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Egyptians Seize Secret Police Files

March 10, 2011

What do Egypt, Guatemala and the former East Germany have in common? In all three countries, democracy and human rights activists discovered millions of pages of secret records belonging to former police and intelligence services and began disseminating them widely to draw attention to the repressive practices of the old regimes.

According to press accounts, on Saturday March 5 Egyptians opposed to the government of ex-President Hosni Mubarak stormed the headquarters of Amn Al-Dawla, the State Security Police, in Nasr City about 30 miles south of Cairo, to halt the apparent destruction of police and intelligence documents. Similar demonstrations took place at police offices in Alexandria and in the province of Sharkia, northeast of Cairo. Protesters seized thousands of records containing evidence of a wide-reaching campaign of surveillance, secret detention and torture targeting opponents to the Mubarak regime. In addition to intelligence files, many of them partially burnt in the attempt to hide the evidence of human rights crimes, activists say they found clandestine detention cells, compromising audio and videotapes of well-known Egyptians for use in blackmail, and instruments of torture, including devices used to apply electric shocks to prisoners.

The dreaded Amn Al-Dawla served for decades as a means of control and brutal repression for the Mubarak regime. Its headquarters in Nasr City was known by Egyptians as “the capital of hell” for the agonies suffered by those held in its secret prisons. Under Mubarak, thousands of Egyptians were kidnapped and tortured by agents of Amn Al-Dawla, and the institution was deeply involved in the country’s political life. “State security has never served to protect this state’s security,” one protester told ABC News. “Its real function was to protect the regime. The state security was never there to protect us. All they did was set their thugs on us and spy on us.” Protesters are now calling for the dismantling of the police force.

Activists involved in the occupation of the Amn Al-Dawla offices have written and posted about the astonishing discoveries they have made through Facebook, blogs, photo-sharing sites and Twitter. Hossam el-Hamalawy, who runs the 3arabawy Web site and blog, posted dozens of extraordinary photos and videos of the storming of Nasr City headquarters on March 5. Here are a few, with captions written by el-Hamalawy

Egyptians demonstrate against torture in front of the central office of State Security Police in Nasr City, before storming the building. - photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy

After storming the compound, Egyptian revolutionaries find their way to the archives room, where State Security kept files on citizens and activists. -- photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy

Protester carrying a batch of documents shredded by State security agents - photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy

Mostafa Kamel Attia (a.k.a mokatia) posted his own pictures on yfrog and twitterpic, tweeting as he participated in the occupation of the central Amn Al-Dawla offices, “Most people around me are ex-detained here at Amn Dawla, now they are celebrating, taking pics!” See his and others’ photos at #AmnDawla: on twicsy:

Egypt files - photo by Mostafa Kamel Attia

Egypt files - photo by Mostafa Kamel Attia

One of the best sources of information for the raiding of the secret police files is the Web site and blog of Zeinobia’s The Egyptian Chronicles:

“The mountain of shredded paper!” – photo by Tarek Al Araby

“PCs without hard drives!” – photo by Shady Anwar

“Religious Activities Group file” – photo by Pakinem Amar

Now that Egyptian citizens have seized the repressive archives of the Mubarak regime, they will need to spend years organizing and preserving them for future generations. Wikileaks has already offered to assist in the reconstruction of shredded documents. Archivists, document experts, preservationists, human rights activists and international lawyers need to find ways to offer support as the atrocities chronicled in the Amn Al-Dawla files begin to come to light.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Willard permalink
    March 11, 2011 12:55 am

    Wow, incredible photos! They so eerily look like the photos from the Guatemalan National Police Archives, especially Mostafa Kamel Attia’s photos.

  2. Priscila Rodriguez Bribiesca permalink
    March 11, 2011 1:55 pm

    Under the establishment regime, as a lawyer, I would never think that official files and documents could actually probe human rights crimes. This rule dramatically change when the so called “authorities” are no longer there.

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