Sunday, February 13, 2011
Cairo's street kids were duped into resisting the revolution, then shot by police in the chaos that ensued
By Robert Fisk
"......They are everywhere in the capital, the 50,000 street children of Cairo, Mubarak's shameful, unspoken legacy, the detritus of the poor and the defenceless, orphans and outcasts, glue-sniffers, many of them drug-addicted, as young as five, the girls often arrested and – according to the children and charity workers – sexually molested by the police.
Egyptian government statistics claim that only 5,000 beggar children live on the streets, a figure which local non-governmental organisations and Western agencies say is another Mubarak fantasy to cover up a scandal 10 times as big.
Children interviewed by The Independent on Sunday, however, have also revealed how Mubarak supporters deliberately brought children to the outskirts of Tahrir Square to throw stones at the pro-democracy supporters, how they persuaded penniless street kids to participate in their pro-Mubarak marches. Swarms of other children forced their way into the square itself because they discovered that the protesters were kind to them, feeding them sandwiches and giving them cigarettes and money.......
"They were told it was their duty – a national patriotic act – to throw stones at the demonstrators, to do violent actions," said an Egyptian doctor in Saida Zeinab. According to the same woman, many children were hit by police rubber bullets when they found themselves on the side of the pro-democracy demonstrators. At least 12 from this district alone were taken to hospital with wounds caused by police weapons.....
"It was just before Friday prayers and we heard the police were beating people in the street," he said. "I went out and saw lots of people throwing stones – so I started throwing stones at the police.
"Everyone was throwing stones, my family, every family, because everyone hated the police....
These children – often much younger than they claimed – sometimes avoided questions about police behaviour; they were obviously still afraid. Hostel workers spoke of policemen forcing female street children to sleep with them, even stealing money from the girls. Several children said that most of their friends were on drugs. One young man was clearly addicted and spoke almost incoherently of police violence, of carrying knives, of being repeatedly beaten in the Saida Zeinab police station by two cops, whose full names were given to The Independent on Sunday......"