The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Letter from Sharqawi

Mohamed el-Sharqawi has sent a testimony on his arrest and torture, from Tora Prison.

Here’s the English translation of it:
A Letter from Mohamed el-Sharqawi

Kidnapped on 25 May, Currently in Cell 8-1, Mahkoum Tora

How I was kidnapped, beaten and tortured for eight hours?

I went through many moments of fear and horror in my life, but nothing was like those I went through after I left the Press Syndicate on 25 May, 2006, around 6pm. I got into one of my colleagues’ car, to take a ride to the train station, so as to catch the train to Alexandria. I wanted to see my family, after a period by no means short—30 days—behind bars in Tora Prison.

The car stopped at the traffic light of Abdel Khaleq Tharwat St. crossing Talaat Harb St. I wasn’t paying attention, till my colleague screamed, “Who are those?!� I looked around me, and behind the windows there were tens of men in plain clothes trying to open the door. I could only think of one thing in few seconds… State Security personnel had come to kidnap me… I threw whatever I was carrying in the car, and opened the door, only to be met with a violent push into the entrance of the last building on Abdel Khaleq Tharwat St., before it crosses Talaat Harb St.

The fiesta started. They introduced themselves to me by their swift fists, till one of them kicked me to the floor. There was about 20 persons or more. Their punches and kicks came one after the other, and without much planning, which led them to kick one another, because they were all keen to do anything that props them up in front of their bosses. I could not recognize any of the faces, but three. I had seen them before several times in demos.

The first kept on insulting me with the dirtiest slurs and words, which actually left me feeling he was talking about himself instead. He gave me the first kick, which invited other legs to join in. These were moments of so much pain, so many insults, so many hits.

The second was one of the Public Security (Al-Amn Al-3am) officers. After he saw the blood pouring from my nose and mouth he tried to stop the beating. He was shocked when he was banned from doing that. All of this is happening while I’m on the floor, with their feet sending my body pain signals all over.

The third did most of the beatings. He is also the one who dragged me on the floor and staircase till I was shoved in a blue police van. He kept on hitting me, and asked for my mobile, which I was carrying at the Press Syndicate. His, and the others’, slurs where directed at me, my mother and father… I was seated in the van behind the driver’s seat, while he sat across me, and kept on hitting my face strongly and swiftly.

I can’t say I held on for a long time while they were beating me in the building entrance, back in Abdel Khaleq Tharwat. After they threw me to the floor, and found myself bleeding, I kept on screaming. I don’t why, but I was scared, and it’s human. And it’s my right to fear death on their hands without anyone knowing anything about me.

After I got into the van, I was told to put my head between my knees, and of course I obeyed their order. As soon as I did, they started hitting me on my back with all their strength.

I can say I was completely silent till they said they arrived. They took me out of the van, and went up three steps, then another relatively narrow staircase, before they led into a wide corridor, then to another staircase. Finally, they threw me in a room, and the beatings started again.

Before that, back in the street and the building entrance, the beatings went on for at least 20 minutes, and targeting all my body. Also in the street, every animal hit any spot he could reach in my body. This even led them on occasions to kick one another’s legs, which was in my interest I guess to decrease the beatings I receive.

On the way to the place they took me to, I heard one of them saying, “Close off the Garden City traffic light, and don’t let anyone pass, for the Sheriff's car.� I knew then I was in Qasr el-Nil Police Station, as there were no other police stations in Garden City. Also the stair steps I walked on is similar to those of Qasr el-Nil’s.

Inside the police station, it was different. The beatings targeted places in particular, which showed more professionalism in practicing torture and sadism.

The started repeating one sentence, “What the fuck brought you today?� Then, they hit me in several places on my body, till someone ordered them, “take his pants off.� They unbuttoned my trousers quickly, while he shouted “you are a fag, wearing colored underwear.� Inside, I wanted to laugh, but the injuries my face sustained and the blindfold they had on my eyes prevented my facial expressions. After that, he started rubbing my left testicle, I think, with great pleasure. The pain was terrible. He kept on doing it for three minutes, during which I was screaming asking him to stop so that I can catch my breath. He took down my underwear, and tore it to pieces, and kept on hitting me on different parts of my body asking me to bend down. I refused, but they forced me. Then, this man, the one with the angry rough voice, inserted a paper in my anus. They kept doing their job, beating me, till I heard him say, “Lift his trousers up. May God curse he who looks, and he who’s being looked at.� I couldn’t help but appreciate so much the faith this man might have had sometime.

After that, I was asked about the money I had in my pockets, and whether Dr. Hani Enan gave it to me. I said I borrowed it from my friend Mohamed Taima. They asked me about my mother, and told me she was sick in Alexandria, and that she will die before she sees me. Then I felt so much remorse for not traveling to see her as soon as I was released.

A short while later, another person, I think I know well, came in and told me: “Do you know now, @#$%, that you are worth nothing, and if we wanted to get you, we would get you? We would get you in three minutes you son of a dirty woman.� I was silent. I couldn’t figure out anymore what’s happening around me. The beatings were almost over, when I was told to lie on my stomach. He stood on my back with his feet and said, “you sons of $#%^@! As long as I’m in the Maktab el-Mokafha, the "Counter Bureau," I will screw the shit out of you. You are all not even worth 10 piasters.� It was then that I recognized he was one of the sick people, called the “Mr. President Security� officers, formerly known as “State Security.�

He then added, “What brought you today you son of #$%^? True you didn’t chant, but you are acting important, giving interviews to journalists and satellites.� Finally he added, “I brought you the other pimp. He’s in the other room.� I asked him “whom?� He answered, “Essam al-Islambouli’s fag.� I said, “Whom? I don’t know.� He answered “Karim el-Shaer. You are pretending to be thugs. Alright. This time it’s a case, and you’ll never see Earth again… And your mother will die without seeing you…�

He finished talking, and ordered me to sit on the floor. I sat for more than two hours, scared of stretching my legs lest someone hit me, till they came to handcuff me, and put me blindfolded inside the prisoners’ truck. I heard someone inside saying “Karim, with whom you were in the car?� I knew then he was with me. The truck moved, and for few moments I thought I was on the road to Lazoughli. However, as the we crossed freeways with no change in direction, I assumed we were either heading to State Security HQ in Nasr City, or to the State Security Prosecution in Heliopolis, which we should name Waleed al-Dessouqi’s branch-Heliopolis—and that’s where we went.

Before they let us into the detention cell, they took off the blindfold, but not the handcuffs. First, they denied us water and going to the restroom. After a while, they left us, but I still went to the restroom, handcuffed, in their company.

After that, they called my name, and went upstairs to see the chief prosecutor. As soon as I got in, he asked me, “Who did this to you?� I told him the story, so he said, “ok, I’ll start the interrogation.� I asked him, “where are the lawyers?� He said, “Are there lawyers? If they are present, I’ll send for them. Go wash your face and come back.�

I got into the toilet, and stood in front of a mirror. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I saw someone else standing with red eyes, swollen face, and a bare chest full of cuts and bruises.

I returned to the chief prosecutor’s office, to find Gamal Eid, and another lawyer called Mr. Sayyed. I felt secure as soon as I saw Gamal, as after all he is a dear friend. The interrogation started. They told me to record every injury and how it happened to me, where, when and by who. Moments later, Ragia Omran came in with Ahmad—they are two lawyers. After I recorded my injuries, I said I refuse to be interrogated in front of the State Security Prosecution, and asked for a magistrate.

I left the Prosecutor’s building, after I spoke on the phone with Nora, Manal, Salma, Walaa, and Salma’s mother Dr. Mona. I felt so much pride and strength having all of them around me.

After all of this, I found myself in front of the gate of Tahqiq Tora Prison. Between the time of my arrest, till my arrival at Tora, the time passed was no more than eight hours.

Before I got into the prison, I saw Nora and Manal who were behind me, following the Prisoners’ Truck. Manal’s laughter and Nora’s smiles mean a lot to me. I one wrote to Nora that I used to remember her laughter and say “Tomorrow Egypt will be better.�

I am now in Tora Prison. I admit I miss Ahmad Droubi, Salma, Manal, Walaa, Nora and everybody. But I have friends and brothers here… Kamal, Maher, Walaa and Alaa.

Mohamed el-Sharqawi,

Tahqiq Tora Prison, Cell 8-1


For those of you, dear readers, who are wondering what Maktab el-Mokafha, the “Counter Bureau,� mentioned in Sharqawi's letter means--this is short for Maktab Mokafhet el-Shyou3ia, the “Counter-Communism Bureau.� (Yes, I'm not joking wallahi.) It is a department in State Security Police, which was actually inherited from the Political Apparatus, the pre-1952 predecessor of Egypt’s State Security Police.

The Counter-Communism Bureau's job is to infiltrate, monitor, and crack communist, and generally left-wing, organizations in Egypt. The director of that bureau now is State Security Lt. Colonel Waleed el-Dessouqi. Several leftist activists have previously accused Dessouqi of involvement in their interrogation under torture.

On another note, I visited last night Ahmad el-Droubi, who’s been recently released, at his home in Heliopolis. I couldn’t recognize him initially, as they shaved his long Ché-like hair and he grew a beard. Droubi was in good spirit, and his morale was high. He shared his prison stories with me and other fellow AUC alumnus. He still hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Droubi, and other friends, had gone earlier on Saturday morning to Tora again, this time as visitors not prisoners, to see Sharqawi. Droubi and another friend told me, though bruised and fatigued, Sharqawi was also in good spirit, and determined not to let the abusers go unpunished.