An account of torture from Wadi al-Natrun prison

Human beings have been dignified in all religions, which venerate humanity and forbid the torture of humans and their detention without evidence.

Their rights to freedom of expression and to mobility have been granted, except in Egypt, where the meaning of humanity has been shattered at the hands of injustice and oppression that overlook all laws and traditions.

What law or religion do we follow or abide by now, we do not know anymore. Where is Egypt heading?

We put in your hands a catastrophic situation in order for you to learn about our suffering, and to become our companions in putting an end to this suffering.

On the morning of November 11, 2013, we were transferred from a Central Security Forces camp — informally called the 10.5 km camp — to Prison 1 in Wadi al-Natrun.

Upon our arrival at 3 pm, we were received by a large number of officers, soldiers and intelligence personnel who met us with a storm of swearing, carrying arms, sticks, hoses, belts and water pipes in a terrifying scene. They monstrously beat us up on every bit of our bodies. They then placed us, like prisoners of war, one on top of the other, while they continued torturing and humiliating us.

They ordered us to call [former President] Mohamed Morsi the worst names.

They ordered us not to look into their eyes; they feared our looks, and those who did look them in the eye were strung up and severely beaten.

They strung up Maher Mohamed Morsi for having a name similar to [the former president] and beat and insulted him relentlessly.

As the physical and psychological torture continued, we were moved to a new 1.5 square meter space where a new group of policemen awaited us with all sorts of torture tools which they used on our bodies.

They took our clothes off and in a stream of filthy sadism, enjoyed inflicting physical and psychological torture on us.

They made us stand like prisoners of war, our heads to the wall, arms held up high, while their torture, insults and orders not to look them in the eye continued.

Both groups of regime men shared the same perverted ideas as they practiced clear violations of international agreements and local laws.

As the policemen made us crawl on the floor, they followed us with sticks, belts and water pipes, lashing our backs to force us to crawl faster.

We crawled for 500 meters amidst a barrage of swearing, beatings and threats.

They didn’t distinguish between old and young, healthy or injured, and they were determined to humiliate political leaders like former vice presidents and advisers to the president, members of parliament and party members.

After the crawling stage was over, it was followed by an excessively sadistic period as we stood naked.

They forced us to stand up and to repeatedly insult Morsi, while the beating and humiliation did not stop.

One of us who had a bandage on his chest was asked, “What’s that?” He replied it was a bandage from an operation. The policeman responded by beating him incessantly with a water pipe on the bandaged area — a scene that only tells about the oppression they are capable of in their hearts.

Our bodies — bloodied backs, swollen legs and bruised knees — would make you shiver.

They ordered us to organize. We didn’t understand, so they beat us nonstop, until we understood later it meant to start running in place.

We were out of breath. We had been fasting and we had been tortured for about two hours.

In a forced theft operation, they replaced what we had of money and belongings with ration cards that are less than their real value. The more you owned, the greater the theft was, and whoever tried to alert them to that was beaten further.

Although we were naked, except for our boxers, they body-searched us.

They gave us worn out, unclean, smelly, rough prison uniforms that were very light for the middle of winter.

They took our clothes and distributed them among themselves like they had inherited them.

All this occurred as the torture and swearing did not stop for a second.

The prison cell was not made for human use, and full of all types of insects — flying and crawling ones, in all colors and shapes. They put 40 of us detainees who were tortured in there. The cell had no beds, no mattresses, no covers, and we only had our light, rotten uniforms to protect us from the cold. The cold came in from all sides, the toilets were unusable, the water shortages were recurrent.

A new series of threats started: if, if, if, if… They were repeated nonstop, but we were barely aware of them, we were in such suffering and exhaustion.

We ask you, our families and the Egyptian people, to continue your struggle and to not be deterred in demanding your dignity and rights by what happened to us. Do not allow fear to come between you and do not forget the rights of the injured, the martyred and the detained. We put this responsibility in your hands, knowing that you will be up to it, for we will not allow the Egyptian people to experience what we experienced.

We call on the local and international media to scream out on our behalf calling for the rights of the detainees and their immediate release.

We call on Egyptian and international civil society organizations to take to court Interim President Adly Mansour, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, the head of prisons department, the head of Wadi al-Natrun prison and all officers, soldiers and state security personnel that participated in our torture on November 13, 2013.

We ask you to present them to courts in Egypt and to the International Criminal Court for having permitted our detention for all this time without any evidence, and for torturing us and refusing to allow us to defend ourselves, in a clear violation of local law and international agreements to which Egypt is a signatory. 

Islam Abu Ghazala is a 24-year-old graduate student, arrested in October 6, in Dokki during mass protests against the pro-military government. During his arrest, he received a bullet in his leg as well as rubber bullets in the head and back. He is being charged of belonging to an illegal group among other charges. He is currently on administrative detention repeatedly renewed over the last months and he started a hunger strike last month.

This testimony was originally published in Arabic on the Yanayer Portal. 

Islam Abu Ghazala 

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