It was great yesterday to see one London street absolutely filled with Egyptians singing bilady, bilady bilady. Many hundreds gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy yesterday united in presenting Morsi with one demand – irhal – leave ! I only saw one pro Morsi supporter turn up and he left on seeing the huge anti-Morsi crowd. It was a hot day (26 degrees) but nothing compared to the high temperatures that protesters have to endure now in Egypt. Everyone shared whatever water and food they had bought. It started promptly at 2pm and there was still a sizeable number present at 4.30 when I left.
And below another video of a child chanting “We won’t give up we gon’t give in until we see our people win. From the Nile to the Sea Egypt Egypt will be free.”
AND BELOW THREE SNAPS –
The placard in the photo above reads “Muslims and Christians are one hand. One nation – one people.”
The depiction on the paper shows the Islamic Crescent and the Christian Cross and beneath are written the words “All of us are Egyptians.”
Above: In the foreground a leaflet of Tamarud (Rebel) UK is attached to the crowd barrier and in the background the Egyptian Embassy.
Early one morning in January the police in the poor neighbourhood of Imbaba, Cairo, called on the wife of Sameh Ahmed Farag to ask her and the family to come to identify his body. When they arrived they discovered the man’s feet and hands still tied and that he had bruises all over his body and some of his clothes missing. It seems he may have been enquiring about a friend who was held in custody. Yet again the Egyptian authorities appear to be trying to cover up a death through torture at the hands of the police. It seems nothing has changed since the death of Khaled Said in 2010 that sparked the first uprising. Here is an interview with the dead man’s wife and another family member –
The situation in Port Said tonight remains far from clear. What is certain is that there have been hundreds of casualties. Only last month Human Rights Watch said that unecessary overreaction of security forces had caused many needless deaths in the city.
The army denied that there were any clashes between the army and police tonight – stating rather that it had opened fire on “unknown elements”. However this video posted a few minutes ago definitely shows that the protesters believed the army were firing on security forces.
In two videos uploaded to youtube in the last week, detainees try to find the words to tell of the awful things which happened to them. In a third a child relates what he was unlucky enough to witness. All this suggesting that sexual violence has become the new norm for arrested protesters.
In the first a man struggles to relate what happened during a TV interview –
24 February 2013 –
In the second during a lengthy and difficult recounting of what happned to him, a man
has to take two retakes in order to describe how he was sexually assaulted –
20 February 2013
And even a 12 year old child has been an unfortunate witness to a sexual assault on two detainees.
Also 20 February 2013 – interview in Arabic – first minute of video transcribed below –
Interviewer: When were you most afraid?
Zeid (12 years) “When I was in the armoured police truck. In the truck I was afraid they would slit my throat. They said they’d slit my throat and throw me away and no one could help me.”
Mohamed (15 years) “The kids were crying. Only me and another person were wounded. He was hurt much worse, He’d been beaten so badly he couldn’t speak and he died on the road.”
Zeid: “In the truck there were five others. Two of them were sexually assaulted. There was a Christian called Kirollos. When they searched him they found a cross. They wanted to take it and break it in pieces.”
Mohamed “We told the officer a detainee had died. A soldier came in and checked. So we stopped in front of a hospital – I don’t know which one and they dumped him in front of the hospital and drove off with us.”
Khalid (17) “Someone with me died. They’d been kicking him. They had him on the ground and were kicking him. The officer checked his pulse, and they continued kicking him. That was all I saw. I found out later he died.”
I’m using the Image below to post on facebook when sharing.
In some ways I admire Alistair Burt, the British Minister for North Africa and the Middle East. He has one of the toughest of all ministerial responsibilities and he’s been very proactive in touring the region and there’s no doubt he’s done a lot to promote British commercial interests, but I was disappointed by a recent letter from him.
He failed to suggest any specific action that the British Government might take with regards to the appalling conditions inside Egyptian prisons, where many foreign inmates have to beg for food and some cells are so overcrowded that inmates have to walk on top of their sleeping neighbours in order to reach the toilet. Also torture and beatings remain a routine occurrence and most prisoners remain locked in their cells without any possibility of exercise.
On 31 July Alistair Burt wrote to me via my MP, Julian Brazier, outlining the FCO’s (Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s) position on this situation. He asserted
“It is important to note that the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners are recognised as recommendations or guidelines rather than legal requirements, and Rule Two of the Standard Minimum Rules states that ‘not all of the rules are capable of application in all places and at all times.’…..Rule two limits the extent to which we can use these rules as the basis for approaching the Egyptian authorities.”
In my reply posted today to my MP I wrote
“I am very disappointed….that the FCO does not appear to give a clear commitment to take any specific action with regards to overcrowding, the withholding of water, the lack of any food in police custody (except for the little which was brought in by prisoners’ relatives), the almost non existent “medical care” and many other conditions so bad they directly endanger the lives of inmates. Many of these prisoners haven’t even had the opportunity of having a verdict on their case after many years locked up in such appalling circumstances. Also such prison conditions fail to come anywhere near the basic minimum prison conditions as set out under Egyptian law.
It is worrying that with regards to the sort of overcrowding which would be considered inhumane if inflicted on animals, that the FCO should raise the fact that “it is very common throughout North and West Africa” giving the impression that the commonality of such inhumanity makes it in some way more acceptable or at least less deserving of protest. If the FCO think I have been unfair to draw such inferences I hope they will correct me.
It would be a great shame if the FCO was to focus on the legal loopholes of an old international agreement on prison conditions and overlook the fact that such treatment must also violate the most basic human rights of these prisoners as well as their rights under Egyptian law.
Below I’ve posted a copy of the letter from Alistair Burt as well as my response
A month ago I wrote to Dr. William McCrea, an MP who had been particularly outspoken on the issue of the persecution of Copts in Egypt. I asked him
How Britain might help the Coptic community in Egypt ?
What he thought about British exports of arms to Egypt ?
What he thought about one British multinational still supplying tear gas to Egypt ?
He kindly forwarded my letter to Alistair Burt, Minister for North Africa and the Middle East. I had also written earlier to Alistair Burt, and even the Prime Minister had forwarded one of my letters to him, but the Minister hadn’t so far replied to either. However this time he did reply in considerable detail.
You can read his response in detail in the attached letter. However I will try to summarize both the more encouraging and more negative aspects of his response.
What I think Egypt’s revolutionaries will like about the British Minister’s response.
His assurance that Britain continues to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt.
His obviously deep concern about the protection of and rights of Copts under any new constitution.
His assurance that the British government is encouraging SCAF to keep to its’ timetable for the transition to civilian rule. (This letter was written prior to the “judicial coup” of 14 June).
His affirmation that the British government hopes to see a new Egyptian constitution which respects the interests of “all Egyptian people.”
However Egypt’s revolutionaries and liberals will be less encouraged by
His claim that the British government can not prevent British Multinationals with factories outside the U.K. supplying the Egyptian military with crowd control material, including tear gas. He says it would “not be legally viable” and “such controls would be impossible to enforce.”
His failure to explain why the British government continues to allow British arms exports to Egypt’s military regime despite acknowledging that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications.”
And below are some photographs I took in February showing the effects of tear gas used on crowds. Many people were vomiting and one man had gone into convulsions.
For the first time I’m aware of, a U.K. Member of Parliament says he intends to visit Egypt to see how the country’s Christian minority is being treated. Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, Northern Ireland, has already met with Egypt’s only Christian member of parliament to offer his support and help to “raise with the UK government the plight of the persecuted Church in Egypt.”
His letter arrived the same day an Egyptian judge sentenced 12 Coptic Christians to life in prison for their alleged part in a riot in which two Muslims and a Christian were killed in the village of Abu Qurgas. However eight Muslims charged with the same crimes in the same riot were all acquitted.
Jeffrey Donaldson also says he hopes the U.K. government will tighten up the lax controls on arms exports to Egypt and other regimes where such weapons may be used for internal repression. On 9 October last year 24 protesters, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed by the army and pro-regime thugs during a demonstration near Cairo’s main television building. Some protesters were run down by armoured personnel carriers and others shot soldiers allegedly using live ammunition. The army insists they only fired blank cartridges.
Christians in Egypt are very worried about the future and despite my only personal disagreement with some of the MP’s policies on domestic social issues, I think it’s great that he should go to such lengths to try to help even if he hasn’t yet specified the date of his intended visit – here is a copy of a recent letter I received from him in which he makes his views clear.