For the eyes of Egypt

For the eyes of Egypt

The eyes of activists and cameramen are being increasingly targetted. Are these intentional efforts to silence those who speak out?
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An Egyptian protestor wounded in the eye on November 20. AFP image.

Worrying attacks have been carried out during the latest spate of violence in both Egypt and Syria against cameramen trying to document the revolutions.

In spite of the distance between the crime scenes, the targeting shares the same context and inflicts the same injuries on victims. 

On November 20, Syrian authorities kidnapped Farzatt Yahya, a Syrian cameraman. They plucked out his eyes before killing him and then threw his mutilated body on the street in the dead of night.

A day earlier, a sniper bullet penetrated the eye of Ahmed Abdel Fattah, a cameraman for Almisri, while he filmed protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

Since November 19 more and more Egyptian journalists reporting on the ongoing unrest in different parts of the country have been assaulted by police. More than 10 journalists, reports said, were injured in the security clampdown, many hit in the eye.

Ahmed Abdel Fattah is currently receiving treatment in Cairo’s international ophthalmology hospital. His bed is next to the activist and blogger Malek Mustafa who was hit in his left eye by sniper fire in Tahrir Square on November 19.

The same hospital hosts activist Ahmed Harara, who was injured in his left eye on November 20. He had lost his right eye during a protest in Tahrir Square at the beginning of the year.

Another bullet claimed the eye of Ahmed Fiqqy, editor-in-chief of Radio Hoqook,  while he was covering events at Tahrir Square on the evening of November 21. A statement by the radio said: "He is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Cairo. Doctors are not sure if he will regain his sight as before, or if they will be able to get the bullet out of his head." The statement added that six more journalists at the radio were injured in the same protest.

'Are these just random acts of violence?'

The question that springs to mind following these incidents is whether the targetting of cameramen has become part of a policy to hide the truth, or are these just random acts of violence?

Abdel Fattah posted picture of himself and activist Ahmed Harara at hospital via his Twitter page. Underneath the picture, a comments reads: "I, Malek and Harara form the revolution alliance of the one-eyed."

Abdel Fattah called upon people to come and visit Harara, saying: "I derive my strength from Harara who is lying on his bed next to me. He lost his right eye on January 28 and was injured in the left eye November 19. Please come and visit him to get a better idea of the true revolutionary and the true revolution."

"Ahmed Fiqqy is a secure eye sacrificed for the eyes of Egypt", Abdel Fattah said of his colleague's injury.

On November 28, the Doha Centre For Media Freedom (DCMF) sent financial assistance to Fiqqy for medical treatment.

The DCMF Emergency Assistance team has also been in contact with Abdel Fattah. In a twist of fate, he had been expected to conduct a training session organised by the DCMF in Doha, which began on November 28.

'I felt that something had penetrated my eye'

During an interview on Egyptian television, Malek Mustafa, related what happened to him. "I was on my way with some friends to help protesters who were reportedly injured and left unattended. We were in contact with some of them and were told that some of the protesters were injured in the legs and couldn't walk.

"I was in the forefront and as I tried to come closer to the injured I felt that something had penetrated my eye and heard a gun fire. I lost my balance for a second but I was back on my feet trying to find my way to the hospital. I had to go to the hospital because I saw that people around me were deeply moved by my injury and didn't want to distract them from caring for the injured."

Online reports say eyewitnesses were able to spot a sniper targetting cameramen from a rooftop overlooking Tahrir Square. Although not confirmed, these reports say the sniper was specifically aiming for the eyes of cameramen.

Whether or not that is true, it certainly is the case that all cameramen, bloggers, journalists and activists attacked, killed and humiliated in the line of duty can't be accidental.

All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2013

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