The Long and Winding Road for Democracy in Egypt Part 5
Part 5 :Egypt: The Wild Wild East
Armed robberies, organized crime, assaults on banks and money transport vehicles, grand auto thefts, murders, massive riots, kidnappings, ransoms, arson, biker-gangs, vandalism and lately a massive massacre committed by some fanatical supports of a football team against their opponents killing around 79 people and injuring around 1300; most of whom were from the guest team.
These incidents are now happening in Egypt a country well known for peace and safety of its streets through most of its modern history. This is certainly not the case post January 25 revolution in Egypt.
The country is sliding into a fierce slope of violence and counter-violence.
Yet, luckily enough the fire hasn’t spread all through, most streets in Egypt seem to be safe enough in daily life. But these incidents tarnish the general image of long hailed feeling of safety in Egypt . The life patterns of most Egyptians seemed to be changing gradually.
It used to be safe to wander and walk in Egyptian streets even in crowded cities like Cairo and Alexandria post midnight without fear of muggings , kidnappings, petty thefts. The situation might not be completely dire at the moment, but it certainly can get there.
The lawlessness and inability of both the Egyptian police force supported by units of the Military police to control the streets and uphold the hold the way it used to before the revolution.
It will be unjust to call the situation per-revolution entirely safe . However, the skyrocketing crime rates after the revolution are alarming. Egypt seem to be staggering in a complete contradiction to what seemed to be one of the most peaceful revolutions in history.
The reasons of this lawlessness seem to be numerous and despite the increasing efforts to regroup the disintegrated police force and replacing the minister of interior three times since last year, the quality of security in the country seems to be severely lacking.
There are many elements leading to the continuous state of lawlessness in Egypt over the past few months. Among them the prime is smaller number of security troops compared to the large population of Egypt; estimated 85 million especially in the Metropolises like Cairo and Alexandria.
Another reason for the chaos is the complacency of many police officers many of whom feel that they are disrespected by the public and media; for their role in the killing of activists and rebels during the 18 days of the revolution and violent clashes that followed in many areas around the country.
Also the number of prisoners who escaped before and after the revolution and haven’t been caught yet is representing a clear and present danger on the Egyptian society.
More people and even those not flagged as thugs are joining that marauding force of violence due the economic difficulties post of the revolution. Should the economic situation not improve soon and if the government will not address this critical issue, the security situation will deteriorate even further in the upcoming months.
A significant percentage of the general public now is less than cooperative or totally uncooperative with the police force and breaking all sorts of laws in their daily lives as a sign of their newly acquired freedom.
Of course this abuse of hard gained freedom will only lead to further increase the state of insecurity and the lawlessness.
It’s not uncommon these days in Cairo to see cars traveling on the opposite ways, people parking across the road, street vendors occupying the entire pedestrian pavement and these are the minor acts of violating the law. Others turned to classical crime acts to earn a living and robberies and armed thefts on banks, retailers, supermarkets and shops are increasing drastically in the past few months.
Over 18,000 vehicles were reported stolen during the past year with large numbers of petty thefts, armed robberies and murders also reported. This is not counting the huge number of seizure of state owned lands by locals and many other facets of crime.
The new Minister of Interior, Mohamed Ibrahim, has shown some progress in the security status and managed due to his continuous hands on administration of the ministry to restore the lost security, but it seems that his own officers and forces have failed him miserably in several occasions particularly the infamous and tragic Port Said Stadium massacre of Al Ahly football club fans.
Also his handling of the disaster and its aftermath seemed to be similar to his predecessors.
The massacre represents the latest chapter of violence in Egypt. Fans of Port Said based El Masry football club attacked a smaller group of football fans belonging to Egyptian title holders Al Ahly in a way that appeared like marauding hordes in historical movies.
Attacking the Ahly Fans after a game that Masry controversially won but it was a surprising victory after all against the African giants Al Ahly. Despite this fact, Al Masry fans stormed the pitch with knives, clubs and metal rods and assaulted the fans in what seemed to many as a premeditated murder spree killing 79 according to last official body count and injuring around 1300 of Ahly fans who found themselves trapped without any protection from the police or central security forces units.
The entire massacre was broadcasted live on air displaying the most shocking events of Egypt’s recent memory. What made things worse, was the fact that the exit gates around the stadium were sealed from outside resulting in the increase of fatalities and injuries due to the stampede and suffocation of the victims.
The security forces were in shambles and completely incompetent to the extent that some analysts accuse the Police force and central security forces being a part of a plot against Al Ahly club Ultras by remaining entirely complacent during the events and failed to secure the Ahly fans.
Some people believed that is part of the payback from the police against the Al Ahly Ultras who were side other clubs like Zamalek ultras as are components of the rebels of the Egyptian revolution.
Maybe this theory is far stretched but the aftermath of the massacre reflected that many others believe the ministry of interior in downtown Cairo and less than 1 Km from Tahrir square was surrounded by angry protestors and rioters who accused the police forces of orchestrating a setup for the Ahly fans and being an accomplice with Al Masry club ultras and other thugs who attacked their supporters in Port Said.
Al Ahly being the biggest club in the country and the African club of the century have a huge fan base in Egypt and in the Arab world estimated to be over 70 million fans, hence the anger was doubled in the hearts of millions from what seemed to be total incompetence from the police.
The results of the clashes in Mansour street around the Ministry of Interior is about 12 dead and over 1000 injured. This was the last straw for many of the rebels and severed all ties of faith in the Supreme council of the armed forces and the revolutionary forces all together.
The continuous tendency for violence is still a clear and present danger in the months post the Egyptian revolution and the security situation is still taking a sharp downturn. This situation could escalate in the upcoming months if more stringent, efficient and forceful measures aren’t implemented immediately by the government and SCAF.
Moreover, adding salt to the wounds is the incredible number of weapons smuggled almost on daily basis from the borders of Libya, Sudan and Gaza (Palestine). Though admittingly both the police and army have spared no effort in trying to capture the weapon smugglers across the borders, there is still room for a lot more to be done.
The number of handguns, automatic rifles and even light machine guns have already found their way into Egyptian borders are terrifyingly alarming for any society seeking a peaceful living. More efforts to curb the booming illegal weapons trade in the Egyptian society is needed now in order to put an end to the current vicious circle of violence.
Furthermore, a total revamp for the police forces mentality is required at the moment. The Egyptian police departments and law enforcement units requires the utilization of the expertise of trainers from western countries like Germany and United Kingdom to train the new cadets and even ranked officers for the latest and most efficient ways of handling riots and dealing with crime and criminals, along with other facets of policing activities that seem missing in the current police creed.
The Egyptian law enforcement requires a new code of ethics that maintains human rights and dignities while being effective enough in curbing lawlessness, violence and upholding the law.
Police reform process might take years, but it has to start now. To restore the long lost feeling of security among Egyptians and foreigners visiting or living in Egypt alike.
That old sense of security has been shattered and more Egyptians are accusing the revolution being the cause of that though that might not be true. Since the complacency of the law enforcement units, government as well as the abuse of the freedoms led to the current state of anarchy which must be fought by every law abiding Egyptian in order to pave the way for the economic, social and political processes in the near future.
Despite all of the above Egypt is by no means a jungle and not even near that status, but the current state of security requires huge efforts from all, most importantly the general public awareness that the chaos they create by breaking laws on daily basis is adding to the problem and it will have a backlash on their daily lives in the long run.
Egyptians have to cooperate more closely with the police officers and law enforcement units who should step up their efforts in order to restore the security that Egypt was well know for in the past.