Human Rights News

Testimony From "In a Time of Torture"

I. Yehya (not his real name), nineteen years old, was one of thirteen men arrested and tried for homosexual conduct in Cairo in 2003: police tapped the phone of a suspected gay man, then rounded up all those who “incriminated” themselves in conversations. He told Human Rights Watch:

….I didn't know what what was happening. They never asked me any questions at the police station. I had to sign a blank paper. There was nothing on it. They beat me to get me to sign it. Two officers beat me, and one held a jackknife in front of my face and threatened me with it. I was crying all the time. …  
 
They took me downstairs to a holding cell in the basement. The guards were hitting me all the way. It was underground and I found the other twelve in this case down there. They were handcuffed together. They had been hit. All of them were bloody and bruised. … They were blindfolded with the dirty socks of the guards. They had all been kicked and slapped and beaten. I wasn’t blindfolded for some reason so I could see. [1]  
 
Held in the police station for weeks, Yehya said,  
 
There were three changes of shift every day. Every one, the guards came in and beat us. They beat one of us on the face till his nose was bloody—I think it was broken. They made us lie on our stomachs on the floor and walked on our backs. It was an officer and two guards. They always slapped us on the back of the neck, and kicked us. The thirteen of us were singled out. At first we were kept in isolation, for about fifteen days. They cleared out a cell in the women’s section and put us there, because they said were women, not men. …  
 
They beat us also with a branch from a palm tree, and with canes. With every change of shift! When they beat us in the cell they turned our faces to the wall. They would say before coming in, “Faces to the wall, khawalat [faggots],” or “Face down on the floor,” so that when they came in we couldn’t see who was doing the beating.  
 
….When I was found innocent I went to the Security Directorate in Giza to finish my papers. I was beaten there with a belt and a whip. I was told, “You are a khawal, you fuck each other, you got out because of connections but we know you are a khawal and you will pay.” One of the officers took a gun and put it to my head. He said if this was an Islamic country he would have killed me, but since it wasn’t, he couldn’t.  
 
II. Gamal (not his real name) was one of five men arrested for homosexual conduct in 2002 in the Delta city of Damanhour. He told Human Rights Watch:  
 
They wanted me to confess to being gay and to name other gay people. Cigarettes on my arms. I still have the marks. Electricity: telephone wire around my arms and my penis. At the police station we were tortured every third day, with two days in between. There was fifteen minutes with the electricity. They took telephone wire and wrapped it around my fingers, my toes, my ear, my penis. It was connected to a kind of telephone they cranked up by hand to produce the shocks and it was like death.  
 
There were beatings, sometimes before, sometimes after that. They kept your hands cuffed behind your back and your legs tied, or in shackles. They would pull down your pants and strip your upper body and beat you with plastic sticks. …  
 
One guard [after the five were convicted and sent to Damanhour Prison] was the most evil among them. He hit us with plastic sticks. He filled tubs with frozen water and dumped us in it or splashed us with it. …Did he treat us worse than the other prisoners? Oh, yes. There were others who were the scum of the prison, who were beaten and insulted, but he treated us like the servants of the scum of the prison. We were the lowest of the low. Such misery you cannot imagine. He would open our cell at night as we were sleeping, and come in and slap us. I had religious booklets to console me. He told me I was too filthy to deserve them, and took them and tore them up. The beatings happened every day. The baths in ice water happened almost every day for weeks.  
 
He took me several times to Cell Seven. There the worst criminals were kept with the longest sentences. He told them: “Here’s a khawal. Take him for entertainment.” Something like twenty-five prisoners raped me. They would fuck me three or four times each, sometimes, while they beat and slapped me.  
 
I stopped eating and drinking. It was not a hunger strike. I simply wanted to kill myself. There was no glass in the cell, nothing to cut my wrists or throat with. I had no other way. …