More than 20 Egyptian bloggers, who were on their way to pay their respects to the families of the victims of the Coptic massacre, were arrested when their train arrived in the village of Naga Hammady in Upper Egypt. They were released shortly afterwards and they are now telling us their side of the story.
Dr Mostafa Al Naggar, the mastermind behind the visit, is stressing once again the purpose of the trip:
نحن وفد شعبي من النشطاء والمدونين
نعبر عن انفسنا كمصريين وليس اي حزب او تيار او حركة
– ذاهبون لاداء واجب العزاء والربط علي قلوب اخواننا الاقباط وهذا الغرض الاول والاخير للرحلة اي رحلة انسانية
السفر الخميس مساءا والعودة مساء الجمعة
وبعثت بها لعدد محدود من اصدقائي المدونين ونشطاء حقوق الانسان وأكدت علي أن هدف الزيارة انساني محض وأننا لا نريد استعراضا اعلاميا
We are a group of Egyptian activists and bloggers who are not affiliated with any party or movement. We were on our way to pay our condolences to our Coptic brothers and pay our respects to the victims' families – this is the sole and prime reason for our visit. I invited a few of my blogger friends and human rights activists and we all agreed that this is a pure humanitarian visit not a media show.
Before the trip he got a call:
جاءتني مكالمة أخري من شخص مجهول : سألني انت د . مصطفي النجار؟؟؟ ، قلت له : انت مين؟ قال لي : مالكش دعوة انت جي نجع حمادي ليه احنا مش عايزين قلق ، الحزب عامل حاجة بكرة ومش ناقصة ناس مش من البلد ييجوا ..سألته أي حزب ؟؟ أغلق الهاتف في وجهي ، لم اتوقف معه قليلا وقلت في نفسي سيبك منه
I got an anonymous call; the caller asked if I was Dr Mostafa Al Naggar, I asked who he was, and he told me to mind my own business and told me not to go to Naga Hammady. He said: "The Party is organizing something tomorrow and we do not need outsiders." I asked him what Party he was referring to but he hung up and I did not bother with the call.
Upon their arrival, they were circled by the police and the following conversation took place between the officer and Dr Al Naggar:
اقتربت منه وسألته : هو في ايه حضرتك؟؟
قال لي : مفيش خلي زمايلك يركبوا بالذوق بدل ما نطلعهم احنا
قلت له : ليه حضرتك احنا عملنا ايه عشان كل دا ، احنا جايين نعزي وماشيين ؟
نظر لي باستخفاف وقال : تعزوا ؟؟ انتم مقبوض عليكم اطلع يلا
حالة من الذهول انتابت الجميع ، تسألني ماريان : هو في ايه ؟ أنا أصلا غير فاهم لما يحدث ، لا أجيبها
اقتربت من الضابط قلت له : طيب حضرتك سيب البنات تمشي واحنا هنطلع معاك
صرخ بي : انتو هتختاروا …يلا اركب كلكم جايين معانا
وركبنا جميعا سيارة الاعتقال التي ذهبت بنا الي مركز شرطة نجع حمادي ثم الي مديرية أمن قنا حيث تم حبسنا هناك في زنزانتين واحدة للبنات وأخري للشباب
I moved closer and asked him: What's the matter?
He said: Nothing! Just ask your colleagues to come on board before we force them to.
I told him: Why? What did we do to be treated this way? We are coming to say out condolences and we are leaving.
He looked at me with a smirk and said: Condolences? You are all under arrest! Move it!
We were all baffled and Marian asked me what was wrong and I was clueless.
I approached the officer and told him: You can let the girls go home and we will come with you.
He yelled at me saying: Do you think you have a choice?! You are all coming with us!
We were taken to Nagaa Hammady police station then transported to Qena governorate, where we were locked up in two separate cells; one for the men and one for the ladies.
To discuss the massacre and the unlawful arrests, Mahmoud Saber posted a link to his blog and on Facebook announcing the
مؤتمر المبادرة المصرية للحقوق الشخصية
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Convention.
Ahmed Badawy posted some pictures here and shared his experience saying:
كان فيه ضابط كل شوية يدخل مبتسم ابتسامة واسعة و يحكيلنا قصة سيدنا يوسف اللى قعد فى الحبس 7 سنين و ازاى الدنيا مليانة مآسى و مشاكل و حوادث و أننا لازم نستحمل من غير ما نعمل دوشة
There was one officer in particular who came to check on us frequently with a wide smile on his face; he used to tell us the story of Joseph
and how he was imprisoned for 7 years and how life is full of problems, accidents, and catastrophes – and that we have to bear its calamities.
Sherif Abdel Aziz blogged his testimonial:
عندما قررت الذهاب لنجع حمادي كان قراري نابعا من كوني ملتزما تجاه قضية الفتنة الطائفية وأسبابها وطرق حلها، وأني معني بها منذ انطلاق مبادرة (مصارحة ومصالحة – معا أمام الله ) … كنت أريد أن أعزي المكلومين الذين فقدوا أبناءهم وبناتهم في حادث بشع نعرفه جميعا ، وان اصافح ايادي اهالي الضحايا الابرياء واتعلم منهم شيئا جديدا في حياتي ، تخيلت نفسي وانا ذاهب الي الكاتدرائية التي حدثت امامها المذبحة المؤسفة والمؤلمة ، كنت اريد ان اشاركهم في الالم إن سمحوا لي بهذا وإن كنت اعرف ان ايا من افعالي او كلماتي لن ترجع من مات ولن تخفف الم الفقد مهما حدث …ذهبت لاقول لهم " انا مسلم ولا ارضى بما حدث"
When I decided to go to Nagaa Hammady, my decision stemmed out of the fact that I am fully committed to fighting sectarianism and its causes. I wanted to try to comfort the bereaved parents who lost their loved ones in a horrible incident. I wanted to shake the hands of the innocent victims and share their pain and sorrow. I know that nothing will bring back the dead but I wanted to tell them that I am a Muslim and I disapprove of what happened!
Wa7da Masrya posted a picture of the officer who arrested them and complained of his uncalled for rough treatment:
Meanwhile, Amira El Tahawi posted pictures from within their cell. They stumbled upon a graffiti signed by El Kamony, who happens to be one of the shooters in the massacre; it said
اذا كان الدفاع عن الحق جريمة فليحيا عالم الاجرام
If defending righteousness is a crime, then long-live the world of crime
Mohamed Adel (Ameed Meit), posted pictures of the bloggers upon their release and Amira El Tahawi posted a picture on Facebook that sums up bigotry:
The photograph is of two pieces of news from Al Naba'a Newspaper – one (left) refers to the Christians who died as "victims" while the other (right) refers to the Muslim who died as a "martyr."
Like everyone else, Sandmonkey is wondering What Happened There!
So, the government decided to finally release the detained activists on Saturday, and they arrived on Saturday night back to Cairo, unharmed and all. There was no beating, there was no torture, unless you count having to spend a whole day and night in a small room without anything to lay or sit on torture […] The next morning, the order for the release of the activists was made, and they chose not to tell them. They just left them there till noon, and then went and gotten them out of their cells, put them in Mini-buses, and sent them back to Cairo. They are all safe, sound and exhausted. They still got no explanation as to why they were treated this way, and they never got to reach the families of the victims to offer their condolences. Having muslims consoling the families of Christian victims of muslim hate-crimes, well, that's just too much of a risk apparently. It might lessen the hate or something, and we can't have that!