International

In Egypt, Violent Tales Of Detention

Over the past few days, we've heard stories about people in Egypt being detained and beaten. NPR's Eric Westervelt talked to Peter Bouchard, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who said several of his collegues had been detained and interrogated at a military intelligence camp on the outskirts of Cairo.

"They could hear the screams of other people who were being beaten and tortured," said Bouchard. "That's the way Egyptian security services operates and it's very brutal."

The stories seem to start the same way: A person is detained by vigilante groups manning check points on the streets of Cairo; they're turned over to the military and if they're lucky they're held for a few hours, then released being told never to come back.

We've sifted through reports of the last few days and we wanted to bring you some excerpts. Most are written in first-person and they give a raw look at what it's like to be on the ground in Egypt.

—Ayman Mohyeldin is a correspondent for Al Jazeera English. He was detained as he tried to get into Tahrir Square and he was released earlier today. In his first interview since being released, he recounts that he wasn't roughed up, but he saw Egyptians being punched and slapped and go from being anti-government protesters to promising never to attend a rally:

Al Jazeera/YouTube

—Alun Palmer, a correspondent for England's Daily Mirror, writes that he wasn't beat up by the army or by police, instead it was "ordinary Egyptians." He describes the moment when, all of sudden, he's facing an angry mob:

Fists rain down on us from old men, young men, even mothers and their daughters.

An old man grabs hold of my sweater and one in his 30s, hate and anger in his eyes, starts hitting me and tries to drag me into a nearby house. A stick hits the back of my head and then my back.

Then another hand, stronger than the others, grabs my other arm and tries to drag me into a minibus.

We have no idea why things have turned ugly so quickly. But Mubarak's propaganda machine has told normal people we are the enemy so they carry out his dirty work for him.

Globe and Mail reporter Sonia Verma tells of being held, but not harmed by the army. She recounts the thoughts that ran through her head when she was held at gun point, the compulsion to send out a tweet about her whereabouts and that moment of utter relief when her name was called to be released:

My name was called next. The captain handed me my passport, and then gave Patrick his. We fished our cellphones and batteries out of a tangled pile on a chair and were told we were free to go.

Adel, Patrick and I were escorted back to our car. Looking back, the rest of the foreigners remained on the curb, their names yet to be called. We have no idea what happened to them.

Before we left, the captain stopped us: "Sorry, sorry but you must understand …" Then he tried to shake our hands.

The New York Times' Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulish had the unfortunate luck of being held by the Mukhabarat, Egypt's secret police. They describe the scene:

In the morning, we could hear the strained voice of a man with a French accent calling out in English: "Where am I? What is happening to me? Answer me. Answer me."

This prompted us into action — pressing to be released with more urgency, and indeed fear, than before. A plainclothes officer who said his name was Marwan gestured to us. "Come to the door," he said, "and look out."

We saw more than 20 people, Westerners and Egyptians, blindfolded and handcuffed. The room had been empty when we arrived the evening before.

"We could be treating you a lot worse," he said in a flat tone, the facts speaking for themselves. Marwan said Egyptians were being held in the thousands. During the night we heard them being beaten, screaming after every blow.

The Guardian's Jack Shenker was detained in an ordinary street by plain clothes officers from Egypt's state security service:

One by one we were thrown through the doorway, where a gauntlet of officers with sticks and clubs awaited us. We queued up to run through the blows and into a dank, narrow corridor where we were pushed up against the wall. Our mobiles and wallets were removed. Officers stalked up and down, barking at us to keep staring at the wall. Terrified of incurring more beatings, most of my fellow detainees – almost exclusively young men in their 20s and 30s, some still clutching dishevelled Egyptian flags from the protest – remained silent, though some muttered Qur'anic verses and others were shaking with sobs.

We were ordered to sit down. Later a senior officer began dragging people to their feet again, sending them back out through the gauntlet and into the night, where we were immediately jumped on by more police officers – this time with riot shields – and shepherded into a waiting green truck belonging to Egypt's central security forces. A policeman pushed my head against the doorframe as I entered.

Inside dozens were already crammed in and crouching in the darkness. Some had heard the officers count us as we boarded; our number stood at 44, all packed into a space barely any bigger than the back of a Transit van. A heavy metal door swung shut behind us.

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