Reporter's first hand account of Egypt police brutality

Thursday 27 Jan 2011

Ahram Online reporter Lina Wardani was arrested, beaten and dragged away in a shielded pickup truck by police last night. She gives a first person account of her experience.

Last night at around 9 pm, I was out on the streets of Boulak, in Downtown Cairo covering the ongoing protests. Around 300 people were marching towards Tahrir Square chanting the now popular slogan "People Want the Regime Down", which has been ongoing since Tuesday.

The demonstrators, who were mostly young people not affiliated with any political party, were walking peacefully down the corniche (save for their chanting) when suddenly a group of police thugs stopped them, started firing tear gas grenades, and began fiercely beating down on everyone, chasing them as they tried to get away. People tried to flee up the bridge, but they were followed, and I saw them grab a colleague journalist and poet Mohammed Kheir. They started beating his face, seeming to focus on his eyes, and dragged him all along the corniche.

In one swoop they then dragged film maker Hala Galal, her husband Samy Hossam the script writer, and myself. They slapped Hala on the face, and almost broke her knee in the process of dragging her to a hired microbus. Samy Hossam was beaten, and his shirt was torn as they dragged him to the van too.

With me, they grabbed my hair, beat me in the back, on my leg and then my face. They dragged me to the microbus too. Throughout it all, they sprayed us with tear gas, or something like that -- it had a pungent smell and it made it very hard for us to breath.

The microbus left instantly and kept roaming side dark streets in down town, while the two police thugs kept insulting and threatening us and calling us bad names: "We will show you", they said, "Because of you we haven't slept for two days,". "You bastards...."

They took our mobile phones and ID cards, but I managed to hide mine and text my colleagues at the Ahram who immediately called the Interior Ministry.

At a point the microbus slowed down and I could see that it had parked in front of the back door of the ruling National Deomcratic Party's head quarters. It seemed like they were waiting for orders as to what to do with us. Eventually the bus moved, and went to Tahrir Square, which had been taken over by police last night, and there we were transferred - one by one - to the big blue van that carries prisoners. At that point, a police man came and said, "No women, Take the men and leave the women".

Samy and Mohamed were taken to the truck, along with around 50 people. We could see a lot of these vans lined up in Tahrir, waiting for orders to move.

Out of the prisoner's state security truck we could see smoke coming through the metal barred window holes, and could hear the men screaming, "We can't breath inside, we will suffocate and die". Their female relatives were screaming and crying outside, "Let them go, they have done nothing."

Eventually, with a lot of phone calls from colleagues, we were all released. Mohamed was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries, Samy's mobile was stolen.

"This makes it personal, now I want the regime down even more," Hala said on the way home.

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