January 30, 2012
by Shahira Amin
Ten months in a tiny prison cell with padded walls and flickering lights have done little to alter 26 year-old Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil’s views on the military government running Egypt in the transitional phase. Instead, his confinement appears to have only strengthened his resolve to continue the fight against what he describes as a “corrupt regime” that he hopes, will soon be toppled.
Maikel was released on the 24th of January after the military rulers announced they would pardon 1959 political detainees (who had faced military tribunals) ahead of the first anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. The move was seen by skeptics as an attempt to appease a public that has grown increasingly weary of heavy handed military rule. Maikel had been charged with allegedly “spreading rumours about the army and insulting the military establishment” but insists these were “trumped up charges” to punish him for publicly criticising the military in his blog posts.
Leading a protest through the streets of downtown Cairo on Saturday, Maikel chanted anti-military slogans and beckoned to fellow Egyptians on the street to join the rally. “Are you not Egyptian?” he cried. “Have your rights not been violated?” Scores of young activists — many of whom had themselves been subjected to torture and abuse at the hands of security forces — chanted after him. Their cries of “Down with military rule!” and “Yes, we dare to chant against the military” were met with nods of approval from pedestrians and commuters, some of whom signaled a thumbs up in agreement.
Earlier in a press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate, Maikel shocked journalists with a graphic account of his jail experience. He recalled having endured verbal abuse and mockery by prison guards and interrogators, being forced to watch fellow convicts being tortured and having had chemicals sprayed up his nose and drugs infused in his meals in attempts to manipulate his thinking. Maikel was then transferred to El- Abbasiya Mental Health Hospital for checks on his sanity. Doctors had resisted pressure from authorities to declare him psychologically unstable for refusing to stand trial, he said.
Samira Ibrahim, a protester who had been detained and subjected to a forced virginity test on the 9 March for camping out in Tahrir Square joined Maikel’s march from the Journalists’ Syndicate to Tahrir Square. She challenged the military council, filing a lawsuit against military rulers for humiliating checks performed on 17 female protesters by a male doctor in the Cairo Museum grounds. She lamented that despite a ruling by a Cairo Adminstrative Court in December declaring an end to the practice, “attempts are underway to change the charge from rape to indecent assault.”
Meanwhile, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Saturday to commemorate the “Friday of Rage” — the worst day of violence in last year’s mass uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. The biggest rally was held on Kasr El Nil Bridge, scene of last year’s bloody clashes between security forces and pro-democracy activists.The protesters demanded justice for the victims and their families, vowing to continue the revolution until their demands are met.
Joining the Kasr el Nil protest, Maikel warned the revolutionaries that their struggle against the military dictatorship must continue “lest the revolution be aborted and they all end up behind bars.” He and the other activists pledged they will not rest until the military returns to the barracks, handing over power to a civilian government.