshly, but the officer, who sounds to be in an elated mood, comments: "Too faint, too faint, Abdul Rasoul! Beat him severely!"
Abdul Rasoul beats the old man with more force, whereas the officer directs him to where he should strike the blows: "Beat the back of his neck, now beat him on the head."
Abdul Rasoul betas the old man to satisfy the officer, still the officer muses: "Too faint, too faint Abdul Rasoul."
Another detective joins in and both detectives start beating the old man savagely, proving to the officer how efficient they are. The old man is extremely weakened that he can no longer raise his hand or scream. He wears an empty look and seems completely lifeless.
Mr. President...
I have selected these videos among many available on Wael Abbas' blog Misr Digital and on many other blogs. All the videos are real, showing horrible acts of torture inflicted upon Egyptians on a daily basis...In many cases te names of the officers and the places where they work are shown in the video. Their faces are also clearly visible and can easily be identified. All of the videos have been recorded via mobile phones and have somehow found their ways to the blogs. They have been recorded by people who happen to witness the massacre. Sometimes the police officer videotapes himself while torturing people, then ciculates the tape among his colleagues, or uses it to humiliate and extort the victim. People usually record videos of happy occasions, such as wedding and graduation ceremonies. But videotaping themselves while torturing people is a bizarre behaviour which psychiatrists might help us understand.
Mr. President...
I am not asking you to intervene to stop the humiliation faced by many Egyptians daily in police stations and state security headquarters...I am not imploring you to investigate in the torture suffered by innocent people at the hands of brutal criminals who represent your am, just like all Egyptians, well-aware of the extent of actions that can be taken in Egypt...I just wanted to suggest some videos to entertain you on your long journey back home...welcome home, Mr. President!

N.B. I was not aware of the translation published in The Independent newspaper, so any similarities in style or choice of words are purely coincidental!

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