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Egypt: The Story of Sounilla

Little did American student Sounilla know what he was walking into when he saw two students from his university standing in the middle of a Cairo Square and decided to walk towards them, pointing his camera in their direction. Out of nowhere, the security forces pounces on them, snatching them from the square, into a car and the threat of possible jail.

Egyptian blogger Ahmed (Ar) tells us the story of Sounilla, a 23-year-old student from New York, in Egypt to study Arabic poetry at the American University in Cairo.

sounilla.jpg

Ahmed writes:

سونيلا شاب أمريكي من أصل هندي،يحمل ذراعه وشما واضحا يحمل كلمتي “لتعيش الانتفاضة”.. ذهب صبيحة يوم الاضراب للجامعة الامريكية لمتابعة محاضراته ،وبينما هو في طريقه للجامعة عبر ميدان التحرير وجد زميلتيه سارة عبد الرازق وسارة اسماعيل تقفان وسط الميدان وتزدردان خبزا رديئا من الذي تنتجه مخابز الحكومة المصرية،ثم تلقيانه علي الارض كنوع من الاحتجاج،توجه سونيلا بكاميرته الديجيتال نحو زميلتيه ليتقط صورة فوتوغرافية،فانقضت عليه قوات الأمن واقتادته نحو ميكروباص علي ناصية شارع طلعت حرب.

في الثانية عشر والنصف ظهرا تحركت السيارة الميكروباص وتجولت بهم حواليَ القاهرة مارا بشارع صلاح سالم والدراسة،وحين احتج سونيلا موضحا :”أنا أمريكي”..رد عليه الضابط “اخرس”!

حاول سونيلا الاتصال بالسفارة الامريكية ومديرة برنامج المنحة التي يدرس بموجبها في مركز دراسات اللغة العربية في الجامعة الامريكية،توالت الاتصالات وأبلغه موظف بالسفارة :”أرجوك ابتعد عن التحرير الاوضاع غير مستقرة بالمرة”.
يقول سونيلا:”جن جنون الضابط حين علم برغبتي في الاتصال بسفارة بلادي وقال لي سألقيك من علي الكوبري إذا فعلت هذا”.

Sounilla, an American citizen of Indian origin, has a obvious tattoo on his arm which reads ‘Love Live the Intifada.’ On the morning of the April 6 strike, he was on his way to the American University in Cairo to attend his classes. While crossing the Tahrir Square, he saw his colleagues Sara Abd El Razak, and Sara Ismail, standing in the middle of the square throwing bad bread, baked in the National Egyptian Bakeries. So Sounilla walked towards his colleagues with a digital camera to take a photograph. Suddenly, the Security forces came and arrested him, dragging him into a small microbus at the corner of the near by Square of Tala’at Harb.

At midday, the microbus started moving down different streets. Sounilla told the officer on the bus: “I am American,” to which the officer replied: “Shut up!” Sounilla then tried calling the American Embassy, and the fellowships officer of his Arabic language studies scholarship, but an employee at the Embassy said: “Please get away from Tahrir Square, the situation is very volatile there.”
The police officer was enraged when he knew and warned Sounilla saying: “I will throw you off the bridge if you called the Embassy.”

يضيف سونيلا : اشتبك معي أحد الضباط بينما يستجوبني ويطالبني بذكر بياناتي،وعمد الي استفزازي أكثر من مرة،قال الضابط :لم تشارك في مثل هذه الأعمال..إنت مالك؟ فقلت له :حكومتكم سيئة وتظلم الناس..فرد الضابط حانقا :لا تقل هذا الكلام..الحكومة جيدة..فنظر له سونيلا وقال :لا تنتسي أنك من الشعب ولست من الحكومة!
فصمت الضابط،يقول سونيلا:”سكت الضابط العنيف ولم يرد علي بينما لمحت علي الشرطي الذي أخذ بياناتي أمارات التعاطف..لكن علي أية حال تم حرماني من كاميرتي الديجيتال التي التقطت بها الصور”.
هدد أحد الضباط المشرفين علي عملية الاختطاف سونيلا بالقاءه في الصحراء،بينما وعد إحدي النساء بتوصيلها الي منزلها،يقول سونيلا :”ما يحد ث يشي أن الحكومة مضطربة ومرتبكة جدا وتحاول عبر هوس أمني بغيض السيطرة علي مقاليد الامور بأي ثمن”.

Sounilla adds than one officer assaulted during the investigations, and continued to intimidate him more than once. The officer asked him: “Why do you take part in such events.. what is your business?” I replied: “Your government is bad and is unjust towards people.” The officer replied angrily: “Don’t say such words, the government is not bad..” So Sounilla told him: “You are from the people, not the government!”
The harsh officer was silent, while the other kinder officer showed some sympathy. Then then confiscated Sounilla's camera, the one he took pictures with. One officer threatened him to throw him to the desert, while he promised a woman there to drive her home. Sounilla added: “What happened shows a disturbed government, very disturbed that it tried through its security mania to control everything at any cost.”

Ahmed continues:

كان سونيلا مرهقا وجائعا للغاية حين التقيناه لكنه كان مقتنعا بما يفعل بصورة تثير الدهشة،علق سونيلا :”لقد شاركت في تظاهرات في الولايات المتحدة،لكن الذي حدث هنا في القاهرة هو اختطاف رخيص علي طريقة العصابات ولايمت بصلة لجهاز شرطة يفترض أنه يحمي الناس”.
تركوا سونيلا في حوالي الثانية ظهرا وحين حاول أخذ أرقام السيارة الميكروباص التي اختطفته،لكن الضباط نزلوا وهددوه وتوعدوه،قال لهم سونيلا :”إذا أردتم القاء القبض علينا فاقبضوا..لكن لا تخطفونا علي طريقة العصابات”

Sounilla was exhausted and hungry when we met him, but he commented: “I took part in many demonstrations back in the United States, but what happened in Cairo is cheap kidnapping the gangsters’ way and has nothing to do with a Police system that is supposed to keep people safe.”

They released Sounilla at around 2 o’clock, and when he tried to take the number of the car, the officers threatened him again, so he finally told them: “If you want to arrest us, then do that. Just don't kidnap us like gangsters.”

Photo credit: Mohamed Ali El Dien

1 comment

  • Tarek Ali

    Poor Sounilla, all this happened to you only for taking some shoots to your friends. How courageous of you, saying frankly to the idiot policemen that our government is notorious. What surprises me so far is despite the fact that you are holding the most powerful passport on earth, they kidnapped you, and tried deliberately to fear you on the famous Arabic way. However, looking through all what happened to you, really I cannot comprehend the abandonment of the American Authority in Egypt to one of their citizens on foreign lands. Is there not diplomatic rift because of that? What going on Egypt is a complete anarchy and the last breeze of the government figure. They are so terrified in such a way that they arrest people arbitrarily without making any sort of distinction. It implies that they are feeling their end and at that point there will not be mercy! They are like the wounded bull that attacks randomly and put himself probably even in more vulnerable situations. What happened to you should be publicised internationally, just to show the world that in Egypt there is no freedom and the only thing prevails is dictatorship. The international media does avoid deliberately speaking about the mess which is happening to the Egyptians, for the sake of whom, really I don’t know!

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