Surveillance made in France
November 25, 2021
“Happy birthday” greetings pour in on Ahmed Alaa’s phone. On October 1, 2017, sitting in the back of a taxi in the small town of Damietta, Egypt, the student, who has just turned 22, sends out emojis and text messages to his friends. Suddenly, a man knocks on the window: “Identity card!” Plainclothes officers surround the vehicle, walkie-talkies in hand, pull him out roughly and take him away in their van. Destination unknown. “For a second I thought it was a prank”, he tells Disclose. “I didn’t think I could ever be kidnapped like that, in the middle of the street”. He was imprisoned, without any form of trial.At the time, the regime accused him of posting a photo on the Internet of himself under a rainbow flag, the symbol of the LGBT community, at an underground rock concert in Cairo on 22 September. A photo that went viral on the web in Egypt led to the young man being accused by the regime of “immorality” and belonging to an “illegal group”. After 80 days in detention, he was released without further explanation, physically and psychologically broken. He packed his bags and fled the country for Toronto, Canada, where Disclose met him to talk at length.
Sitting in the Canadian living room of friends who are refugees like him, he recalls the events. The official media broadcasting his face over and over again on TV, the threats on social networks, and then the few days in hiding in a small town far from Cairo, where he thought he was safe. “When the police arrested me, I soon realised that my phone had been tapped and my social network activity monitored. No one can escape them… ”
In Egypt, arms giant Dassault, a subsidiary of Thales, and the company Nexa Technologies sold a mass surveillance system to the dictatorship of Field Marshal Sisi. With the blessing of the French state.