Sunday, March 27, 2011

Protest march to safeguard the right to strike

Activists congregated on the stairs outside the Journalists' syndicate where they chanted against a draft law criminalizing strikes and protests. Slogans were chanted against interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, and Hussein Tantawi - the chief of the Supreme Military Council - both of whom are behind the proposed law.

The protest started with some 200 activists, growing to around 2,000 during the march to the Council of Ministers.

"It is legitimate to strike against hunger and poverty!" Banner by Revolutionary Socialists.

People demand cleansing the country of corruption. Chants included "People demand the trial of Hosni Mubarak!" Along with "People demand trial of State Security (apparatus)" and "People demand the execution of Habib el-Adly" - former Interior Minister.

Marching and protesting outside the Council of Ministers and Parliament. Chants included: "Don't put workers on trial, try Mubarak try Gamal."

Activists chant outside parliament for the cancellation of the oppressive Emergency Law - which has been in effect for the past 30 years, and which authorities want to keep in place for another six months.

Protest march from Qasr al-Aini Street to Tahrir Square.

Marching to Tahrir, for tahrir.

Tahrir Square.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Street Art & Graffiti of the Revolution

"Mubarak... To history's garbage-can!"

"The people demand the removal of the regime's sweethearts."
Image of Dictator Mubarak holding hands with (former Minister of Culture) Farouq Hosni, arms intertwined with Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi (Minister of Defense, Chief of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.)
Also featuring Amre Moussa (NDP-member, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arab League's Secretary General) who is running for the presidency.
By street-artist 'Ganzeer.'

"February 2 - the day that Egypt was cleansed." In reference to the date of Mubarak's abdication.

Revolution in progress.

"The dictator has fallen."

The street-art group 'Freedom Painters' in Nasr City.


By 'Freedom Painters' image of historic writer/thinker Taha Hussein; with moralist message: "This country is our country." Behave - "Don't harass girls." Freedom - "As of today, this is your country." Be Positive - "Don't litter" and "Don't give bribes."

"Hold your head high, you're Egyptian." Street art promoting the "Freedoms of speech, thought, religion, expression, assembly, choice, and association."

Mural commemorating Egyptian youth and the Revolution of January 25th

In Zamalek; Mural under construction.

Abstract art. Kid flying a pain-killer kite.

Unzipping lips - by 'Freedom Painters.'

Another unfinished mural, in Zamalek. Crescent and cross - being held up by hands in shattered shackles.

Egypt Must Revoke Ban on Strikes, Demonstrations

Human Rights Watch
Egypt: Revoke Ban on Strikes, Demonstrations

March 25, 2011

Cabinet Justifies Restrictions Under Guise of State of Emergency

(New York) - The Egyptian cabinet's announcement on March 24, 2011, of a new law banning strikes and demonstrations that impede the work of public institutions violates international law protections for free assembly and should be reversed immediately, Human Rights Watch said today.

The cabinet's claims that this law is an exceptional measure under the country's emergency law, which is still in effect, is a reminder of the need to revoke the emergency law immediately, Human Rights Watch said. An end to the state of emergency was one of the primary demands of the protesters who gathered in Tahrir Square.

"This virtually blanket ban on strikes and demonstrations is a betrayal of the demands of Tahrir protesters for a free Egypt, and a slap in the face of the families whose loved ones died protesting for freedom," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Any genuine transition toward democracy must be based on respect for the basic rights of the people, including their right to demonstrate."

In the minutes of its third meeting, on March 24, published on its official website, the Egyptian cabinet announced the law, which criminalizes and imposes financial penalties for strikes and demonstrations, and said that it had sent the law to the Supreme Military Council for ratification. The new law provides for punishment "with imprisonment or a fine of not less than 50,000 Egyptian pounds (US$8,400), and not more than 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($16,806) for all those who during the state of emergency call for demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, or gatherings, or participate in any of the above, leading to the impediment or the obstruction of any of the state institutions or public authorities from performing their role."

The law also penalizes incitement, calls, writings, or any other public advertisements for a protest or strike with imprisonment, and a fine of not less than 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,040) and not more than 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($8,400). It provides for imprisonment of not less than one year for the use of violence during a protest or strike, or if the protest or strike results in any destruction of property, "harm to national unity, societal peace or public order," or "harm to public funds, buildings or public or private property."

As drafted, the law's overbroad and vague provisions, including banning protests that generally "obstruct" state institutions, or "harm societal peace," do not meet the narrowly permitted grounds for limits on public assembly under international law, Human Rights Watch said. Under international law, terms such as "national security" and "public safety" must refer to situations involving an immediate and violent threat to the nation. As party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, Egypt is obliged to respect and ensure the right to freedom of assembly along with the right to strike.

The law's attempt to criminalize speech calling for demonstrations is an unlawful restriction on the internationally protected right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

The provisions to criminalize demonstrations that harm public order or public funds are of particular concern because of the sweeping arrests over the past few weeks of protesters accused of disrupting public order and destroying property, Human Rights Watch said. On February 25, March 6 and March 9, army and military police officers arrested peaceful demonstrators, detained them, in some cases tortured them, and brought them to trial before military courts that do not meet minimal due process standards.

The military apologized for the excessive use of force against protesters on February 25, but has not issued an apology for the abuses against demonstrators on other occasions, nor has it investigated the cases of torture associated with these arrests. At least 100 protesters remain detained after sentences by military tribunals under the new transitional government. The military has justified these practices based on its stated need to crack down on "thugs" who are disrupting public order.

In the published minutes of the March 24 cabinet meeting, the cabinet justified passing the law by saying that it was responding to a number of requests received "though legal channels."

The minutes also say that the government was studying how best to "address demands with regards to wages and labor conditions," referring to the ongoing strikes in various sectors of the economy over the past weeks. It went on to say that it "understood all of the demands by different sectors of society," but that "the country was currently undergoing a critical period that required protecting its economy and security from manipulation in order to overcome the current crisis and to respond to the legitimate demands of different sectors of society."

"Concerns about the economy or the security situation are no justification for repressive laws and no substitute for responsible policing and sound economic policies," Whitson said. "Economic difficulties are no excuse for limiting people's rights."

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since 1981, which has allowed for the indefinite detention of thousands of people without charge or trial. In May 2010, then-President Hosni Mubarak renewed the state of emergency for another two years, despite having promised to end it in 2005.

Egyptian and international human rights organizations have urged the previous government for years to repeal the emergency law. The declared state of emergency in Egypt does not meet the extremely exceptional circumstances required under international law for such laws. They are allowed only at a "time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation" as set out in Article 4 of the ICCPR.

In a report on his 2009 visit to Egypt, Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that the emergency law that has been "almost continuously in force for more than 50 years in Egypt is not a state of exceptionality; it has become the norm, which must never be the purpose of a state of emergency."

If the Egyptian cabinet and the Supreme Military Council wish to signal that they intend to respect the human rights of the Egyptian people, Human Rights Watch said, they should:

* Reverse the decision banning strikes and demonstrations;

* Issue a public statement reaffirming respect for the right to demonstrate and to strike peacefully; and

* Immediately end the state of emergency, revoke the Emergency Law, and release all those detained under that law.

"The provisions of this law criminalizing demonstrations that disrupt public works or harm societal peace are as overly broad and open to abuse as the restrictions in place under the Mubarak government," Whitson said. "It's quite shocking, really, that a transitional government meant to replace a government ousted for its failure to respect free speech and assembly is now itself putting new restrictions on free speech and assembly."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Public Transport Workers Establish Independent Union!

Egypt's newest trade union was established on Thursday; the Independent Union of Public Transport Authority Workers. Hundreds of PTA workers attended the inauguration and preparatory conference of their independent trade union - at the Journalists' Syndicate.
Joining this union are 60,000 bus-drivers, conductors, mechanics, and engineers employed in the PTA - from across greater Cairo. Tens of thousands have rallied for the establishment of representative, accountable and democratically-elected trade union committees.

Workers voted to break away from the General Union of Land Transport Workers, a yellow union within the (state-controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation. This new union is the fifth independent association to be established since 1957.

Over the course of the past two years five independent unions came into being:
The Real Estate Tax Authority Employees' Union,
The Independent Teachers' Syndicate,
Egyptian Health Technologists' Syndicate,
Pensioners' Federation;

And today the Independent Union of the Public Transport Authority Workers.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) - a confederation of the first four associations - was established on January 30th.

Activists denounce new decree criminalizing protests

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Activists denounce new law criminalizing protests

Wed, 23/03/2011

Jano Charbel

Activists in human and labor rights have denounced the decree put forth by the interim government on Wednesday criminalizing strikes, protests, public congregations and street assemblies.

Such actions are to be criminalized as long as the Emergency Law is in effect; this law has been in force for the past 30 years, and is expected to remain in effect for another six months until parliamentary elections are held. Besides disagreement with the principle of the decree, activists also questioned the methods of its implementation.

The decree stipulates that protesters or strikers will be arrested, fined and/or imprisoned, with fines ranging from LE 30,000 to LE 500,000 (from $US 5,000 to $US 83,000), and prison sentences of one year or more. Even those promoting strikes or protests but not participating in them are subject to imprisonment and fines reaching up to LE 50,000 (around $US 8,300.)

The cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf issued a preliminary decree calling for the "immediate stoppage of all demonstrations and strikes". According to the Cabinet of Ministers' website, the interim government has been overloaded by the demands of protesters and striking workers, while the national economy has been harmed by such actions.

Karam Saber, Director of the Land Center for Human Rights, said that this decree was proposed in light of the stock market's historic losses and the arson attack by police on the Ministry of Interior a day earlier.

"Yet even with these events, there is no justification for a wholesale crackdown on civil society, and the freedom of expression," said Saber. "If crimes are committed, such as the arson attack, then the perpetrators must be brought to justice. But prohibiting Egyptians from their basic human rights is entirely unjust."

Saber told Al-Masry Al-Youm: "We are shocked by this proposed decree. We don't know when it will be enforced, we have no information about how it will be implemented. Who will assess whether or not these strikes and protests disrupt production or not? Will those who violate this decree be subjected to military tribunals, or will they stand trial before civilian courts? Is there a right to appeal verdicts or not? We know little to nothing about this bizarre decree."

The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services issued a press release on Thursday in which it described the proposed decree as "a grave and disturbing development". The press release says that "workers have struggled for years to reclaim their right to strike," pointing out that workers' strikes were an integral part of the Egyptian revolution of 25 January. The CTUWS called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to refrain from ratifying this decree.

On social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, young activists involved in the street protests leading up to the Egyptian revolution denounced the decree as violating basic human rights, including freedom of speech, expression and assembly. One youth activist wrote, "The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has proven to be more repressive than of Hosni Mubarak. We are moving backwards not forwards!"

Many described the move as a problematic one for Sharaf’s government. Sharaf himself has assumed a degree of legitimacy as prime minister since appearing in Tahrir Square on his second day in office on 4 March. Appearing before protesters in the square, he promised to fulfill their demands. But while the abolition of the Emergency Law remains a key demand of the 25 January Revolution, the law remains in place and Sharaf appears merely to have built upon it.

Saber described the proposed decree as a "screaming violation of all treaties and conventions relating to human rights and labor rights which Egypt has signed and ratified." He went on to say: "On 13 March the Ministry of Manpower announced that workers' and unions' freedoms would not be infringed upon by the state or its administrative/executive apparatuses. Yet less than 10 days later they announce that workers will be arrested and put on trial for exercising their basic rights?"

He further criticized the proposed decree on the basis that it prevents workers and average citizens from collectively demanding their rights.

"Strikes function as a pressure mechanism on employers or administrators for the realization of rights. Without such pressure, employers have the ability to sack workers, halt payments, deny employees their rights, to carry on with corruption, and impose lockouts. A lockout halts production and harms the economy, but the government has no objection. It only objects to the simple folks' right to strike or protest," he said.

Some activists are determined to take to the streets on Friday to protest the law and re-state their unfulfilled demands, including the release of civilians from military prisons and the end of the Emergency Law. The 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition on Thursday called on Egyptians to take part in a Friday protest outside the Egyptian Radio and Television Union in Cairo against the law.

The planned protest was dubbed “The Friday of Cleansing”, during which the protesters will demand the resignation of all officials loyal to the former regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, including those working for state TV and state-run newspapers.

Egypt: Women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’

Amnesty International
Egyptian women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’

23 March 2011

Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month.

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.

"Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women," said Amnesty International. "All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called 'tests'."

20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.

The women were then subjected to ‘virginity tests’ in a different room by a man in a white coat. They were threatened that “those not found to be virgins” would be charged with prostitution.

According to information received by Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric shocks.

“Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment,” said Amnesty International.

“The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public.”

Journalist Rasha Azeb was also detained in Tahrir Square and told Amnesty International that she was handcuffed, beaten and insulted.

Following their arrest, the 18 women were initially taken to a Cairo Museum annex where they were reportedly handcuffed, beaten with sticks and hoses, given electric shocks in the chest and legs, and called “prostitutes”.

Rasha Azeb could see and hear the other detained women being tortured by being given electric shocks throughout their detention at the museum. She was released several hours later with four other men who were also journalists, but 17 other women were transferred to the military prison in Heikstep

Testimonies of other women detained at the same time collected by the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence are consistent with Rasha Azeb and Salwa Hosseini’s accounts of beatings, electrocution and ‘virginity tests’.

“The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters. Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism,” said Amnesty International.

“All security and army forces must be clearly instructed that torture and other ill-treatment, including forced ‘virginity tests’, will no longer be tolerated, and will be fully investigated. Those found responsible for such acts must be brought to justice and the courageous women who denounced such abuses be protected from reprisals.”

All 17 women detained in the military prison were brought before a military court on 11 March and released on 13 March. Several received one-year suspended prison sentences.

Salwa Hosseini was convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.

Amnesty International opposes the trial of civilians before military courts in Egypt, which have a track record of unfair trials and where the right to appeal is severely restricted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Photos: Ministry of Interior on Fire

Fire Put Out at Egypt's Interior Ministry
Fire Put Out at Egypt's Interior Ministry

March 22, 2011

A fire that broke out Tuesday at the Interior Ministry in Cairo has been extinguished.

A police officer at the scene said it began in a documents storage area on the sixth floor and later spread to a criminal evidence building.

Egyptian officials blame protesting police officers as being responsible for the fire but the cause is unclear.

There has been a history of suspicious fires in Cairo that were allegedly set to cover up thefts or to get rid of evidence.

Television footage showed black plumes of smoke rising from a building in the ministry complex as firefighters used water hoses to get the blaze under control.

Thousands of police officers had been protesting outside the ministry, demanding better pay and working conditions.

A member of the police force quoted by the French news agency AFP says the protesters had nothing to do with the fire.

Police have staged public protests since an interim government took over following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

In February, officials said former police officers demanding reinstatement hurled firebombs at the interior ministry and set several vehicles on fire.

*Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

ILO: Egypt must raise minimum wage to emerge from blacklist

Al-Masry Al-Youm
ILO: Egypt must raise minimum wage to emerge from blacklist

Sun, 20/03/2011

Egypt must increase its national minimum wage to emerge from the International Labour Organization (ILO) blacklist, said Mohamed al-Taraboulsi -- director of the ILO's Middle East labour activities -- on Sunday

Al-Taraboulsi said the minimum wage should cope with prices and guarantee social justice.

Egypt has signed two agreements on wages, both of which involve commitments that must be honored.

Al-Taraboulsi told reporters that Egypt should modify its national legislation to conform to international agreements, especially its legislation concerning unions. Its violations of such agreements put Egypt on the blacklist.

According to al-Taraboulsi, labor unions have the right to file complaints against the government with international organizations if a satisfying minimum wage isn’t implemented.

The ILO cannot impose pluralism on Egyptian labor unions or any other unions, he added. Egyptian laborers themselves should choose between unity and pluralism, and the organization will support their choice.

SHIT! Egypt approves constitutional changes

Egypt approves constitutional changes

20 Mar 2011

Package of nine changes endorsed by overwhelming vote, paving the way for parliamentary elections later this year.

Egyptians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a package of constitutional amendments, according to official results released on Sunday evening.

Slightly more than 77 per cent of voters endorsed the amendments, the country's supreme judicial committee has announced.

Roughly 18 million Egyptians went to the polls on Saturday, a 41 per cent turnout. It's a better result than many past elections: The country's fraud-plagued parliamentary ballot last year had less than 25 per cent turnout, and possibly as low as 10 per cent, according to some sources.

The committee said that 171,190 votes were invalidated, though it did not say why. There were reports on Saturday that some ballots did not carry the required official stamp.

Voters approved a package of nine amendments, about half of which deal with elections. One loosens the requirements for independent candidates seeking the presidency; another restores full judicial oversight for elections.

Other provisions limit the presidency to two four-year terms (currently, there is no limit), and require a public referendum for any state of emergency that lasts longer than six months (the country has been under one for the last 30 years).


The "yes" vote also paves the way for a quick parliamentary election, which the ruling military junta has said will be held in June.

Egypt's two main political forces, the former ruling National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, both urged a "yes" vote on the referendum. Critics say that's because they benefit from the quick timetable for elections.

As established political parties, they will have an edge in mobilising resources and fielding candidates.

The rest of the country's opposition parties all pushed for a "no" vote, as did the coalition of youth activists who led the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

One of the provisions, the revised article 189, requires the new parliament to appoint a constitutional assembly within six months of taking office. That group will be responsible for drafting an entirely new constitution, which - if approved in a separate referendum - would take effect next year.

Egypt's existing constitution, though amended, remains suspended: It does not allow for military rule, so the junta suspended it shortly after taking power.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from the capital, Cairo, said the big question now is what happens next.

"The wheels of democracy in Egypt are moving fast," she said.

"But that is worrying a lot of the parties - the youth groups, the new parties, who are saying a few months simply isn't enough time to organise themselves and come up with a charter and be able to compete in these elections."

*Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Photos: Referendum on Constitutional Amendments

A nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments was held on Saturday, March 19. This referendum is the first to be held since the downfall of Dictator Mubarak and his ruling party, and was thus marked by a very high voter-turnout rate in Cairo, and other cities across the country.

In the Nasr City district of Cairo, hundreds of thousands converged upon polling stations which were set up in public schools and educational facilities.

An unprecedentedly large number of female voters showed-up and cast their ballots.

Polling station within the Ibn Nafis School in Nasr City.

A queue of youth and men waiting outside the Workers' University - one of the principal polling stations in Nasr City.

Women waiting in line to cast their ballots in the polling stations within the Workers' University.

Thousands of army soldiers, military police, and policemen were deployed in and around polling stations.

Men's queue outside the School for Reparation of Artifacts in Nasr City. Graffiti on school wall reads "The people have brought down the regime."

Long line of women waiting to cast their votes.

Egypt: Abuse & Torture in Army Custody

The New York Times
Complaints of Abuse in Army Custody

March 17, 2011


CAIRO, Egypt — Ragy el-Kashef was relieved when Egypt’s military took power last month and pledged to steer the country from dictatorship to democracy. But after he spent four days in army custody, during which he says he was arrested, tortured and hastily tried before a military judge, anxiety and dread now cloud his hope for the future.

Mr. Kashef, 24, was detained by the military police on March 9, when soldiers and armed men in plainclothes known as baltageyya (“thugs”) violently broke up a small protest camp in Tahrir Square.

Soldiers brought him and his brother Raif to an entrance of the nearby Egyptian Museum. For six hours, Mr. Kashef said, soldiers beat, whipped and electrically stunned them and scores of other blindfolded prisoners as they lay face down on the pavement. The prisoners were later taken to a military base, and Mr. Kashef said the people in his group were stripped and beaten. Eventually, he said, he was given a military trial that lasted just 30 minutes.

“I was happy when the army took over,” he said. “I felt safe with the army because I thought they were responsible. Now I hate the army.”

When the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over as the transitional government after the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, it was greeted by many protesters as a protector of the revolution, whose demands for democracy it vowed to uphold. But since then, allegations of torture and the prosecution of civilians in closed-door military trials have tarnished its reputation and raised questions about its commitment to democratic rule.

The military, said Heba Morayef, a researcher on Egypt for Human Rights Watch, is routinely abusing human rights by “arbitrarily arresting people and then subjecting those it has arbitrarily arrested to military trials.” She said this was “not indicative of a shift to the rule of law.”

Ms. Morayef said the organization had received more and more “serious reports” of military torture in recent weeks, with a surge of new cases after March 9, the day 190 protesters, including Mr. Kashef and his brother, were arrested. The protesters had remained in Tahrir Square to press for a number of demands of the revolution that had not been fulfilled.

Ragia Omrane, a lawyer with the Front for the Defense of Egyptian Protesters, said the detainees were beaten and subjected to electric shocks, and later tried behind closed doors, in proceedings that sometimes lasted only 10 minutes. She said one of the detainees was 15 years old. Ultimately, 148 of the detainees were convicted and are serving sentences in military prisons.

The crimes they are charged with range from obstructing traffic to possession of explosives, Ms. Omrane said. She added that lawyers had not been given access to either the detainees or their trials, nor had they been informed of the specific convictions or sentences of individual detainees, although military judges told Ms. Omrane that sentences ranged from one to seven years.

Since then, 37 more people have been arrested after being taken into custody either on the streets of downtown Cairo or at an anti-torture protest held outside the museum on March 16, Ms. Omrane said. Eleven of them have been sent to appear before military prosecutors, she said.

The chief of the military police, Maj. Gen. Hamdi Bedeen, denied that the army was engaging in torture or using the museum as a detention center. In an interview published on Thursday by Egypt’s El Shorouk newspaper, he called the accusations “totally false” and said the testimony about torture was “fabricated.”

“Not one complaint has reached me until now,” General Bedeen said.

Under the harsh, autocratic regime of Mr. Mubarak torture by the police was “routine and systemic,” according to Human Rights Watch.

The military does not make public information about detentions and military prosecutions, Ms. Morayef said. Former prisoners and the family of one detained man said that three detainees died in army custody on Saturday, while as many as 150 others began a hunger strike against the ill treatment on Monday. Neither reporters nor lawyers can verify those claims.

Human-rights activists have expressed concern about the apparent cooperation between army and the plainclothes enforcers who attacked the protesters on March 9, because Mr. Mubarak’s government regularly deployed them to beat and intimidate people.

People detained that day said in interviews that they were tied up and blindfolded, beaten with metal clubs and whips and repeatedly shocked with electric stun devices.

Rami Essam, a well-known singer, said he had been beaten with clubs and bricks by soldiers who cut his hair. Rasha Azab, a journalist, said she had been beaten while handcuffed to a wall around a manicured museum garden.

Sherif Abdel Moneim said he had been beaten inside the grand entrance hall of the main museum building by soldiers who struck him across a scar from cancer surgery. That earlier mark is now crisscrossed by lines that are fresher and redder.

“The soldiers were yelling, ‘Raise your head up high, you son of a dog, you’re Egyptian!’ ” Mr. Kashef said. The taunt twists the meaning of a chant from the uprising that overthrew Mr. Mubarak, which encouraged Egyptians to hold their heads high and be proud.

Mr. Kashef said he and his brother were in a group taken to a military prison the day after their arrest. There, they were strip searched, held in a cell and beaten by a soldier who showered them with curses while accusing them of having Facebook accounts.

That night he and 30 others were herded into the base’s long rectangular kitchen for their trial. A military judge presided from behind the kitchen table while a pot of stewed potatoes and peas bubbled on the stove behind the accused, he recalled. A military lawyer who did not speak to them served as their defense, and they were fed from the pot before filing back to their cramped cell.

Two days after that episode, Mr. Kashef was told he could go free. All of men tried in the kitchen were found innocent, but inexplicably only Mr. Kashef and a handful of others were let go. Some of the co-defendants, including his brother, remain jailed. “We ask the soldiers and we ask the courts, but no one has a logical answer,” he said.

This week, Mr. Kashef, whose body remains bruised, visited Raif in jail with their parents. Walking the halls of the military base, he saw soldiers and officers he recognized and was gripped with fear that they would take him back to his cell. A filmmaker, he passed the room where he and the other detainees were strip searched and said he “saw it like it was a scene in a movie.”

He is worried about his brother and what comes next for Egypt.

“I am afraid for the future because maybe the army and the old system and the thugs will work together to kill our revolution,” he said.

Egyptian army cracks down on protesters darkens outlook

No More Protests? Egypt's Army Cracks Down

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2011

Rania Abouzeid

The bare-chested 20-year-old Egyptian turns slowly to reveal a broad back that resembles a work of sadistic abstract art — a bloody, bruised composition of pink, red and purple. Long, deep gashes had been sliced through his skin; welts, pinker and more superficial, crisscross his body. His upper left arm is a mix of purples, a cufflike bruise that wraps all the way around his bicep. His right hand is bandaged, one of his fingers sprained. He runs his good hand over his closely shorn hair. His wavy locks, he says, were shaved off with glass shards by the same people who beat him.

On Wednesday, March 9, Khalid, who does not want his last name published, went down to Cairo's Tahrir Square, concerned about reports that thugs were attacking protesters in the iconic site where he had previously joined hundreds of thousands of his compatriots in the protests that brought down President Hosni Mubarak. He wanted to check on several friends among the hundreds of activists still camped out in the square to press the military government to meet the revolution's demands.

That afternoon, without warning, soldiers surged into the square behind what several witnesses said were lines of plainclothes thugs armed with metal pipes, electric cables and long, thick wooden rods. The uniformed and non-uniformed men reportedly worked in tandem, just like in Mubarak's days, rounding up hundreds of young men and women in an attack that lasted several hours, according to multiple accounts.

Khalid had been standing off to the side of the square, he says, when "a young baltagi" — Egyptian slang for a thug — pointed him out to several soldiers, yelling, "He's one of them." Within minutes, Khalid says, soldiers started punching him and two of his friends, before forcing them into the National Museum along with others grabbed on the square.

Human Rights Watch, quoting local activists, says that 190 of those detained were transferred to military prisons that day. Some, like Khalid and another Tahrir veteran, 33-year-old advertising executive Mahmoud Youssef, were released later that night, after being subjected to what Youssef and rights organizations say was hours of torture at the hands of the army and their plainclothes colleagues. About 153 still remain in custody, including 19 women.

Youssef says he was blindfolded, had his hands tied behind his back and was told to lie on his stomach. He was pummeled and kicked for hours with cables, pipes and other implements, in an account that meshes with what several other detainees have claimed. He doesn't understand why he was detained, given that the soldiers did not interrogate him. "They didn't even check my ID," he says. "I knew that the army was capable of this and that this was one of their methods. What I didn't expect was to be let go."

While grateful for his freedom, Youssef hasn't forgotten those still in custody. On Saturday, he, along with dozens of other young men and women, stood outside the imposing headquarters of the Military Tribunal in Nasr City, where many of the detainees are reportedly being held. Youssef was one of five young Tahrir activists allowed to meet on Saturday with senior military personnel in the building to lobby for the release of their detained comrades. He says the officers who addressed them "talked to us the way they talk to dogs," not in the fatherly tones heard previously in Tahrir Square. "There's no more baba," he says wryly as he lights one cigarette after the other.

"They told us that the situation in the country is very bad, and that we were disturbing the peace. They said our friends will be tried in military courts and that they will face not less than one year's prison for terrorizing civilians, among other charges," he says, adding that the officers told him the women would be "pardoned."

Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt's ruling Supreme Military Council to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture by the army, and to stop prosecuting civilians in military tribunals. "There can be no break from the abuses of the past while security forces — including military personnel — abuse people with impunity," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, recently said in a statement.

But in the new Egypt, some of the security forces don't appear to have changed their ways. One of the revolution's main demands had been for the dissolution of the dreaded state security network associated with the police force. Newly appointed Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy had initially said that was a nonstarter, but on Tuesday he acquiesced to the demand. Still, its unclear how much will really change, given that el-Essawy said that a new national security agency would be formed in its place.

State security was a force of some 170,000, el-Essawi said. The new agency's mandate will be restricted to combating terrorism and espionage rather than spying on citizens. But preventing domestic terrorism would possibly require spying on its citizens.

The new minister's comments came just days after several offices of the much feared state security agencies, including the internal spy agency's Cairo headquarters, had been stormed by civilians who unearthed thousands of documents purportedly containing detailed surveillance of activists, artists, Muslim Brotherhood members, politicians and regular citizens. Some reportedly detailed torture; others were said to be more salacious and included sex tapes. Although 47 state security officers were arrested this week for their involvement in shredding and burning documents, it's unclear if anybody will be held accountable for the human-rights abuses detailed in the files.

"Nothing will happen to the security agencies," General Fouad Allam, former deputy chief of state security, told TIME recently. This idea that everything is going to change — no, it's wrong. There can be a change in ideas, a different approach, but you don't eliminate a system."

Khalid, the 20-year-old Tahrir veteran, doesn't know what has happened to his two friends, but his experience hasn't shaken his support for the army. "When the army first went down to the square, we were very happy, saying the army and the people are one hand. I still say that. I think it was a one-off, an isolated incident, but there is something going on and I don't understand it," he says. Former Prime Minister "Ahmed Shafiq and Mubarak are not being tried and they want to try us in military courts for peacefully protesting?" he adds. "I don't know why they are acting like this."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More revolutionary street art & graffiti from Cairo

The graffiti on the wall says it all.

Destroyed prisoner-transport truck with graffiti spray painted on its sides. "The police are traitors" signed by 'the free revolutionaries.'

Spray-painted on the other side of the police truck: "Leave us, that's enough" and "The End Mubarak!"

Martyr of the revolution - Islam Ra'afat, 18 years old.

"I'm in prison, for the sake of freedom." Stenciled graffiti of Amr Abdallah Beheiri, who was assaulted and arrested by soldiers on February 26 - while the army was forcefully dispersing protesters from Tahrir Square and parliament. This non-violent youth protester was referred to a military tribunal on baseless charges of "thuggery," and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

"Freedom, dignity, equality and justice" along with hands holding crescent and cross in sign of Muslim-Christian unity amongst Egyptians.

"I want my rights!"

Murals in Nasr City, Cairo - by an artistic group of youth called the 'Freedom Painters.'

In Tahrir Square, artist with paintbrush gets busy commemorating the Revolution of January 25th.

Street art - with liberal/secular nationalist tones - by 'Freedom Painters.'

"Blood of Martyrs." Sign on wall reads: Tahrir Square.

"Egypt Is Ours."