Magazine article New Internationalist

Children Swept Up in Repression

Magazine article New Internationalist

Children Swept Up in Repression

Article excerpt

The past year has been a tumultuous one for Egypt. The state has consistently made international headlines for clamping down on dissent.

Activist Maha Maamoun reports that children make up a growing proportion of those detained. 'Of 1,000 arrests on 25 January [the third anniversary of the revolution], 180 were minors,' she says.

In the year up to May 2014, the government has detained or indicted over 40,000 people, according to independent database Wiki Thawra. Protesters are treated as a comprehensive body, regardless of age. This has seen children have charges brought against them ranging from damaging property, assaulting police or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and, consequently, being accused of terrorism.

Maamoun says police do not inform parents, who often spend days searching for their child. Minors can wind up in police stations, Egypt's largest juvenile detention centre - the notorious El-Marg - or adult prisons.

'Some [adult detainees] sharpen spoon handles and make shivs [knives] to threaten or slash each other,' says 16-year-old Kareem*, who was arrested at a protest in November.

'There was no room to sleep on our backs; we had to sleep on our sides to all fit,' he recalls. 'We had to stay in the cell all day, every day. …

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