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In this video, Ghada recounts details about being tortured by the Egyptian army as well as specifics regarding their behavior and tactics. The account includes disturbing details, including descriptions of what she witnessed while in captivity. The video is in Arabic and features subtitles. A translated transcription follows the video.
My name is Ghada Kamal Ahmed Abdelkhalaq. I am twenty-eight years old, and I work as a pharmaceutical doctor. I’m originally from Mansoura, but I currently live in Cairo. I am a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, and I also work on the Baradei campaign in Mansoura.
Yesterday—to start from the beginning—as you know, Aboudy, an Ultras fan, was kidnapped and abused. He was completely disfigured. So of course people were angry. So a fight broke out between them and the forces inside the Parliament building. It got more fierce, rocks were being thrown from both sides. Then the forces inside the building began to set fire to the tents. The tents are set up so they are tied to the steel bars in the gates. They poured gasoline onto them and threw stuff to light them on fire. Then they left the ground floor and started going up, all the way to the tenth floor, onto the roof. Then they started showering us with rocks. They dropped large chunks of ceramic blocks, each one so big, had it landed on someone’s head I doubt they would survive. Each piece had sharp, pointy edges like teeth. And of course they were using water hoses—they gave me a shower last night. Cold water—and some said they even used hot water. They were standing up there, making improper gestures at people. They would throw rocks at us and then dance. I mean, really trying to wind us up.
People were completely defenseless and isolated. Even when people would throw a Molotov or anything else, the water hoses would instantly put it out. So there was really no match between the two sides. And it got more intense. I was hit by rocks several times all over my body.
At around eight in the morning or so, they called—I should say, I am not certain of the time because I did not look at my watch. They called for the other front, stationed outside the other gate to the Parliament from the direction of Tahrir. They said we would be surrounded and closed off. We found an entire squad on the other side, two of the officers were completely masked, incredibly built up physically, like soldiers I had never seen before.
One of them had no badge or rank; the other had one identifying the Mezalat brigade. Of course people worried about the gate being opened—if protesters were attacked from both sides, they would be done for. So people stood by the gate and chanted the usual, “Down with military rule” and “the people want the fall of the field Marshall,” and so on. The soldiers and officers lined up behind the masked men and started making very pornographic gestures. I mean, this is what provoked people into cursing, just so you have the context. At one point, for example, I personally saw one of them begin gesturing to his genitals. I mean, personally, I do not know what to tell you, just obscene moves that would infuriate anyone. So people began yelling insults. And the two masked men standing up front were filming people as they cursed, recording the insults completely out of context—so the viewer would not know why they were cursing. When really, behind the camera there are soldiers provoking these reactions.
The armed forces turned and went inside once they saw the people explode. I walked down to the road with the bank near Qasr el Aini Street. I was of course exhausted by then so I grabbed a blanket and decided to rest until anything else happened. Right away, I found myself being nudged awake by people saying the army had arrived and was attacking. I got up—barely awake but I saw everyone running into side streets. I have a habit, when I am running—I always look back to see if anyone is being beaten or arrested, you know, to make sure there is help. So as I turned, I saw Dr. Sanaa—I did not know her name at the time. She was sprawled on the ground, surrounded by loads of soldiers. One had grabbed her by the hair, and they were going at her with sticks. Of course I was hardly conscious of what I was doing—in this kind of situation there is no room for thinking. It is a sense of humanity. So I threw my bag to someone behind me and ran. I ran to her, wanting to throw myself onto her and shield her even a little from the beating. It was clear they were beating her for more than five or six minutes. Before I had even reached her—the soldiers split the party—some moved in to attack me and the rest continued with her.
So before I could reach her, I was hit with the baton on my head—it cracked it open. Needed four stitches. I got beaten with the batons on every inch of my head—they really do a good job of that. And of course my arm here, and my leg, my back and my behind. I mean, very severe beating. Then one soldier said, “Get her—that is the one who has been cursing all day. We want her.” He grabbed me by the hair, in an incredibly painful way. He started swearing at him and threatening me. Then began the kicking and beating, with sticks—there must have been around ten soldiers hitting me all at once. They started with their boots—and you know their boots are really heavy, I think the heels are made of iron, probably because they are used in the desert or something. And so with his boots he would kick me right here and pull my hair. Finally he said, “take her inside.”
So on the way in, everyone in your path hits you. They use some long contraption that looks like a whip, but it is made of plastic—it disfigures you, not just injures you. And of course the insults, you know, beyond your imagination. When I fell—I do not know, maybe you can still see the mark it left—one of them stepped on my face. And when I fell they also started kicking me in the chest. So they took me inside. But in the interest of fairness, one of the soldiers that were beating me—I guess he must have felt something and pitied me.
So after fifteen minutes or more of abuse, inside the Parliament he finally said, “enough.” He took me inside. One of the masked men that had been outside, was now in there. I did not recognize him of course—he recognized me. He said, “Welcome! It is you.” Of course I could not process this at first. He said, “I was the one outside, with my face covered.” I kept quiet. He said, “So you are a revolutionary, then!” and I said, “Yes.” He swore at me, using an incredibly filthy word. He said, “Aren’t you the one who was swearing at us? Today I will show you whether or not I am a man. Tonight I will have a party just for you.” He said “I am a Sa’idi [from Upper Egypt], I will not let you go, you are not getting out of here. Today, that is it, you are mine.” And indeed, he actually made it a point to everyone else standing around, that I was his.
He called himself Hossam, of course I do not think that is his real name. He slapped me across the face. Ongoing insults, and threats. Threats, I mean, of a sexual nature. I would have no problem with threats of execution. We are out there knowing we might die any minute. It is not the end of the world. But for me as a girl, sexual assault, I mean, that is the last thing, the absolute last thing a girl can take. A respectable general came in, dressed in a suit, I think there must have been some pressure outside the parliament. He said, “People, do not worry, do not be afraid … anyone who does not need stitches or treatment, will be released.” Of course my head needed stitches, but all I could think of was that I needed to get out—no way I could stay in the same place with that person. I said to him, “General, sir, I am telling you, you need to personally see to it that I get out of here.” The masked soldier suddenly took the general aside and spoke to him privately. After they spoke, the general completely ignored me, and the soldier returned to threatening me—“Don’t stand in front of me, go to the back,” he said.
Then Dr. Ziyad came in, from the field hospital, to take everyone out—so he decided to escort the girls out first; there were seven of us. So I whispered to him, worried he may not notice me, and told him the soldier was keeping me from leaving. I had to whisper because they were beating up anyone who talked. So I whispered to him, and he noticed. And he went to the soldier and said he would take all of us, but the soldier said, “No – this one, she will not leave.” So the doctor persisted and decided to speak to the general. He told him, “I am not leaving without all of them,” and the general of course reassured him, saying “Of course, they will all get out.” It became clear that it was a political charade—people needed to get out, that’s it. So the doctor told the soldier that his superior, the general, said everyone should be let go. And so the soldier told me, “No problem, you will get out, but I am going to shoot you.” A clear, sound threat in front of everyone, that “if I find you outside the gates, I will shoot you. I am a Sa’idi, and I will not let you go.”
So this is how it went for me. I do not know if I can talk about other people. But there were plenty of others, fairly respectable people, I do not know his name but for example an engineer—they planted a piece of hash in his wallet! I mean, poor guy, they planted a piece of hash in his wallet. There were situations worse than mine, I mean one situation, if you are not moved by it, I mean—this other person. One person who looked fairly destitute, his head was cracked open, bleeding. I mean clearly needed nothing short of divine intervention. He was pleading with them, saying, “Give me strength Prophet Muhammad. I did not do anything.” And there he is, being beaten and cursed. It really moved me. Someone who had not done a thing, and he was just seeking God’s help.
Of course the other girls who were with me, some of them, one had her eye smashed. Another was bleeding from her nose and was hysterical; it was clearly her first time with them. I mean she may have been out there once or twice but looked fairly inexperienced, she kept shaking and bleeding. And there was Nour. Ayman Nour, who was also beaten, sworn at with the dirtiest language, by the same masked man, saying things like, “You are not a man” and so on, using other incredibly low and obscene language. Alaa Abdel Fattah’s sister was with us as well, and he told her, “What does your Mom do?” and she told him, she is a professor. “And your Dad?”—an engineer. And so he would call her “you daughter of so-and-so.” I mean, the kind of insults! It is just—inhumane treatment. So we finally went outside with Dr. Ziyad. We were under the generals’ protection. They must be trained in morale upkeep—after their rank and file destroy us, they come out with this “good side.”
Fairly well-known activists could have been released because of negotiations. But the people that are completely unknown—I call them “heroes outside the spotlight.” And they really are heroes. Do not think we are heroes, we are not. When one guy in his undershirt is being disparaged for looking like a thug, and he is in the frontlines trying to rescue a girl. And he says, “You are an educated person, I am done for anyway,”—that is a hero. An unsung hero. These people are seriously left behind, and I do not think they will be released. Not unless we find out who they are and there is real pressure. Without that they will not be released. Because yesterday, were it not for the pressure from outside, they would not have released anyone. I am sure of that.
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