Children Political Prisoners Face Hell in Egypt

Egypt waterboards children aged 12 to 17 years for allegedly participating in protests against President Abdelfattah Al Sisi oppressive regime.

By Amir Malik
March 30, 2020

The Egyptian military is “detaining children, disappearing and torturing them,” said a joint report released this week by Human Rights Watch and Belady: An Island for Humanity.

The report includes testimonies of 20 children describing the horrors they underwent. They were “waterboarded and electrocuted on their tongues and genitals,” Associate Children’s Rights director at HRW Bill Van Esveld said.

The abuse is “systematic, widespread and likely constitutes crimes against humanity,” the report added. Waterboarding — the outlawed and dreaded torture technique which bounds and gags prisoners, and in which, water is poured over them to make them think they are about to drown, has been mostly used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in operations to get the prisoners to speak.

Meanwhile, Egypt waterboards children aged 12 to 17 years for allegedly participating in protests against President Abdelfattah Al Sisi oppressive regime.

Hamza, on his birthday, was made to stand on toes for hours with “sharp nails placed under his [bare] heels” then he was suspended by his arms, which dislocated both his shoulders. He hates his birthday now. The report which included 20 testimonies,  suggested that another boy, Sharif, who already had burn injuries at the time of his arrest was beaten for hours. He said, “gates of hell were opened” when he refused to co-operate and asked the officials medical assistance.

Seven children said, “security officers electrocuted them during interrogation.” Of them, two said they were subjected to shocks in the face with Taser-type stun guns. With this gun, one can light a cigarette if it is kept in its electric field for some seconds. Another two said that they were “electrocuted on their genitals.”

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One, who was also subjected to enforced disappearance— otherwise is an act of crime under International law, was worried that he could “never marry or be able to have children” because of what Egyptian forces had done to him.

One girl of 14 years age was prosecuted for “planning to participate in an illegal protest” and a boy of the same age was tortured, subjected to a month-long enforced disappearance on charges of “spreading a pessimistic atmosphere.”

Children are tried before military courts with adults, which is the gross violation of children’s rights. In the mass trial of 116 defendants in February 2016, a three-year-old boy was sentenced to life imprisonment over alleged protests. The military later said that they had “intended to prosecute a 16-year-old fugitive with the same name,” who would still be a child, 13 years older than the former.

A 17-years-old boy Amr was not allowed to meet his parents as he was forcibly disappeared and tortured. When his mother could finally see him three months later, at first, she did not recognize her son. She told HRW, “the boy had become a skeleton”. Another boy would “go into interrogations while hungry”.

Noteworthy is a law of Egypt that says, every child must be given access to education. In detention, the law ceases to exist. One boy protested in prison asking the authorities to send him to another detention center where he could “study”. Even after years of imprisonment, once they come out, schools would simply deny them readmission.

The rights groups asked the international bodies to stop selling arms to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government, not only because it violates the child rights and destroys their dreams but also because the Pharaoh of the 21st century does not want any criticism and censors press and social media, curb freedom of expression and jail journalists for spreading “fake news.”

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The famous poet John Keats in the sonnet, To The Nile, called Egypt, “Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile” because the river Nile, filled with the world’s largest crocodiles. If, as the Egyptian traditions suggest, a pyramid is made for Fattah el-Sisi on the banks of the River Nile, one could wish that the crocodiles spare him from waterboarding.

Illustration: Mohamed El-Masry / HRW