He was told he would be electrocuted if he uttered a single word.
As time went by, the beatings became more severe. “If I were to speak of this day, they threatened to take photographs of me naked, and publicize them,” the activist and journalist popularly known as the blogger 3arabawy told The Caravan.
During interrogation, El-Hamalawy was tied up and repeatedly asked who gave him orders, but he would only respond by saying that he wanted a lawyer present; the beatings intensified.
“I was deprived of sleep, and when I accidently fell asleep while standing, I got a wakeup call in the form of such a strong kick that it would knock me to the ground,” he recalls.
El-Hamalawy, an economics alumnus, was active on AUC campuses since his sophomore year in 1996. He was always involved in protests and was affiliated with groups that supported Palestinian and Lebanese resistance against Israel.
El-Hamalawy’s ordeal at the hands of State Security started on October 8, 2000, when he was kidnapped from the street while driving with his girlfriend heading toward Giza. Two cars cut him off. At the time, “[he] thought they were thugs, but as soon as [he] saw their guns [he] knew they were a part of State Security.”
El-Hamalawy, who was pursuing an MA at AUC at the time, was then taken to LaZoghly State Security headquarters where he spent four days in a cell with 18 male relatives of suspects believed to be waging a jihad against the Egyptian government.
His mother called left wing lawyers to look for him. “The second day I had been in the investigation bureau, I grabbed a phone from a random guy and called my mother and my girlfriend and told them my location and to get me a lawyer.”
When the lawyer went to the State Security office in Heliopolis and asked for him, he was told that they had no one by that name; El-Hamalawy, however, was being interrogated at the time.
“[That day] I went out from the prosecutor’s office demanding and yelling for a lawyer because at the time there were dozens of Muslim brotherhood members who were being questioned during investigations. I grabbed a random lawyer and demanded that he call my mother and he confirmed my detention.”
During his detention, El-Hamalawy was accused of being a homosexual from AUC. They taunted him and told him that they “controlled” AUC.
Four days after his nightmare started, El-Hamalawy was released.
“When they took off my blindfolds for the first time inside [detention], the first person I saw was Hesham Abu Gheida, who was the State Security General of Cairo.” Abu Gheida told Hamalawy he would be released on the condition he not stir trouble; his family was made to pay EGP 1000 bail.
El-Hamalawy left detention vowing to campaign to end or suspend the Central Security Apparatus and State Security’s reign. But he never forgot the taunt that AUC was in the grasp of State Security.
In 1999, Ashraf Kamal, a former State Security official, became the head of security at AUC. El-Hamalaway says that Kamal remains part of the State Security apparatus and that many on campus are aware of this relationship. He also said that the university was infiltrated by a number of State Security agents.
In an exclusive interview with The Caravan, Kamal confirmed that he had been a State Security official for 24 years before coming to AUC.
He says he was responsible for securing US citizens in Egypt, looking after their visas and also facilitating the renewal of residency permits for foreign students.
However, while he denies that he remains a State Security member to this day, he admits that he has used his good relations with the apparatus to secure the release of AUC students who were detained in previous years.
“Hossam El-Hamalawy’s words are just accusations with no base. I don’t know why he is saying that,” Kamal says.
He added that he helped to secure El-Hamalawy’s release after he was arrested.
“I engaged with the State Security through the phone to release him.State Security are all my friends and colleagues, because I have experience with them I know who to contact on specific cases,” Kamal said.
Kamal added that when an AUC student is in trouble with State Security, he intervenes to win their freedom.
“Because I tell them he is my son and he is a good person. All the state security officials now were my students,” Kamal says, “so they have to respect my word. They take my word into consideration because I have experience and worked there. I tell them he is a student, and because I know the arrest procedures are wrong, the person who did the wrong procedures is going to be afraid of me. So they [comply] so I don’t [anger them] and because I know how to hurt them and make them release him.”
Kamal denies having any knowledge that El -Hamalawy was tortured while in detention and denies that any State Security agents operate on campus.
“It’s very recent [that there has been] corruption in State Security; when I was there, there was never torture; it was State Security and not the regime’s security [apparatus],” he says.
El-Hamalawy, however, will have none of it.
“I don’t want to hear the stupid discussions that are going on these days,” he says. “They argue that there were good people inside [State Security], that not all people were tortured, but this false. This is an agency that specializes in torturing and harming people, surveillance and monitoring our every move.”
“State Security agents destroy lives, rape people, murder people, and anybody affiliated with this agency, must be prosecuted.”
He believes that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s government is unwilling to entirely dissolve State Security but is actually in the process of restructuring it. “You cannot make a sweet drink out of rotten fish,” he says.
[This interview was conducted prior to the storming of the State Security headquarters in Nasr City. Hamalawy maintains that his criticism of Sharaf remains valid today]