Both life and death prove cheap in Egypt

Cambridge PHD student Giulio Regeni’s death and torture are no surprise in Egypt

On Wednesday the 3rd of February, the world’s worst fears were confirmed when Giulio Regeni’s tortured body was discovered on the side of a road in Cairo. Yet another life was claimed on Egyptian soil under suspicious circumstances.

The 28 year old Cambridge University PhD student from Italy disappeared on the 25th of January, coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolution. Regeni was last believed to be meeting a friend but vanished amongst an unforeseen security crackdown in Cairo due to this anniversary. He was last thought to have been seen being arrested by police. His body would not be discovered until 9 days later.

‘inhuman, animal- like violence’

Giulio was found naked from the waist down with the tops of his ears cut off, the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano summarising that Giulio suffered ‘inhuman, animal- like violence’ even though Egyptian police merely dismissed his death as ‘a road accident’. Although cause of death, according to autopsy results reported by Ansa news agency, was a fracture of a vertebra in his neck from what is believed to be a violent blow, this is unfortunately not the only suffering that Giulio endured during his disappearance.

missing two nails, which had been torn off from a finger and toe

Italian doctors carrying out the post-mortem believe him to have been heavily beaten due to his many broken bones, they have found marks believed to be cigarette burns on his body, small stab wounds consistent with that of an ice pick, but also missing two nails, which had been torn off from a finger and toe. Potential signs of electrocution have also been noticed.

Some suspect that Regeni’s torturers and murderers lie with the Egyptian security forces, now ordered to assist Italian investigators. Regeni, using a pseudonym due to concerns for his own safety, was writing about Egyptian labour Unions and rights for the Italian Communist Paper, Il Manifesto. This is a current and sensitive issue in Egypt and coincides with the state’s increasing intolerance of any political opposition or confrontation.

Unfortunately, Egypt’s death count keeps increasing, and Regeni is one of many of potential victims of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime. He was not the first foreign national to have died suspiciously on Egyptian soil. A most recent example being the 8 Mexican tourists who were killed by Egyptian helicopter gunships when travelling across the Western Desert in September 2015. He was, however, the first to have had the brutality that the state can mete out to its population done to him, and Egyptian authorities appear startled by the international backlash.

It is clearly not only foreigners who suffer, however. A report published in December by Egypt’s commissions for Rights and Freedoms, counts that between August and November of last year, 340 people were forcibly disappeared by security forces, a lot of these people being victims of torture. That’s three people each day.

As Egypt’s death toll keeps growing, all we can do is wonder when this inhumane violence will end. How many more people will have to endure this torture? How many more people will die for disagreeing with Egyptian politics? It is poignant and horrifying to say that Giulio Regeni was one death of many, distinguished not by suffering but nationality. If nothing is done to counter this, his death won’t be the last.

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