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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Sally Sami

Interviewed January 5, 2011

Khaled Saeed– [Khaled Saeed was a young Egyptian who was beaten to death by Egyptian security forces in 2010. His death helped rally opposition to the Mubarak government.] I wish I had known him before he died. I feel like, had I known him, we would have been friends. Khaled Saeed is a young man living in Alexandria who was either in an Internet cafe or in front of an Internet cafe, when two civil-clothed police officers came over and asked for his ID, and he refused. So they dragged him out and started beating the hell out of him, basically.

Smashing his head on a marble stairway inside a building in front of people until he died. He was later taken by a police car and then returned and dumped again in the street, until an ambulance came and picked him up. His parents were told that he swallowed a bag of narcotics and choked to death. The images of Khaled Saeed´s post-mortem, post-death, did not reflect someone choking at all. There were injuries all over his face.

Obviously his jaw was broken, head injury, blood basically, coming out. And it wasn´t the story to be sold, basically. Whether he had a bag of narcotics or not, that wasn´t the case. The case was that he was beaten in front of people, and police thought that they can get away with it by just telling his parents and everyone that he just swallowed a bag of narcotics and choked to death, and they were trying to save him. When the Khaled Saeed case came out to the public it was a picture of him next to a picture of his face after he died. That was quite shocking for many people.

For me personally I could see my brother being in this situation. I could see so many people I know. His face resembled many people I know. And I took it personally. For me, Khaled Saeed was a personal case. And I think it was personal for many people. But he´s not the only case in Egypt. This is the beauty, and Khaled sparked a movement– there was a movement against torture in Egypt for years, even during the terrorism years when human rights defenders were calling for fair trials and against torture.

There has been so many organizations and very brave human rights defenders who have been fighting torture in Egypt and, as a result, putting themselves at risk. And we´ve been through phases of torture with very difficult to bring to the public. Culturally, it was more or less accepted. It suddenly became a person. I think that´s why it became a personal issue to everyone. Khaled Saeed is truly– we are all Khaled Saeed in many ways. And thus we are all vulnerable to being beaten, tortured, abused, having fake cases fabricated against us. All of this is a possibility in a country where under a regime and under a minister of interior who was becoming more and more arrogant, more and more audacious. Impunity was becoming a matter of fact, whether we liked it or not.

There was no shame. There was no way– there was no attempts to cover it up, even, and justify it in a way. After the Khaled Saeed story leaked out, immediately, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that he choked, without any investigation or anything, and that even drove people more insane. Like, this is a complicity in the crime. There was one protest by human rights defenders that was held in front of the Ministry of Interior. It was attacked. There were people who were arrested and beaten. And then the “We Are All Khaled Saeed” Facebook page came out. And suddenly, young Egyptians who have never been involved are involved.

Everyone in Egypt going down peacefully and giving their back to the streets, looking at the Nile or over a bridge, wearing black, just silently saying no to torture and impunity. And I think this was the beginning, with of course, other issues, any other things like El-Baradei coming to Egypt. Khaled was not an activist. Khaled was just a normal young Egyptian, middle class Egyptian.

He might have had his mistakes, but he was a living being, and a lovely one who was loved very much by his mother who, until now, suffers, but has been doing an amazing job pushing for this case and even for other cases of torture or unjust killings. And he, and we, as Egyptians, we all deserve justice. And this shouldn´t have passed. The fact that a young man was just killed like that simply because he resisted being arrested is just unacceptable.