Posts in English

Before pointing fingers

Two deplorable acts of violence occurred in the past two or three days against a priest who was stabbed to death in Assiut and a house owned by a Bahaai family was set alight in Sohag. The details of both events are still not known, yet people started to point blame.

Translation of a video testimony of a protester shot by the police on the 28th of January in Cairo

This a very quick translation of this video testimony that was sent to me. I think it is very important and moving.

The video is slightly graphic near the end.

My name is Mohammed el-Faramawy

I joined the marches on the Friday of Anger on the 28th of January. I had a first aid bag on my back, I took it with me to Tahrir square to treat the injured, at around 1 the army entered.

We were near the Shoura council and the army asked us to let a group of anti-riot policemen, they told us the policemen were afraid and we should let them pass so they can join other policemen near the ministry of interior so they can retreat and go back home as a group.

We made a cordon, so they can pass safely. They passed while we greeted them. As soon as they reached the other end, their police officer gave them ammunition and order them to shoot us in the back. They started shooting at everyone.

I ran, I ran with a colleagues and hid in Shoura council. We entered and security told us to hide in there and not to be afraid but from across the other end of the council someone related to the ministry of interior pointed his gun and told us to run away right now and leave or he will start shooting. We told him that they are shooting live ammunition and if we go back we will be shot.

He said I'll kill you and started shooting. We all ran away.
While running a police officer stopped us and told us to raise our arms and give him our backs. He had a shot gun. Suddenly, while giving him our backs I saw the man in front of me with a hole in his back and he dropped down dead in front of. He was martyred.

Afterwards, I tried to run away. A bullet entered my left hip. I fell to the ground and all my fellow protesters fell on top of me, exactly like dominoes or chickens falling on top of each others.

Torture and police, what now?

AlJazeera English Inside Story aired a 25 minutes interview with psychiatrist Dr. Ahmed Okasha, Hisham Safie Eldin a former police officer and Wael Omar a film maker about torture and the relationship between people and the police.

The program showed some footage of police officers and policemen protesting in the past few days. But didn't interview anyone from El Nadim centre for rehabilitation of victims of torture, which is the only centre in Egypt that worked in psychological and medical rehabilitation of victims of torture and police violence, documented incidents of torture through tens of publications and provides legal aid n(I worked there for 3 years).

Not even anyone from any human rights organisation who may have worked with victims of torture was interviewed.

This made the program overlook many aspects of why torture is systematic in the country and didn't mention any of the reports of torture in the hands of the military police that are being reported in the past few weeks.

Dr. Okasha attributed the problems to lack of trust between people and the police due to the previous practices of the police in the past. And that some officers enjoyed the torture as a form of sadism. He also went on saying that torture is enjoyable to torturers because of opiates released in the brain and so on.

360 degree panorama of Tahrir square

Not an amazing quality since it's done with a cheap point and shoot camera and poor lighting. You can blame the Egyptian army that deleted a better set of pictures from my camera a couple of days ago.

You can view a larger version here.

الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام

Deluge of news. This time it is very big.

Yesterday, young people were defiant despite the ban on protests. A thousand or more appeared from no where on the streets of downtown after every attempt to disperse, beat and arrest them by the police and police hired thugs.

Photo by Sarah Carr

Zaha Hadid's Cairo Expo City will destroy Egypt's largest and most important Mental Health Hospital

UPDATE Wed. Dec 29, 2010:The Supreme Council for Antiquities announced today that building housing the Abbaseyya Psychiatric Hospital will be listed as an Islamic heritage site.

UPDATE Mon. Apr 18, 2010:
The designs changed on Zaha's website to include the hospital. Thanks to Luiz for the tip.

Original post:

Award winning Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid will help the Egyptian government destroy Egypt's largest mental health hospital, the Abassia hospital situated in the middle of Cairo, to build something called Cairo Expo City.

Cairo Expo City

Opened in 1883, after a fire consumed a number of royal palaces except for one that was painted yellow and named the Yellow Palace (el-Saray el-Safra) it became Egypt's first modern hospital for the mentally ill.

Now it's in an area of 28 hectares and has around 3000 beds, offers almost all major psychiatric sub-specialities and an outpatient and emergency psychiatry services. The hospital serves around 60,000 patients each year.

Old street sign written on it 'the hospital of the deranged street'

History of PTSD in Google Books database

Train accident in 1875 Sweden

In the 19th century, with the development of railway transportation, train accidents became a frequent source of death and serious injury.

Some of the victims claimed injury following an accident without a visible pathology. Jon Eric Erichsen, a British surgeon, in 1867 published a book called On Railway and Other Injuries of the Nervous System in it he argued that an unseen physical injury to the spine and brain caused the condition `railway spine.'

Railway spine was a concept that rooted the illness to the body and not the mind thus making it more legitimate and avoided stigma of mental illness.

Later, work by Jean-Martin Charcot, Piere Janet and Freud established the idea that overwhelming events can cause mental disorders.

Before WWI the terms “soldiers’heart,” “war neuroses” and “general nervous shock” were used to refer to the psychological casualties of combat. During WWI the term “shell shock” became widely accepted as it avoided the term hysteria. During World War II the U.S. military used the term “operational fatigue” or more often “combat fatigue.”

The new Kindle


LCD screens on your flat-screen TV, laptop or phone are direct descendants of the cathode-ray tube TV. Difficult for prolonged reading. Although recently I read around 400 pages of a textbook on my laptop, I had to, it was difficult and wasn't an enjoyable experience. The last time I enjoyed reading a book on an electronic device was using the Palm PDA. I think the Amazon Kindle is a direct descendant of the Palm PDA, real paper and the Etch A Sketch combined. Perhaps other ereaders as well but the Kindle supports the palm doc format and it's more recent incarnation the .mobi format.

Kindle sunset

I won't go into the technical specifics of the new Kindle but I want you to know how electronic paper works. The display is simply formed of tiny barrels each filled with black ink and a small sediment of titanium dioxide at the bottom. When an electric current passes through; the titanium dioxide particles rise to the top where you can see it as white pixels. The pixels, however, can't be seen unless you use a magnifying lens. It's wonderful, if you have a pdf with nice calligraphy you'd be happy just by looking at it.

The Kindle is slightly cheaper and has better Arabic support than all other ebook readers. Arabic PDFs of all kinds appear perfectly and the Webkit browser displays Arabic webpages. However, it doesn't show Arabic text files or mobi files.

Kindle arabic

A 210 year old map of Cairo on Google Earth

Bibliotheca Alexandrina is hosting an interesting site called Memory of Modern Egypt which contains scans of photographs, documents and maps from 1800 till now.

Psychology at the Science Museum in London

The science museum in London has interesting items on display in the Psychology: Mind Your Head exhibit. Unfortunately, not all of them are on the website so here are some I photographed.

A skull showing phrenology markings with a device used to measure the features of a head for phrenological interpretation. Phrenology was a radical idea developed by Franz Joseph Gall in the 19th century. He said that different mental faculties like memory, sensation and instincts can be interpreted from the different features of a person's skull. It was against the religious thought at that time as the Catholic church refused the idea that the mind and it's faculties can be localized to physical structure i.e. the brain. Phrenology became very popular in Britain in the mid 19th century and it was used to compare the superiority of colonialists compared to the 'savages'. Now it's a pseudoscience.

Another phrenology related instrument.

The first world war introduced to psychology the idea that extreme stress could cause mental disorders. This was called war neurosis or shell shock. But before this realization it was considered cowardice and some soldiers in Britain were executed. Some of those who weren't executed were given an electrical shock in the back of the pharynx in an attempt to treat their hysterical behavior. Pictured above a Faradic battery that was used to apply the shock. Now the modern concept of shell shock is known as posttraumatic stress disorder.