Last Update 15:13
'They beat us like animals': Egypt's children detained, abused
Rights groups report on the rise of Egyptian police brutality against children after 13 minors were arrested in Cairo on Tuesday; Ahram Online speaks with the victims
Bel Trew, Friday 1 Mar 2013
Share/Bookmark
Views: 2804
Om Abdu
Sherifa and her son Abdel-Rahman, 13, celebrate his return home after over two weeks in jail (Photo: Bel Trew)

In an impoverished district of Alexandria, Sherifa Abdel-Meneem described finding bruises and gashes all over her 13-year-old son's body, Abdel-Rahman, who was picked up by Egyptian security forces at a protest on 27 January and detained for over two weeks.

"He won't tell me where the marks come from or what the security forces did to him, he's too scared… when he went missing no words can describe how I felt, I wasn't sure I'd see my son ever again," said Abdel-Meneem.

The latest spat of arrests during a political context occurred on Tuesday, when the Egyptian Coalition for Children's Rights reported a further 13 children were taken during a police raid on Cairo's Tahrir Square. One of boys picked up by the police, Walid Ahmed Abdel Sayed, was12 years old.

Since the start of 2013, rights groups have been reporting an increase in police brutality towards children.

"It is definitely a way of frightening people...the number of children taken by security forces and the manner in which they are detained is unprecedented in my experience," says Ghada Shahbender of the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights.

She explains that roughly around a third of the recent political prisoners are underage, normally from an impoverished background.

This is certainly true of Abdel-Rahman who is the breadwinner of his family, despite being 13 years old. He, his mother and his five siblings squeeze into a flat no larger than an average-sized living room in Alexandria. According to Abdel-Meneem, his two week disappearance had financial consequences as well as emotional ones.

Abdel-Rahman was detained with 14-year-old bone cancer patient Mahmoud Adel whose story hit international headlines after the judge initially refused to allow him chemotherapy.

Both boys, who say they were bystanders to the Alexandrian demonstration, were only released after significant pressure from rights groups like the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights.

Police brutality against children

For Abdel-Meneem, not knowing the location of her son, Abdel-Rahman, was one of the most traumatising aspects of her son's disappearance. Typically, no effort is made by Egyptian security forces to contact the children's parents when the arrest occurs.

She spoke of trawling police stations for days and eventually attempting to take food to her son at the Alexandrian Security Directorate, where she was initially refused entry.

The children themselves are threatened with violence if they try to make contact with anyone.

Abdel-Rahman, who appears visibly distressed and had to be coaxed by his family members to relate his story, recalled hearing friends shouting his name as they ran behind the Central Security Forces (CSF) truck that transported the boy and other inmates to an unknown location.

"The officer said if we try to call out to our friends and family they would beat us… so we stayed quiet."

There was a seven-year-old boy in one of the cells where he was kept together with adults, Abdel-Rahman added. "The boy's parents didn't know that he was missing."

There are dozens of children left in prison because the parents do not have relations with resources to find their missing sons and daughters, the boy asserted, while tentatively pointing to the places on his body where he was beaten by security forces.

Abdel-Rahman claimed he was not subjected to the electrocutions and sexual assault that rights groups and victims say inmates, including children, are often subjected to.

Violation of Child's Law

The presence of children in protests and clashes and their consequent detention, although getting worse, is nothing new, explained Karim Ennarah from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. However, "since 25 January this year… the involvement of the prosecution in this abuse is a new trend."

The role of the prosecutor appears to be much more politicised when dealing with detentions, and rights groups are noticing that they are broadly renewing detentions in violation of Egyptian legislation, said Ennarah.

"Typically the prosecutors used to stick to procedures in Egypt's Child Law. There is special treatment for children under the age of 12 and15. For example, those under 12 years of age do not have criminal liability, and the detention of those under 15 cannot be renewed for more than a week," he added.

"This has changed."

Shahbender agreed, adding that both adults and children are now held even when there is no police report, which is considered illegal under Egyptian law.

According to the law, children are supposed to be kept in centres "fit for the detention of a child," which is not happening, Shahbender described. "Egyptian juvenile detention centres are appalling…and are run like prisons."

Systemic violence

The children recounted stories of brutal beatings.

"We got arrested because we couldn't fight back or run away fast enough," said 15-year-old Mahmoud El-Sayed Ragab, who was taken from the central Alexandrian square with Abdel-Rahman on 27 January.

"The police beat us and hurled insults at us like we were animals; they took us to the security directorate where men in black clothes hit me so hard I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was dead," said Ragab.

12-year-old Ziyad Taysir Mohamed Ahmed described being kidnapped on Cairo's Qasr Al-Nil Bridge by CSF in early February and accused of vandalising the nearby Shepherd Hotel off Tahrir Square.

"They dragged me by my hair and then held me up by my neck, while punching me on the head. The police kept asking me who paid me to attack the hotel and telling me they were going to take me to different police stations and let me go, but I ended up in Torah Prison."

Ziyad was detained for 24 hours, which his father engineer Taysir Mohamed Ahmed said was a "lucky escape" because of his 'connections' to secure his son's release. "Others were not so lucky," he lamented.

The Ministry of Interior has yet to directly tackle the issue of child abuse by the Egyptian police in a public statement. Ahram Online attempted to speak with a ministry official, but the ministry was unavailable to comment.

However, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim stated on 19 February that no violence is used by the police force against peaceful protesters

"The authorities have discovered if they really want to break us, they have to use the most important people to us – our children," concluded Taysir Mohamed Ahmed. "This is why they are arresting and torturing children.  Our children are our weak point. They are our future."

Additional reporting by Diaa Adel





Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 4000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
6



Serenity
05-03-2013 08:59pm
0-
1+
To Mr. Mustafa Abdelkader
I know you meant a severe mistreatment of the police to the children by this title. I understand it. But the title may give impression that how to treat animals means beating and hitting (in Egypt). You have no intention like that, but it may show while you realize it that you are less concerned with the situations of animals in Egypt. For example, if you were a girl, you don't like the expression like, "Girls need no education, only she needs beautiful face and obedient character" This idea is now not so common in modern Egypt, but in the past it was true! You don't feel it, but "facts make expressions, and the expressions support facts." I imagine Gail was worried about this. You are concerned with those children so much, which is nice, but if you see around, you'll admit there are also other people who have different viewpoints. Some people are very concerned with people's treatment of animals as you are worried about children. And taking care of animals is NOT only westerner's tho
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
5



Roslyn Ann
03-03-2013 11:46pm
0-
0+
Reply to Aida - my Australian Grandmother too!
Ahramonline this is my second comment on this topic, however, it is a reply to Aida's insightful comments, sincerely hope it is printed. Aida both my Grandmother and Mother made similar comments, and they were Australians, however now Australia has a female Prime Minister, neither of them imagined this would ever come to pass! Australia too was a very patriarchal nation, so all is not lost in Egypt, it will be more difficult, but don't give up hope! Thank you so much for your comment!
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
4



Serenity
02-03-2013 11:06pm
0-
3+
The police's treatment of children have rooms for improvement, but
Also I witnessed at Tahrir Square in Cairo some children were throwing stones to the guards of near-by building. The size of the stones was half of children's paw. So it it hits a person, he may be injured severely. The guards told them to stop that, but they retreated a little and kept throwing stones. Also I saw a group of teenage boys making fun of juice seller by opening the facet of the container, making the juice going out. They did that as a joke, but there was no respect to those who earn money for the families or concerns... So like fathers hit their sons, adults may think they can teach such children lessons by hitting. What a pity. I wonder if reporters witness many cases of arrest of the children. Are they always poor victims of brutal police? Before arrest, how did they behave? I'm against violence, but some children's conducts are also violent.I wish I was 99% wrong about this.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
DT
03-03-2013 11:42pm
0-
2+
same observations
i witnessed the same things. everything has two sides, and the truth sometimes lies in the middle.
3



Aida
02-03-2013 10:10pm
3-
5+
Males Unfit to Govern
A long time ago, when I was a little girl, my grandmother told me that "this world has many males in it, very few Men." At first I thought she was becoming senile and did not know what she was saying - I was very Wrong! As I have grown and developed, I have learned to recognize the "males" as well as the few "Men" that I encountered. Males prove, and have proven, over and over again that they are Not Fit to be leaders, to govern, or to make any type of decisions for others. They are unable to make the right and rational decisions for themselves, so how can they be deemed able to make decisions for others? This was the problem with the old Egyptian regime, and is the Same problem with the current regime - they are run by Males! What good is the "Islamic Brotherhood" (absolutely No mention of females - so No Equality) if they are allowing themselves to be a carbon copy of the previous regime? What the Hell is the difference? They all want control and power over.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
DT
03-03-2013 11:45pm
0-
2+
gender politics is only one part of the problem
i think gender is not the whole issue. there are many female officers in egypt that are as corrupt as males. it is the political culture and work attitude (not only government workers but all egyptians) that should be changed.
Roslyn
03-03-2013 11:39pm
0-
0+
My grandmother too!
Aida I really hope that you receive this message, my grandmother and mother told me the same thing and they were Australians! So this is not just an Egyptian male problem but a worldwide issue, although we have progressed and have a female PM, so there is some hope for Egyptian women too! Thank you for your comment!
2



Gail Storm
02-03-2013 03:56am
7-
8+
Unfortunate and irresponsible choice of headline phrase
Of course child abuse is a terrible act and should always be discouraged but whether the headline of this article 'They beat us like animals"is a direct quote or not I feel that printing such a statement wrongly gives out the message that animals are there to be beaten and that this is an acceptable act. In a modern civilised society it is not acceptable, beating animals is an act of sheer cruelty and should be openly discouraged. This is an example of irresponsible publishing by Ahram and I would like to see it publicly addressed by the editor. Does the editor have any idea of how much freely given hard work and time is spent by those battling animal cruelty in Egypt and how much work goes into saving the life of one innocent animal that has been the victim of thoughtless and unforgivable violence? The journalist didn't need to use this particular quote as a headline and the editor shouldn't have allowed it to be published. Rather it would be nice to see this publication supporting
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
DT
03-03-2013 11:51pm
0-
0+
calm down
come on mustafa, the problems of egypt can only be solved by egyptians. as a reader, he or she has the right to comment on everything regarding the article. instead of complaining loudly, try to take in other people's shoes. if you are the police in tahrir facing endless violent attacks day and night, will you do nothing?
Mustafa Abdelkader
02-03-2013 04:39pm
3-
1+
What???
A reader is criticizing the title of this article? Why don't you read the article and realize that Egyptian children are being tortured and abused by the Police and the MB militas, get a heart and get over your Western Stupidity! Absolute Ignorance! Pathetic that children are abused yet YOU are screaming over the words used by the article, directly quoted by a child who sufferred horrible torture!
1



Roslyn
01-03-2013 11:59pm
1-
15+
Legacy of the regime!
Many Egyptians did not know what to expect from a Muslim Brotherhood government, few would have expected child detention and torture or female sexual harassment.Will collapse of the economy or these two serious violations of human and child rights be the resounding legacy of this regime?
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
mahmud yusoff
02-03-2013 04:45pm
7-
3+
Legacy of the regime!
Is it muslim brotherhood regime as such or the remains of mubarak's regime within the revolutised government behave as such?

© 2010 Ahram Online. Advertising