Egypt: Utilizing Technology to Demand Accountability on Torture, Police Brutality

The unfortunate emergency law in Egypt suspends personal rights and gives security forces unlimited power to unlawfully arrest, interrogate, and persecute anyone with unfavorable views. Perpetrators of police brutality and torture often go unpunished, but Egyptian bloggers and and tech savvy youth are not standing idly by.

Photo documenting police brutality courtesy of Torture in Egypt blog. Used under a Creative Commons 2.5 NC-ND license.

The Torture in Egypt blog acts as a hub for individuals and initiatives concerned with torture and police brutality. It offers the latest news and reports, videos, victim testimonies, court records, case documents, NGO statements, confessions of retired high ranking police officials, and links to books and papers covering the topic. It also offers to help any human rights researchers and activists and provides them with resources that inform their work.

A recent tragic incident ended up with death of Khalid Saeed, an Egyptian citizen who was beaten to death in Alexandria by two police officers. Egyptians were outraged and heavily organized online demanding that his killers be held accountable for their acts. Bloggers penned dozens of posts, a Facebook page was created, and Twitter users tried to get Saeed's name to trend on Twitter in an attempt to raise awareness. Several protests were organized, including a silent protest outside the Ministry of Interior demanding justice. This pushed political parties to issue official statements on the matter. Many blogs still carry a banner reminding the readers that anyone of them could be the next Saeed.

Wael Abbas, the blogger and activist behind Misr Digital, made a name for himself by publishing leaked videos of instances of torture committed by police officers, some very graphic in nature. Abbas has also live-streamed protests from the streets of Cairo. He often publishes documents and images exposing corruption or forgery. His worked has earned several international awards and TV appearances on Al Jazeera and BBC. He was recently named as one of the 100 most influential Arabs by Arabian Business Magazine.

Interactive Torture Map

Other remarkable uses of technology include a Flickr photo pool named Piggidpedia موسوعة الجلادين, which contains over 250 photos of police officers, some of whom are accused of having committed breaches of human rights. The group is managed by a number of Egyptian bloggers, and all contributions and images are open to the public. provides an interactive custom map of torture reports in different locations in Egypt. It also allows users to report on any new instances of torture in an effort to provide a visual representation of these abuses. This also makes it easier to search for various torture and brutality crimes committed in any given location or city in Egypt.

These bloggers, activists, and techies have managed to use freely available tools and online services to internationally embarrass the Egyptian government and pressure it into action against those abuses. By doing so they have set a shining example for organizations and individuals working on promoting transparency and accountability in the MENA region, and around the world.

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