At one o’clock in the morning, after a day covering the protests across the Egyptian capital, I found myself in Abdel Munim Riyad square, a downtown traffic junction close to Tahrir, Cairo’s central plaza, which had been occupied by demonstrators for several hours. Egyptian security forces had just launched an attack on Tahrir and thousands of people were now pouring in my direction, teargas heavy in the air. A few hundred rallied in front of me on Al Galaa Street; spying an empty police truck in the road, several people began to smash it up, eventually tipping it over and setting it on fire. In the distance, riot police could be seen advancing from Tahrir. I called the news desk to report that violence was spreading; while I was on the phone the police began to charge, sending me and several hundred protesters running. A short distance away I stopped, believing it safe; a number of ordinarily dressed young men were running in my direction and I assumed them to be protesters also fleeing the police charge behind them. Yet as two of them reached me I was punched by both simultaneously and thrown to the ground, before being hauled back up by the scruff of the neck and dragged towards the police lines.
The men were burly and wore leather jackets – up close I could see they were amin dowla, plain-clothes officers from Egypt’s notorious state security service. All attempts I made to tell them in Arabic and English that I was an international journalist were met with more punches and slaps; around me I could make out other isolated protesters also being hauled along, receiving the same treatment. We were being dragged towards a security building on the edge of the square, two streets away from my apartment, and as I approached the doorway of the building other security officers took flying kicks and punches at me. I spotted a high-ranking uniformed officer and shouted at him that I was a British journalist. He responded by walking over and punching me twice, saying in Arabic, “Fuck you and fuck Britain”. Other protesters and I were thrown through the doorway, where we had to run a gauntlet of officers beating us with sticks. Inside we were pushed against the wall; our mobiles and wallets were removed. Officers walked up and down ordering us to face the wall and not look back, as more and more protesters were brought in behind us. Anyone who turned round was instantly hit. After approximately an hour we were dragged out again one by one.
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