The battered body of 19-year-old Tharwat Sameh was found dead on the Fayoum Desert Road, 130 kilometers southwest of Cairo on Monday. He had disappeared July 22 from the October 6th neighborhood, a suburb of the capital. His corpse showed obvious signs of torture: beatings, cuts, burns, and traces of electric shock.
His relatives had lost track of the young man Saturday morning, when Tharwat left the house without his cell phone. There was no news for more than 24 hours. Then an anonymous call came in to the family: They were told their son was a victim of a car accident and was in a hospital in Fayoum.
While the parents travel to the location, Sada al-Balad published the first news on the finding of the body of an unidentified young man, along with the horrible photos of the body. That’s how they find out about the tragedy.
According to the Egyptian outlet Madaad, the family explicitly accuses the state security apparatus of being involved in Tharwat’s torture and death. “How did they know it was him?” asks a relative, in reference to the anonymous phone call they received. The body was naked: no documents, no phone, no identifying signs. Only those who killed and threw him on the road could be aware of the identity of the young man.
“He is the Egyptian Giulio Regeni,” the activist Kamal Khalil commented on his Facebook page, echoing the hundreds of people who have been posting social photos of Tharwat’s body in recent hours, associating his death with that of the Italian researcher.
By coincidence, the Tharwat case has exploded right on the sad remembrance day. It’s been 18 months since the death of Regeni in Cairo on Jan. 25, 2016. But it is not the only tragic coincidence.
A note from Nova Agency reports that the director of the National Security in Fayoum (where the corpse was found) is Khaled Shalabi. Former Giza Police Chief Investigator, Shalabi is the same officer who at first attempted to muddle the investigations into the death of Regeni with talk of road accidents. The same one who, according to some reconstructions, first ordered agents to follow the Italian researcher and then seize him.
All this while in Italy, the attempts to clear the normalization of relations between Egypt and the return of the ambassador intensify.
On Tuesday, the work of the European Union-Egypt Association Council was resumed (after six years of suspension). Just in the very hours when the macabre details of Tharwat’s story emerged, Amnesty International appealed to Europe not to hide under the carpet the human rights issue for the benefit of economic, political and strategic interests.
“The European Union’s move to strengthen its partnership with Egypt shows a clear turn in its position,” reports Amnesty International. In the preparatory papers for the meeting, there is no reference to human rights violations, and specifically cases of forced disappearance (three to four cases a day), extrajudicial killings, widespread impunity for security forces, over 40,000 political prisoners and the repressive crackdown on NGOs and the press.
But if the rights have disappeared from the agenda, “Europe’s complicity is not limited to its silence.” Amnesty’s statement continues: “Half of the member countries continue to mock the export ban of weapons used for internal repression, selling such weapons to Egyptian security forces.” In short, the summit will be “a great victory for those responsible for abuses, which will pave the way for other violations.”
“They tortured him like Regeni” is the phrase bouncing around Egyptian social media recently, fueling indignation as the story unfolds. With the awareness that unfortunately, like Regeni, Tharwat will not be the first or the last of this tragic series.