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tv   Damming The Nile  BBC News  February 28, 2018 3:30am-4:00am GMT

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"humanitarian pause" failed on the first day. the un says it hasn't been able to deliver any aid to the rebel—held area, and airstrikes have continued. both sides in the syrian civil war have blamed each other. president trump's son—in—law and senior adviser, jared kushner, has had his white house security clearance downgraded. he won't any more have access to many sensitive documents. through a spokesman, he's said it won't affect "the very important work he has been assigned by the president". the storm nicknamed "the beast from the east" has swept across much of europe, with record snowfalls and temperatures as low as minus 20 celsius, bringing many cities to a standstill. at least seven people are reported dead since monday — five in poland, two in romania. now on bbc news, our world.
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welcome to egypt. enticing images of timeless hospitality and ancient attractions. a pictu re—postca rd view the authorities are keen to promote. but there is another egypt — a military—backed regime where dreams of freedom have been crushed. and this is the approach to dissent. in the last few minutes, the police have been using tear gas and they've been using live rounds. i've been the bbc‘s correspondent in egypt for the past four years. i've tracked the escalating crackdown on the streets. gatherings like this are few and far between. gunfire. and i have witnessed peaceful protesters being targeted. this way. i've never seen a regime as bloody as sisi's regime. a regime where growing numbers simply disappear. this regime is based on terror,
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and torture is one detail of that. press freedom is under attack. much of the brutality goes unseen. this is a story the regime would prefer us not to tell. it all looked so different seven years ago. 30 years of authoritarian rule. or so they hoped.
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but the new dawn didn't bring a vibrant new democracy in the heart of the middle east. now, the square feels like a place of lost opportunity. well, standing here in tahrir square seven years on, there is really nothing to indicate that this was the cradle of an uprising, that it was here that the people toppled an autocrat. the monument is bare, no list of names of all of those who were killed, and that's just the way the authorities want it. it's as if the revolution has been erased — and along with it, the hope it brought. the former military strongman hosni mubarak wound up behind bars. he was succeeded in 2012 by the islamist mohamed morsi
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of the muslim brotherhood — egypt's first democratically elected president. yells. but morsi, too, was jailed after a divisive year in office. he had been ousted injuly 2013 in a military coup that had mass popular support. the coup was led by the army chief, general abdel fatteh el—sisi, who went on to be elected president a year later. critics say he has presided over an unprecedented assault on human rights. i came to cairo on sisi's watch, as history was being rewritten. those hailed as heroes of the revolution were being treated as enemies of the state. like alaa abd el—fattah, one
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of egypt's best—known dissidents. he is seen here out on bail. the blogger and human rights campaigner is from a prominent away and deactivated. i met alaa abd el—fattah in april 2014. he had already been charged, and he talked about how much worse things were than before the revolution. when you were confronting mubarak, hope was a material thing — like, you could almost touch it, you know? and so, it was very easy to feel that it was worth it and people were taking these risks without feeling any kind of despair.
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right now, it is very looking bleak. alaa abd el—fattah was a leading light of the tahrir protests. articulate, secular, a software developer, used to paying a price for speaking out. he was jailed or threatened with arrest under all of the recent regimes here. and when his son was born, he was in prison. abd el—fattah was accused of organising this protest. the demonstrators appeared peaceful. the authorities were not. protests are effectively banned. i was in court to see him being convicted.
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others came forward to say they planned the protest. he still got five years. another member of generation jail. his fractured family go through the motions without a much—loved son, husband and brother. human rights groups say there are thousands like them in egypt, families of political prisoners. his sister mona campaigns against civilians being tried in military courts. his mother laila has been an activist for decades. in this household, dissent is the family business. but mona says the struggle
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for change is now harder than ever. the level of bloodiness is beyond anything i've ever heard or experienced. and the way they have managed to desensitise people towards death, to belittle the value of people's lives, to make people get used to death sentences, to forced disappearances and abduction, to torture, to torture victims, this is becoming daily news. her brother has another year to serve, then faces a further five years on probation with stringent conditions. in this tightly—knit group, the empty space at the table is keenly felt. these days on the streets, there is no clamour for reform.
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many are struggling to get by, and grateful for relative stability. and plenty prefer not to raise their heads above the parapet, with good reason. well, there is something that you can't see here, but you can feel — and that's fear. it's been increasing during my time here. people who would have been ready to speak on camera two or three years ago are too frightened to do that now. in the last few weeks, we've looked into many cases — disappearances, torture, people whose loved ones were killed in custody, and those families were too frightened to appear. they tell us they're afraid another loved one will be arrested if they do. those who end up in custody can expect the harshest treatment — torture is nothing new in egypt,
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but my sources say it is now routine, nationwide. mahmoud mohamed hussein has first—hand experience of the latest torture techniques. we first met a year ago, when every step was a reminder of the abuse he suffered. he was held without trial for more than two years. he says the only reason he was arrested, aged just 18, was because of his t—shirt. the slogan reads, ‘a nation without torture‘. now 22, he's struggling to rebuild his life, but could still be tried for attending a banned protest and joining a terrorist group — charges he denies. despite the risks, he wants to tell the world his story.
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aren't you afraid that by speaking out like this that the authorities could come after you again? others also want their words to be heard, but feel unable to appear on camera, like another young man i met who described being subjected to every kind of abuse. he gave us a detailed, credible and disturbing account. he identified the police station where he was interrogated and tortured. he said he was beaten, blindfolded, stripped, kicked and electrocuted. and later, in his words, he discovered there was something worse than electrocution — he was raped with a stick. torture victims used to have one refuge. one place to go for support.
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the al nadeem centre in cairo. for over two decades, staff provided rehabilitation. but last year, the authorities moved in and forced the centre to close its doors. its co—founder, a psychiatrist, says the prevalence of torture is the worst she's ever known. i have worked in this field since 1993, and i have been hearing about this field since my university years. what i have been seeing, and what my colleagues at the centre have been seeing since 2013, is unheard of. it was never, ever that bad. so how widespread would you say the practice is now? as widespread as the country. what would you say to government
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officials here in egypt who deny there is torture? you are liars. i would say, you are liars. i would say, you know there is torture because you practise it. what can i say? and i would say that there will come the day. maybe i will not witness that day, but there will come a day when those people will be brought to justice. butjustice can be elusive for anyone ‘hidden behind the sun'. that's what egyptians call those who vanish from the streets and are held in secret by the state. most are islamist, but anyone opposing the regime is at risk. human rights campaigners say enforced disappearances
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are a trademark of the sisi era. they've documented at least 1500 cases in the past four years. but they believe the real figure is much higher. most of the disappeared emerge weeks or months later in custody, facing terrorism charges. but some remain hidden. like this man's brother, who has been gone sincejuly 2013. abdel moneim metwaly says his brother, amir, was an engineering student who disappeared at an islamist protest aged 22. he tells me witnesses saw him being taken away
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by the security forces. the years of fruitless searching since then have been a torment for his family. their father, ibrahim metwaly, a lawyer, has been fighting a lonely battle for egypt's disappeared. he founded an association for families of the victims. last september, he set off for geneva to address a united nations working group on disappearances. but at cairo airport, he to joined
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the ranks of the disappeared, and was later discovered in jail. the lawyer is now being held here, in the forbidding tora prison complex in cairo. his family says he has been tortured. across town after nightfall, a journey to yet another broken family. we're on our way to see a mother who has a truly terrible story to tell. we've been in touch with her over the last few, weeks and we've arranged to sit down with her tonight. she lives in a suburb out near the pyramids so we're headed there now. this is zubaida, a student of 23 who wants to open her own business. her mother says that she and zubaida
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were arrested near a demonstration in 2014, and convicted of offences including attending a banned protest. she says they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and spent seven months injail but were later acquitted. she tells me that in 2016, zubaida was detained again at a police checkpoint, and disappeared. she was dumped by the roadside after 28 days, a changed girl. but her legal papers show the anguish did not end there. as zubaida was struggling to recover, she disappeared for the second time last april. her mother says neighbours saw her being taken by armed and masked police. she seeks comfort now
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in zubaida's bedroom. and in mementos from the past. zu baida's treasured keepsakes are just as she left them, waiting for her return. her mother refuses to give up hope,
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refuses to be silenced. we wanted to ask the authorities about her zu baida's disappearance and the other cases in this report. we approached the interior ministry, the foreign ministry and the state information service. no—one was prepared to be interviewed. in the past, the authorities have told me there is no systematic torture. but if mistakes are made, officers are punished. they have also denied there are enforced disappearances and widespread human rights abuses. on the banks of the nile, there's little hint of change. egypt looks locked in the past. elections are coming,
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but president sisi doesn't need to worry about the outcome. several potential challengers have been intimidated out of the race. many here are concerned about security amid bomb attacks by the so—called islamic state. president sisi says he is waging war on terror. but human rights campaigners say he is using that as a pretext to wage war on dissent. having been here for overfour years, i know a lot of the problems that egypt is facing. there are real economic issues. there are serious security threats from islamic state. but this is the most populous country in the arab world, and if egypt can't steer a course towards real democracy, that's a problem for the middle east and it's a problem for the west. and i'm leaving here with questions.
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how long before all of the repression here starts to backfire? and how many more prisons can the regime fill? the coldest snap this winter season is likely to continue this week when there is more snow in the forecast. snow has been falling in the form of showers but particularly in north—east england, they have pretty impressive snow depths and they are likely to get bigger. the forecast tomorrow will be more travel disruption and a significant wind—chill.
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this icy front has been coming across from siberia, across northern europe and driving these snow showers across the north sea into eastern areas and some have been pushing west as well. during the start of wednesday, it looks like most of the showers will become confined to northern areas and eastern scotland. an amber warning remains in force for the eastern side of scotland the central belt of scotland and to north—east england, where there will be five to 15 centimetres. widespread in some areas and we could see more than that on the high ground. there could be significant disruption through the course of wednesday morning. through the central but scotland and north—east england. further south, more in the way of sunshine but it will be a very cold day. today will be the
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coldest of the week. factor in the wind as well and it will feel more like minus five to maybe —10 celsius. so, bitterly cold. on thursday, this low pressure which has been named storm emma by the portuguese weather service will move from the south. full of moisture as it bumps into the cold air across the united kingdom and is likely to turn to snow. initially in southern counties of england, south west england to wales as we head through the course of thursday. there will be further, heavy snow showers across the eastern side of the country, particularly north east england and eastern scotland. two amber warnings by thursday afternoon, one across the northeast and this new one across the south—west and snow will be heavy, prolonged and disruptive. another very cold day in store, looking at gale force south—easterly winds which will make you feel very cold indeed. on friday, snow showers continuing across the
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north—east of the country. this band will move slowly northwards bringing heavy falls to cause significant disruption. welcome to bbc news broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories. 400,000 civilians remain trapped in eastern ghouta, as plans to suspend fighting for a ‘humanitarian pause‘ fail on the first day. a blow to team trump as the president‘s son—in—law and senior adviser, jared kushner, has his white house security clearance downgraded. europe‘s big freeze continues. record snowfalls and temperatures as low as minus 20 celsius bring many cities to a standstill. and shaping popular culture with classic films. we pay tribute to director lewis gilbert, who‘s died aged 97.
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