News / Middle East

Amid Hype Over Constitution, Egypt's Police Brace for Worst

FILE - Riot police take their positions outside a police academy, where ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's second trial session was due to take place outside Cairo on January 8, 2014.
FILE - Riot police take their positions outside a police academy, where ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's second trial session was due to take place outside Cairo on January 8, 2014.
Reuters
As Egyptians vote in a constitutional referendum meant to help bring stability, policemen such as Brigadier-General Sayed Emara have good reason to dig in for more bloodshed.

He lost colleagues and friends last month, when a suicide bomber in a car ripped open a five-story building where security officials in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura worked. Seventeen people, most of them police, were killed.

A radical Sinai-based group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which derides the Brotherhood for its lack of militancy, has taken responsibility for Mansoura bombings

The next day, the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, encouraging policemen, who are frequently targeted, to harden their positions against the movement which says the army and security forces robbed it of power.

"It's not a war out in the open, that you can fight straight on, no, it comes after you in your house when you are with your family, or in your car or while you are walking on the street or working in your office,'' Emara told Reuters.

While much of the world's attention has focused on a security crackdown on Islamists in the struggle between the Brotherhood and the army-backed government, killing and detaining thousands, Egypt's police have also paid a high price.

At least 250 of them have been killed in militant attacks since army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed the democratically-elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in July - provoking a public reaction almost inconceivable just three years ago.

In the 1990s, another period when Islamist militants were attacking security forces, Egyptians would have had little sympathy for the police, often accused of corruption and brutality.

Security forces and police were put on the defensive after the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Many simply took off their uniforms and vanished.

Now they and Interior Ministry officials have maneuvered their way back to power and are now lionized by the public. Fallen policemen are treated like heroes. Their posters hang in towns and villages.

The new charter strips out Islamist language and strengthens the state institutions that defied Morsi: the military, the police and the judiciary.

A big turnout and overwhelming "yes'' vote would bolster the status of the police by making clear Egyptians are in favor of the new political order they are part of.

Conspiracy narrative

But the sense of siege officers feel in Mansoura and elsewhere shows no sign of easing and the adulation does not help ease the nerves of policemen or boost their poor social or economic standing.

Islamist militants from the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks against police and soldiers. The violence has spread to cities, including Cairo, where the interior minister survived an assassination attempt.

Yet the average policeman earns about 1,800 Egyptian pounds ($258) - a low salary compared to others who serve the state. After Mubarak's downfall, policemen went on strike to demand better pay.

The Mansoura blast, one of the biggest attacks since Morsi's fall, rattled the typically gritty Nile Delta city of 500,000 and left policemen feeling more vulnerable.

"I didn't see the car approach the entrance of our building. All I heard was the huge explosion,'' said Ahmed Mathar, a recent graduate of the four-year programme at Cairo's Police Academy, who suffered wounds from flying shards of glass.

Mansoura's police now work in a building borrowed from a state-owned fertiliser company, their offices wrecked. They often discuss ways of confronting Islamist militancy as plain-clothes security with pistols tucked into their belts hover around.

Emara, a slick 30-year veteran of the Interior Ministry who was wearing a charcoal grey suit, barks orders down the phone.

While the country focuses on the referendum, Emara tuned in to a television program on the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which controls the neighbouring Gaza Strip.

Like many Egyptian security officials, he is convinced Hamas is funding and providing weapons to al-Qaida-inspired militants in the Sinai which plot against the state. Hamas denies the allegations. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement.

Even though Egypt has crushed the Brotherhood, killing hundreds of supporters and arresting its leaders, the group is still portrayed as highly dangerous.

It is a narrative that has had a major impact on the psyche on policemen in Mansoura and other parts of Egypt, encouraging them to harden their positions.

"We are working against a terrorist organization that has many friends outside who want to destroy Egypt,'' said Emara, 52. "People must understand that the crimes of terrorism necessitate a severe response.''

Hardline approaches are likely to invite more violence from Islamist militants, and more death in the police force.

The village of Bedawi, not far from Mansoura, is well aware of that reality. One of its sons, 33-year-old policeman Amr Hassan el-Tehan, was killed during the Mansoura bombing as he monitored communications equipment on the late shift.

"The Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas. Al-Qaida. Why are they like this?'' asked his older brother Attiya.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
January 14, 2014 1:44 PM
The power of security is intelligence. Without intelligence operatives, the trouble will continue and even overwhelm both the army and police. It is appalling to listen to state security services sound like this, what does the police expect the ordinary people on the streets to do? Raise their hands up in surrender to terrorists? No! That man shouldn't sound so dismally pessimistic or diffident, unless he wants the state of Egypt to be declared a Muslim Brotherhood state now being ruled by minority public. That is more than apartheid. The security operatives should stand up to their responsibility and rid the state of Egypt of these terrorists. They are equally Egyptians, though some of them may come from Turkey, Iran, Qatar, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza, and they will be easily identifiable. But if not so, the police should not tell us that the security demands of Egypt is greater than they can cope with/handle - unless they will appeal for help from outside - maybe AU, UN or (least of all) Arab League peacekeeping police

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid