A still image taken from the YouTube video showing the chairman of an orphanage in Egypt beating up a child. Image Credit: YouTube

Cairo: An online video showing a chairman of an orphanage beating up children has sent shockwaves across Egypt and prompted calls for stricter oversight of non-governmental facilities.

The video, below, shows the man beating children inside the orphanage in the pyramids area near Cairo with a stick.

“He used to beat us for switching on TV or doing anything that annoyed him,” a 10-year-old told investigators. “He wanted us to keep silent and do nothing.”

However, the accused, Osama Othman, claimed he treated the orphans like his children and was only trying to stop them from misbehaving.

The harrowing video was posted online by the defendant’s wife, who said she had shot the footage more than a year ago.

“The video was in my possession for almost one year and half. I was hesitant to give to the agencies concerned for fear of his punishment,” the wife was quoted as saying in the local media.

She added that she had decided to post it online allegedly because he was also cruel to her and their children.

The wife reportedly gave four more videos to prosecutors featuring further purported abuses of the orphans by her husband.

As the video went viral on the internet, police raided the orphanage and arrested the defendant, an ex-squash instructor. Wooden sticks and electric wires, allegedly he used in physically punishing the children, were found inside the place.

If convicted, the defendant can be jailed for seven years in prison, according to legal experts.

The children were transferred to another orphanage amid calls for a strict supervision by state institutions in such facilities.

The incident has riveted media attention since the video went online on Sunday.

“New laws should be issued to toughen penalties against violators of children’s rights,” Ahmad Mousa, a celebrated TV host, said.

“There is no strong cooperation among state agencies to avoid such regrettable incidents,” said Azza Al Ashmwai, the chairwoman of the state-backed National Council for Motherhood and Childhood. “Everyone is working as if he were on an island of his own. The latest incident echoes previous incidents. Officials’ statements that the situation will improve usually end up in nothing.”

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi was closely following up the case and called for steps to bring “wrongdoers” to justice, Gada Wali, Minister of Social Solidarity, said. “He contacted me and conveyed his anguish.”

Wali admitted that the situation in other orphanages could be “even worse”. “We have inherited a heavy legacy and the reality is worse and more painful than what we saw in the video. Such practices are rife,” Gada, whose ministry is responsible for supervising orphanages, said.

“The coming period will witness a comprehensive change in measures related to the supervision of orphan-care homes. New regulations are being drawn up to ensure full supervision on them and protection of children sheltered in them.”

There are an estimated non-governmental 500 orphanages housing around 12,000 children across Egypt.