Inside a filthy police van near Al-Azhar University an officer points to a fragment of light shining through a tiny opening: “See this bit of sun?” he asks Amena Yasser and the 16 other young men and women inside. “We’re going to put you behind it and we’ll see if you ever see the light of day for the rest of your life.” According to the Egyptian colloquial expression, when you put a person “behind the sun” it means they will disappear.
It is 24 December, 2014 and 17-year-old Amena has been protesting against the removal of elected President Mohammed Morsi outside Egypt’s oldest university. But just moments into the march state forces stormed the campus and attacked demonstrators with live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. Amena was pounced on by a “thug”:
“He grabbed a wooden stick filled with nails and hit me really hard on the leg,” she tells MEMO. “I fell and he grabbed my hand. He and my friends pulled me back and forth for a few minutes and he beat us until I said to him: ‘Stop beating us. Take me and stop the beating.'”
A security officer bundled her into the van and Amena was taken to Nasr City police station where she was confronted with an exhausting list of charges: attacking an officer and stealing $36, setting fire to the university, illegal protesting, affiliation with a banned group, terrorising students, burning trees, preventing students from taking their exams, and posessing and using weapons.
Amena believes the real reason she was arrested is because she stands up for what she believes in: “I defend the truth and confront unjust tyrants. They are dogs and they want the people to be obedient, be silent, eat and sleep. Nothing else.”
Whilst Amena has now been released, there are still thousands of other young Egyptians languishing behind bars. It is hard to know the exact figure because neither the government, the prison authorities, nor the prosecutor general’s office provide statistics; but the human rights organisation Alkarama estimates that at least 3,200 children have been detained since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi as part of a concentrated effort to silence those who speak out against the coup.
As part of this sweeping crackdown, last year Egyptian President Al-Sisi introduced a decree to allow individuals accused of damaging public infrastructure to be tried before military courts under which basic due process rights, independence and impartiality are even worse than those held under the authority of civilian judicial authorities.
Observers consider the decree to be a ruse for targeting peaceful protests against Sisi – which have been ongoing since 2013 – because the decree states that demonstrating undermines public order and public infrastructure. “Children are part of the community. Tyrannical regimes are the only regimes that make every effort to thwart any protest movement, even if children under the age of 18 participate,” Alkarama’s Egypt researcher Ahmed Mefreh told MEMO.
For More: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/20291-inside-egypts-child-torture-chambers