The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged khaledsaid
A fascinating piece on Khaled Said

Amro Ali speaks of demythologizing Khaled Said in Jaddaliya:

Khaled has been distorted almost beyond recognition. To understand the extent of this, based on interviews from friends, associates and my familiarity and understanding of the district, I attempt to provide a descriptive account of his life up until that fateful night in June 2010. The facts of his life are contrasted with his mythologization and the polarizing effects of both. His death was not just indicative of the corrupt and brutal police state; Khaled’s life was symptomatic of the widespread despair that continues to plague Egypt’s youth and that manifests in a plethora of symptoms from drug abuse to the strong desire to emigrate. The reconstruction of Khaled Saeed perpetuates self-defeating myths that, by elevating him into a figure with saint–like qualities, minimizes and simplifies the dynamics of his life that led up to his death.

It's the most detailed account of Khaled's life I have yet come across. 

The meaning of Khaled Said
Soha Abdelhaty of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (one of the most dynamic Egyptian NGOs around) has a good piece framing the Khaled Said murder in context of Egypt's emergency law over at FP's Middle East Channel

The Khaled Said case has offered a graphic demonstration of the emptiness of the pledge by the government of Egypt when it renewed the country's decades-long period of emergency 'aw that it would limit its application to terrorism and drug-related crimes. Khaled Said's brutal murder is a chilling reminder of what emergency law -- and Interior Ministry impunity -- means for Egyptians. Frustration with that impunity is what leads protesters to take to the streets.

In many ways, the case of Khaled Said is tragically symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state of emergency under which Egyptians have been living for almost three decades. In such an arbitrary and opaque system, torture and ill-treatment are a natural byproduct.  And in fact, torture in police custody has been systematic and well documented since the 1990s. Khaled Said's case is unusual only because his murder was witnessed by so many, captured on film, and distributed to thousands via Facebook.

The renewal of the state of emergency in May 2010 represents a decision to extend the Interior Ministry's state of impunity. What was meant to be an exceptional state of affairs has now become the norm. A parallel justice system has been created and is now well entrenched, with its own courts, its own prosecutors, its own security forces -- and most importantly its own arbitrary set of norms (which the government claims are actually laws) that regulate the security apparatus's conduct. Under this parallel system, security forces have the right to arrest any individual, search any home, detain people because of their beliefs or opinions they expressed, and are never under any obligation to charge or release. Indicted individuals receive harsh imprisonments -- sometimes the death penalty -- after a grossly unfair trial.

Yesterday a demo was held in Alexandria and across the country in memory of Khaled Said. These come after the second autopsy of Said came out, repeating the unconvincing conclusions of the first — that he died of asphyxiation after swallowing a bag of drugs — despite the grisly image of his beaten-up face that has been circulating on the internet and published in newspapers. Mohamed ElBaradei joined the protestors, as did other political figures like Ayman Nour, lending a political side to the protests.

One wonders after the lackluster performance of reform movements — admittedly amidst leaden repression and complete unresponsiveness to calls for reform within the regime — whether the general call for political reform would not be better replaced with a specific campaign for justice. It's become pretty clear that the Egyptian police and judicial system is extremely dysfunctional: it's strong in terms of imposing order, but in a legitimacy free-fall. The current dispute between judges and lawyers (embarrassing to the entire legal establishment) is another sign of this malaise. The manner in which Habib al-Adly, perhaps the most powerful minister of interior of Egypt in decades, has been able to escape accountability from the regime (never mind the population) for the multiple screw-ups he's been responsible for is astounding. 

The campaign for political reform is certainly worthy, but the regime has been able to hide behind a legalist façade to deflect it: demands for constitutional change are something parliament should consider, not something the opposition just gets since it has not been elected to implement them. The opposition has little to show for genuine popular support for electoral reform and new constitutional amendments — even if it's pretty obvious these things are sorely needed. It might be best to focus instead, as a first step, on a call for action on the much more concrete need to reign in the security forces, whether in their actions against citizens or during elections. If accountability has to start somewhere, it should start with the ministry of interior.

The murder of Khaled Said
Egypt is abuzz with outrage after the death of Khaled Said, allegedly at the hands of the police. Here is a brief backgrounder:

“On Sunday, Khaled was at cyber café at around 11:30 in the evening. Two policemen asked him for money and when he said he didn’t have, they beat him,” Muhammad Abdel Aziz, lawyer with el-Nadeem, told al-Masry al-Youm. “As he was beaten up, his head hit a marble table and he started bleeding.”

According to Abdel Aziz, the policemen took Said out of the cyber café and continued to beat him. “He screamed at them saying ‘I am dying, leave me’, and he fell on the floor.” Abdel Aziz added that witnesses saw a yellow liquid coming out of Said’s mouth when he fell on the floor, after which there was bleeding. A pharmacist and a medic passing by confirmed he was shortly dead after they checked his tension.

Witnesses said a police car picked Said up. His family was later contacted and told he is in the morgue of Kom el-Dekka, to which they were denied access. At the prosecutor’s office, security told Said’s mother and brother that he swallowed a bag of drugs and that there were witnesses to the incident who confirmed seeing the bag. Ahmad Badawy, an activist in Alexandria with al-Ghad Party went on 11 June to the cyber café where the incident happened and said witnesses told him the drugs bag belonged to the two policemen who beat him up as he was shooting a video of them while making a deal.

The video refered to is here: Mohamed Abdelfattah مُحَمَّد عَبْدالفَتَّاحْ: Khaled was 'assassinated' because of this video

Further confirmation of his beating by the café owner: The Associated Press: Egypt cafe owner describes police beating death

CAIRO — The owner of an Egyptian Internet cafe says he witnessed police beating a young man to death and described the killing that has outraged rights activists.

Hassan Mosbah, in a filmed interview posted online Sunday, says two police officers came into his cafe in the city of Alexandria, dragged Khaled Said out into the street and beat him to death there. Pictures of Said's shattered face appeared on social networking sites after his death on June 6.

More details:
The most damning evidence is the picture of Khaled Said's face taken at the morgue, which shows clear signs of skull and jaw fracture (warning - graphic):
Pics from Zeinobia, who also has more on the Ministry of Interior's attempts to paint a picture of Khaled Said as a criminal: Follow Up : The Other Khalid
About 1000 people protested in Alexandria during the funeral for Said. Yesterday, political activists in Cairo protested outside of the Ministry of Interior calling for the minister's resignation — which, I believe for the first time, the NGO that broke the story, the Nadeem Center, has called for:
More on the protests, where several people were beaten including our friend Hossam el-Hamawy of Arabawy :

My own thoughts on this sorry affair:

Unfortunately such developments are routine, what is rarer is that we hear about them. Human rights groups have long been saying that torture is systematic and endemic in Egypt, this is what this means in practice. It also points to the criminalization of the police — not only is the Ministry of Interior coming out in full force to protect its own, but the officers in question appear to be involved in drug dealing. What this shows is that Egypt is continuing its slide from authoritarian state to mafia state, where the authorities don't even have to answer to institutions anymore.

The Nadeem Center is probably right: the only way to reverse this trend is to start by sacking Habib al-Adly, the improbably long-lived Interior Minister in place since 1997 (perhaps the longest-serving interior minister in the last 50 years, at least.) Al-Adly has been impervious to numerous torture scandals, to the deterioration of police work under his reign, to his handling of terrorist incidents in Sinai between 2004 and 2006, and much more. What can you say of a minister under whose tutelage abuses have worsened and the perception that police is run by criminal elements — notably drug barons — has proliferated? He should be sacked and his senior officers purged and investigated.

There is a lesson here for external powers too. Several embassies run police training programs and have other form of collaboration with the Ministry of Interior. How can you take these seriously under this type of leadership?

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