After decades of living under oppressive dictatorships and economic stagnation, angry nations across the Middle East and North Africa started revolutions seeking change and democracy. Hosni Mubarak who lead one of the most durable regimes was forced to step down after 30 years of authoritarian rule as a result of the mass demonstrations that took place in the great cities of Egypt. Many people accused of supporting these political uprisings are suffering unjust consequences.
Since January 28, 2011, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the strong arm of the Egyptian Military and now the prevailing Egyptian authority, has detained thousands of civilians and held them without any access to lawyers or an opportunity to review the evidence against them. Further, the courts are not notifying families of those who are sent to Military trial. There have been cases of Egyptian children abducted by SCAF and prosecuted through Egypt's adult criminal justice and state security courts where some victims have been sentenced for up to 15 years in Tora maximum security prison.
Since assuming power the SCAF has failed to address several serious human rights problems in the country and in many cases has exacerbated them. According to human rights groups, it is not clear how many people are behind bars in Egypt for political activities. It also appears evident that a lot of these people were very young in age, not extreme protesters, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time or were abducted at the hands of the Egyptian military.
In January 2012, I embarked on a personal project to shed light on this very sensitive topic and for the second time since the Egyptian uprisings began I found myself in the heart of downtown Cairo. On February 5, 2012, I met Dr. Rafeek, a 28 year old doctor who devotes himself to protesters injured during the sudden uprisings. Dr. Rafeek himself was a victim of military abuse in early December 2011, when he was detained for 26 days inside C-28 military prison and endured acts of torture and abuse by National Security forces. He was accused of interfering with government operations. Dr. Rafeek was simply helping the wounded and was seen as a threat by SCAF.
Some of the victims I have encountered remained in detention for up to a year, along with serious violations of their human rights, acts of torture, as well as sustained inhumane conditions. Additionally, families of loved ones absconded by SCAF without warning are also victims experiencing hardship, often provided with no information on where their family member are.
My photographs are an attempt to portray and uncover the intimate stories of some of these people and bring greater awareness about the thousands of detainees who are held behind bars in Egypt, unknown for weeks, months, and possibly years.
Brian Driscoll is a documentary photographer currently based in New York City.