Thousands of children that live in the streets of Cairo, Egypt, were brutally abused under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a Middle East correspondent recently wrote.
"They are everywhere in the capital, the 50,000 street children of Cairo, Mubarak's shameful, unspoken legacy, the detritus of the poor and the defenceless, orphans and outcasts, glue-sniffers, many of them drug-addicted, as young as five, the girls often arrested and – according to the children and charity workers – sexually molested by the police," Robert Fisk of The Independent said Sunday.
Fisk detailed a scene in which a Cairo police officer shot a 16-year-old girl at the peak of the mass protests that would eventually lead to Mubarak's toppling. The girl - Mariam - was with a hundred other homeless children attempting to obtain the release of her friend at a police station.
"She was taking pictures of the police on her mobile phone, but fell to the ground with a bullet in her back," he wrote, continuing, "The other children carried her to the nearby Mounira hospital – where the staff apparently refused to admit her – and then to the Ahmed Maher hospital, where the bullet was removed."
But her friend was not so lucky; after his release, Ismail was later shot dead by armed gunman.
Up to 12,000 homeless children joined on the front lines to openly resist authorities during the Egyptian revolution, Fisk said, noting that the pro-democracy demonstrators won them over gifts of money, cigarettes and food.
"I liked going [to Tahrir Square]," a teenage street boy told Fisk. "I sometimes begged from the people. And the soldiers always said 'hello' to me and sometimes they gave me food."
Some children, Fisk noted, unwittingly threw stones at pro-democracy protesters with the encouragement of Mubarak supporters.
"They told me that I should like Mubarak because if he went, some people would come from other countries and become president of Egypt," a boy said.
The Egyptian military now running the country is to ban public protests and meetings of activists starting this week. The armed forces had previously promised that democratic election would take place by September.