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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs