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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

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

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
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 S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
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 Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. 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.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs