News / Middle East

Egyptians' Fear of Crime Soars

An Egyptian mother collects her sons outside a school in Cairo, April 4, 2011. During the recent mass uprising, as much as fifty percent of police disappeared from cities and their withdrawal has created a security vacuum, letting crime flourish.
An Egyptian mother collects her sons outside a school in Cairo, April 4, 2011. During the recent mass uprising, as much as fifty percent of police disappeared from cities and their withdrawal has created a security vacuum, letting crime flourish.

In the months since Egypt's popular uprising, many in the country have felt the revolution came at a price - personal safety.  

Like many other families in Cairo, Nadia, Soheir and Ahmed never paid too much attention to crime. But this year, any minor concerns have grown into full-on alarm.

Nadia, a tourism worker in her 40's, says since the revolution, safety and security don't exist.  She recounts how a relative, driving on a city street last month, was ambushed by masked men with machine guns.  He escaped uninjured, but his car and possessions were stolen.

Nadia says these are new types of crimes in Egypt, and include things like kidnapping.  Violence, she says, has become a phenomenon.

Her sister Soheir agrees. A housewife in her 50's, Soheir says she's concerned about home invasions - enough so that the family, who live in an upscale Cairo neighborhood, are having installed a front door made of re-enforced metal.

But Soheir's main concern is her son, Ahmed, who must often travel for his job as a mechanical engineer. She says she knows it embarrasses him, but she is constantly checking in when he's on the road.

Egyptians share their views on the current crime situation:

Concern about crime is such that Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, used it as a justification this week for reviving the nation's much despised emergency law.  "Wives are being kidnapped in the streets," he said, "right in front of their husbands."

But how serious is this increase in crime?  According to a report by the research group Abu Dhabi Gallup, not very.  It says that while the fear of crime has skyrocketed in post-revolution Egypt, the number of actual, reported crimes has stayed more or less the same.

So what's going on?  Political sociologist Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo believes Egypt has become less safe.

"When you have a revolution, the security system collapses," he said. "The central government becomes weak. The economy also becomes weak.  So, it is very natural after revolution that you have a period of instability and security problems.  The problem here is the exaggeration."

Sensationalism, political agendas

Sadek blames the media for much of it. Not just the sensationalism which can translate into bigger market share, but political agendas.  Many in the media, he says, still have ties to the old government, and any instability these reactionary forces can highlight, the better they can undercut the revolutionaries' message.

There's also the question of how much crime there really was before.  Sadek says the previous leaders took pains to hide unflattering statistics.  But, at least anecdotally, Cairo used to appear far safer than other major cities, in part because of the heavy hand of the old military-security state.  That makes even a small bump more noticeable by comparison.

There is also the question of the role police play in Egypt. "Remember, we had a police force for a long period that was only efficient in political issues," said American University in Cairo's Sadek. "But, when it comes to crime, normal crime, it was not that efficient and many people had to pay to the police to help them, to be serious about their cases."

Soheir's son Ahmed, the one she worries about when he's out driving, agrees that the attitude of the police, both in the past and present, has affected the number of crimes people report.

"People know there is no security forces and even if they report the crime, there will be no action taken to solve it," said Ahmed. "So, basically, they are saving themselves the hassle of going through the procedures.  And they're turning to alternative methods, which is protecting themselves by themselves."

For Ahmed, that means getting a license to carry a gun.


Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs