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“Torture Is Part Of State Policy” In Egypt

July 2, 2015

Karim Hamdy was arrested at his home and turned up dead in a police station less than 72 hours later.  This photograph circulated widely on Twitter.

Karim Hamdy was arrested at his home and turned up dead in a police station less than 72 hours later. This photograph circulated widely on Twitter.

“Violence and torture are inversely proportional to the expected reaction when the case is publicized.”

That’s a quotation from psychiatrist Aida Seif al-Dawla, founder and executive director of the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture.

Her interview with Lina Attalah, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Mada Masr, appears in the latest edition of the Middle East Research and Information Project on-line under the title “‘A Beast That Took a Break and Came Back’: Prison Torture in Egypt.”

Here are a few excerpts:

After the June 30, 2013 protests calling for an end to the Muslim Brothers’ rule, torture increased. But the public stopped wanting to see it, and started to label accounts of torture as lies. Some opted instead to acknowledge that torture is happening—and to endorse it. This is the major difference from before. The state will always oppress, but it is no longer so important for the state to hide its crimes of torture as it was in the past.

Sympathy with torture survivors is conditional.

Torture is part of state policy. The state is not content to refrain from stopping torture. There are laws in place to limit a tortured citizen’s ability to get justice.

the state doesn’t function as a servant of society, but as a proprietor of it.

The article, published July 2, comes one month after the publication in MERIP of an article about people recently tortured to death in the Cairene district of Matariyya.

The article by Amira Howeidy, entitled “Matariyya, Egypt’s New Theater of Dissent,” begins with the story of Karim Hamdi, a 27 year-old lawyer, was tortured to death in February evening inside the Matariyya police station

It ends with the tale of engineering student Islam ‘Atitu, who was killed May 17.

According to the Interior Ministry, he was slain in a shootout at a desert refuge in the outskirts of Cairo.

But ‘Atitu’s supporters have evidence showing that far from hiding out in the desert, he sat for his final exams at ‘Ayn Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering on the morning of May 17 until he was seized and placed in a car by unknown men.

Both cases were so glaring that they became media sensations.

As a result, two police officers are to be put on trial July 28 (originally scheduled for June 6), and the Homeland Security section of the Interior Ministry has announced an investigation into the circumstances of ‘Atitu’s death.

The cases are significant because they gathered media attention and came to court, while most do not. But few expect any outcome other than acquittal of police and officials.

As Dr. Seif ad-Dawla says, “it’s very hard to get a criminal case filed. That has to go through the public prosecutor, who is a political figure and has the right to accept or refuse the case. If he refuses the case, the prosecutor is not required to explain why, and his decision cannot be appealed unless new evidence emerges.”


Al-Ahram. 2015. Egypt adjourns trial of officers accused of torturing lawyer to deathAl-Ahram On-Line, June 6.

Attalah, Lina. 2015. “A Beast That Took a Break and Came Back”: Prison Torture in Egypt. Middle East Research and Information Project July 2.

Howeidy, Amira. 2015. Matariyya, Egypt’s New Theater of Dissent. Middle East Research and Information Project June 4.

Kouddous, Sherif Abdel. 2015. Who Killed Islam Salah al-Din AtituForeign Policy, 18 June.

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