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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs