By: Hani Bushra
This is my testimony about the attack that I suffered in downtown Cairo on October 9, 2011:
I began to hear on the TV and on twitter that things were escalating in the Maspero area, and so I called a friend and we decided to go to Tahrir Square. We took the metro and we were there by 8 p.m.
When we arrived in Tahrir Square, I could smell the tear gas in the air, and some people were running back from Abedl Moniem Reyad square towards Tahrir. I and my friends went ahead and walked to Abedl Moniem Reyad square, where there was a battle in rock throwing between some people on our side, and some people coming from Ramsis Hilton towards Tahrir.
I separated from my friends, and I went ahead with the rock throwing people. I got hit by a rock thrown by an army soldier who was throwing rocks from the Ramsis Hilton side. The rock throwing was done by army soldiers and civilians.
Our battle with them succeeded and we marched towards Maspero. The people marching were chanting “Christians and Muslims are one Hand” and I was leading them in saying that. I met with Alaa of manalaa.com and we continued to march towards Maspero.
The group was peaceful, and I was taking pictures using my Ipad. We reached the point where the 6th October bridge exits towards Maspero, and there was a large cordon of police who are members of the Central Security Forces (CSF). There, I was told not take pictures by people wearing civilian clothing and I fought back saying it was my right.
I began to walk back towards Hilton Ramsis, and suddenly 5 vehicles full of CSF soldiers showed up. People began to pelt them with rocks, destroying the wind shields, and the causing the drivers of the vehicles to panic, thereby hitting into each other and the sides of the road. I and some other people were trying to calm people down into not attacking the vehicles but the people were angry.
At that point, I was alone, and so I began to walk back to Tahrir. I was tweeting at that time. Someone saw me tweeting and came to me. He asked my name and so I said Hani Sobhi, he then grabbed my wrists to see if I had a cross tattoo, and when he did not find it, he asked for my full name. I said Hani Sobhi Bushra. He asked if I was a Muslim or a Christian, and I said that I was a Christian.
At that point he began to scream for others that he caught a Christian, and people began to gather. They wanted to search me and my bag, and I said that I will not let them, and that it was best to go to an officer. At that point there was about 30 people around me, with some of them punching me on my head.
I began to walk quickly to the cordon of the police that I had just came from. At that point, someone yanked my gold chain from across my neck and took the cross. All I did was to tell him “wow, you are such a man” and I clapped for him. That pissed the people who were with me, and so someone snatched my phone from my belt.
I kept shouting at the thief to give me my phone back, and he said that he will give it to me in front of the police officer. By that time, I was being hit from many people, my ankle was sprained and I was called a “Nossrani (Christian)” dog.
We reached the officer (rank of general), and the first thing that I did was to show him my U.S. passport and told him that I am now under his protection. I told him that I was attacked because I was a Christian. One of the men who is a policeman but wearing civilian clothing began to talk to the general that I was a Christian and that I institigated the mob to attack me and that I am carrying weapons in my bag. The officer, who had seen my passport, told him to shut up. This policeman in the civilian clothing seemed to be the coordinator between the mob and the police.
The general pushed me back behind the cordon of CSF soldiers, but I wanted to get my phone back, and so I went out again. The person who had stolen my phone was right there, and I told the general that I wanted my phone back.
As I was talking to the general, a group of policemen were around me, one of them was behind me poking my butthole with his stick. I turned around and said that if you want to fuck me in the ass, you should be man enough to fuck me in public. At that point the policeman in civilian clothing who had earlier clashed with me called me a liar, and the general once again told him to shut up.
I was assigned a young officer to protect me. My phone was gone, and they wanted to protect me until it was safe. I met two young officers, a first and second lieutenants, who were very respectful and were concerned for me. I told them that I hope that when they grew in their rank, they would always remain this professional. They were so nice that one of them let me use his phone so that I can call Happy and tell him that I was okay.
I mentioned that I was a Christian being attacked by a mob, and the officers told me that I should not mention that I am a Christian because they may not be able to protect me. This was in the midst of at least 400 members of the police! At that point, I was assigned two handlers to stay with me at all times.
I stayed with the CSF units and observed the following:
1) Four bodies in the lobby of an apartment building that the Egyptian ambulances could not carry because the blood was everywhere and because some of the bodies were in pieces. When I asked my CSF companions (we had became friends) about the bodies, they told me it was three Christians and one Muslim shot by the army and driven over using a humvee (yep, my tax dollars in action, btw, the U.S. gives two billion dollars a year as aid to the Egyptian military).
2) The members of the CSF were armed with live ammunition, and the order was given in front of me.
3) One of the CSF companions told me that he beat senseless a Christian man he arrested because it was said that this man was carrying a gun and shooting the people.
4) The army and not the police were the ones attacking the protestors. In fact, the police was not doing anything.
I was there for about two hours, and then suddenly a mob came to the police saying “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. They were not stopped by anyone but cheered by army units that were parked by the CSF cordon.
I used the confusion with this mob arriving and walked away from my handlers, towards Tahrir. I reached the Kasr El Dobra church, and there I saw another Muslim mob chanting “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. What shocked me is that an army officer with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel was organizing these mobs telling them that they should be the first line of defense and they will stand behind them.
At that point, Tahrir was full of people chanting “Christians where are you, Islam is here”. Someone came to me and said that it was good that I was safe. He said that he was there at the time of my beating. He said that the same mob that attacked me returned and beat two other people senseless because they were Christians. I am thankful that I did not end up in that way.
I connected with Happy at a place called Al Borsa, and was able to get home safely. I am safe, but I am saddened about what happened. This is not religious strife, this is state sponsored terrorism towards the Copts.