The disappeared: In Egypt, hundreds of political activists have been abducted by the security forces

Der Spiegel reports: A paper sun hangs on the wall, and the dresser is covered with bottles of nail polish in all colors. The woman who used to inhabit this room, who has been in the hands of the government for the past three months, seemed to have a fondness for ladybugs. There is a stuffed animal ladybug on the bed, and a rug in the shape of a ladybug on the floor. “Her friends called her the ladybug of the revolution,” Duaa El-Taweel, 22, says of her sister, who has disappeared.

El-Taweel says her sister Esraa was restless and constantly on the go, taking pictures wherever she went. The walls are covered with patches of dried adhesive. “We took down the pictures,” she says, explaining that anyone depicted in them is in danger. El-Taweel pulls letters from her sister out of a cardboard box. They were folded to make them as small as possible, so that they could be smuggled out of prison. “I was blindfolded for 15 days,” El-Taweel reads from one of the letters. “I felt as if I were in a grave. It was so bad that I prayed to God to allow me to be resurrected. But I couldn’t kneel down. They kidnapped me on the last day of my period. I couldn’t wash myself for 17 days.”
Esraa El-Taweel, 23, a sociology student and freelance photographer, was abducted on June 1 of this year — not by criminals or a terrorist organization, but by the police in her own country.

More than four years after the Egyptian revolution, the government headed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is cracking down on unwelcome journalists, former revolutionaries and, most of all, Islamists. In the name of fighting terror, laws are enacted that limit freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In some cases, government forces are breaking the country’s laws, in what sometimes feels like a retaliation campaign against those who drove out former dictator Hosni Mubarak and believed in democracy.

Young people are being detained — on the street, at work and at home. They are interrogated without arrest warrants or access to an attorney, and their family members are kept in the dark about their whereabouts. There were occasional cases like these already under Mubarak, but since Interior Minister Magdy Abdul Ghaffar came into office in March, the police are disappearing scores of people, especially members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the new regime collectively treats as terrorists. Human rights activists believe there are up to around 800 such cases in Egypt today. [Continue reading…]

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