Voices in Danger: A letter from an Egyptian photojournalist locked up in the ‘blackhole’

“I will be on the street again, recording... I miss my camera"

Share

Friday was declared “A Global Day of Action” by Al Jazeera as the trial began for their three international journalists. But within the walls of Cairo’s largest prison, Tora Prison, also sit neglected local journalists who have little hope of seeing the inside of a courtroom anytime soon.  Voices in Danger managed to obtain contact with the incarcerated 27- year-old freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abu-Zied, affectionately known as Shawkan, who was beaten and arrested by police during the Rabaa demonstrations in August. A source close to Mahmoud snuck out his written account from Tora Prison for this report.

Mahmoud was on the front line photographing the clash between the police and the pro-Morsi protestors.  “The atmosphere was like we were in a war,” writes Mahmoud as he recalls the fateful day of his arrest.  “Bullets, tear gas, fire, and a lot of police soldiers and tanks were everywhere.  My Lord!  I saw all these police forces with guns and many of them took over the Square.”   When he identified himself as a photojournalist to police, he was beaten and arrested along with fellow freelance photojournalist Louis Jammes, and Mike Giglio at 9 a.m. on 14 August.

“They [police] beat us shamefully, and then tied our hands and took all the equipment from us.  After that, they took us, and the protesters, in a prisoner’s car to Cairo Stadium.  Our group got divided up, and Louis and Giglio were released after 2 hours.  The rest of us remained at the Stadium the rest of the day.”

He was treated like a criminal, he says, and the police beat him “very shamefully” every three hours.  All other 47 prisoners were also systematically beaten.  He recalls how “the room was dark” while they beat him about his face, and all over his body. All the prisoners were hungry, afraid and expecting to die.

After three long days, police officers stuffed the group of 48 prisoners into a small dark blue van and abandoned them to the sweltering heat of the Egyptian sun without water, food or fresh air.  He recalls the intense feeling of fear, “ I felt like I was kidnapped.  I still live with this feeling.  Actually, it’s not a feeling.  I’m really kidnapped, and waiting for when I can go back home.”

 

( “I sit in its [sic] for 3 days long, they were the worst days I lived in my whole life.”)

When he reflects on the day of his arrest, he writes, “I was just doing my job.  Why are the authorities detaining me?”  Mahmoud stands accused of 11 charges, including possessing weapons, inciting violence and of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today, Mahmoud spends his days in Tora eating, reading and praying in what he calls,  “A blackhole, where all things are the same, and everything is black.”  But, he dreams of his release, and writes, “I will be on the street again, recording and shooting as a freelance photojournalist all the things that are happening on the street.  I miss my camera.”  He also has other plans when he is released: “I want to form a Committee that cares about freelancers, and them feeling more secure.”

From within the Istiqbal Wing of Tora Prison, Mahmoud signs off: “From the Blackhole, I send my greetings.”

In 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Egypt the world's third deadliest country for journalists. At least five journalists were killed and 45 assaulted last year, according to CPJ. Security forces raided at least 11 news outlets that year.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also include operat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A banner supporting the NO vote in the upcoming referendum hangs from the offices of the Greek Finance Ministry on Wednesday  

Greece crisis: The Troika’s inflexibility on austerity amounts to nothing short of an attempted coup

Caroline Lucas
Chancellor George Osborne will present his post-election budget on 8th July (Getty)  

Osborne’s Budget will touch on social reform – but he’s no Lloyd George

Donald Macintyre
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy