Sunday, February 5, 2012

Police state Egypt – what is left over?

Police. Police everywhere. At each corner, in front of every bank, every museum, every hotel, machine guns moved up against, checkpoints every few kilometres. This is how I saw Egypt when I came here first in 2006. I was shocked, since I had seen such a scene only once in my life: 1987 in Chile.

The police oppressed, harassed, blackmailed, tortured and killed. Khaled Said, a young Alexandrian caught the police in dealing drugs, took pictures and uploaded them on internet. His life was the prize he had to pay. Yet before, he was badly mistreated and tortured by the police. Police said that Khaled had been trying to swallow a packet of Marihuana in order to hide it. Following this, a scream went through the country and many consider this abuse as the last straw that finally led to the huge upheavals starting from November 2010.
So this is how Egypt’s police looked like until 25 January 2011. Since then, they have virtually disappeared. Almost. They come back to attack or shoot protesters, to haul journalists away, sometimes also in order to protect state institutions – in which they partially succeed. Anyway, it was neither before nor now their duty to protect citizens.
As a concession to the protesters, SCAF promised in March 2011 to reform the police (central security police). This did not happen. The last 12 months are a sequence of promises not kept.
Prisons are stormed and highly dangerous inmates flee. The gas pipe to Jordan and Israel is getting set ablaze regularly. Gangs roam across the country, commit raids and burglaries, kidnap and demand ransoms. The smuggling of arms has become a popular business – quite every decent citizen is carrying a weapon. Others do it anyway.
The police – with few exceptions – just watched the football disaster in Port Said. Eyewitnesses say that police men refused to open the emergency exits reasoning that they had no order for doing so. Videos in internet show that the emergency exits had been WELDED.
These days, Egypt saw an accumulation of bank robberies and since the disaster in Port Said, further police stations and prisons have been attacked, prisoners released and weapons stolen. The police defended themselves fiercely and some were even killed in the shootings.
Today, the ministry of finance was set on fire – a further catastrophe in a country that is almost grounded. The police, the state (at present the SCAF) have neither energy nor power. Their power was oppression, intimidation and torture – but this does not work anymore, Egyptians are fed up with this. The police state is falling apart, is in a state of dissolution, but the police do not know any better…
When today I was pushing my trolley out of the supermarket, I saw only some steps in front of me a bulk of police men. Police men with bulletproof waistcoats, arms and cars. Some important men got off. I slowly walked to the taxis. My driver asked me if I knew what had happened inside? I had no idea! He mumbled something of a bank robbery. Rumours. False alarm. Nothing happened. The governor visited the mall. This indeed needs a huge police presence.

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