As a result of the mass demonstrations that took place in the great cities of Egypt, many people accused of supporting these political uprisings are suffering unjust consequences.
Political Prisoners of a Revolution is an ongoing project that explores the lives of Egyptians who had experienced extensive prison sentences for political views and/ or actions. Since the early days of the Egyptian revolution, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the strong arm of the Egyptian Military and now the prevailing Egyptian authority, has detained thousands of civilians without any access to lawyers and an opportunity to review the evidence against them. According to human rights groups, it is not clear how many people are behind bars in Egypt for political activities. Since assuming power the SCAF has failed to discuss several serious human rights problems in the country and in many cases has exacerbated them. The purpose of this work is to spark a profound engagement that gives viewers a more nuanced understanding of the military trials, harsh treatments, and the daily strife among women, men and children in Egypt, and for those who are still serving a jail sentence.
With the connections I had mad with many young people during the uprising in early 2011 and keeping in contact, I soon began hearing about the military trials that were unfolding months after the start of the revolution. It was then my research began. I came to realize that these human rights issues were being overlooked and felt a strong need to locate people who wanted their voices heard. In January 2012, I embarked on a personal project to shed light on this very sensitive topic and for the second time since the Egyptian uprisings began, I found myself in downtown Cairo. Not photographing protests nor demonstrations, rather searching for stories of individuals who had been captured or abducted by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and detained inside a military prison for being part of sudden uprisings following the revolution. Some victims I have encountered have remained in detention for up to a year, along with serious violations of their human rights, acts of torture, as well as sustaining inhumane living conditions. It also appears clear that a lot of these people were very young in age, not extreme protesters, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was abducted at the hands of the Egyptian military. There have been cases of Egyptian children abducted by SCAF and prosecuted through Egypt’s adult criminal justice and state security courts, where some have been sentenced for up to 15 years in Tora security prison, and young women who have been forced to take virginity tests which is an act of torture in itself. Additionally, families of loved ones absconded by SCAF without warning are also victims experiencing hardship, often provided with no information and who are awaiting a trial date for their child that determines a future sentence.
On February 5, 2012, I met with Dr. Rafeek, a 28-year-old doctor who devotes himself to injured protesters during the sudden uprisings. He was also a victim of military abuse where he was detained for 26 days and endured many acts of torture by the National Security. He was accused of interfering with government issues. Dr. Rafeek was simply helping the wounded and was seen as a threat by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. Dr. Rafeek helped me to connect with an Egyptian activist group working along side human rights who are against military trials for civilians in Egypt. They were instrumental in allowing me to gain access and information needed to locate people who suffered at the hands of the SCAF. My fixer and I would try to reach out to these people every morning to arrange a time to meet at their homes in Cairo, and as far away as Beny Sweif, which is about a six hour trek outside of Cairo. Finally reaching the destination their was always a fear of people talking and someone telling a local military officer that a journalist was there reporting on the issues. Quite often, I would be turned away at the door due to this situation. I continued this process almost everyday for three months.
This visual documentation aims to address issues such as social psychological scars, post-conflict experiences, feelings of abandonment, the transition back to normalcy and how individuals and families are coping with the hardships and the struggles for their rights in the ongoing aftereffects of the Egyptian revolution. Through these photographs, I attempt to portray and uncover the intimate stories of some of these people, provoke question, reach a wide audience and bring greater awareness about the thousands of detainees who are held behind bars in Egypt, unknown for weeks, months, and possibly years.
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(Fixer/Translator) Adel Marghany
(Against Military Trials / Cairo)