Egyptian People Patrols

A lot of hype has been made of the “security” situation in Egypt.  There are many who believe that due to the political vacuum and lack of leadership, chaos has ensued and that armed thugs are running through the streets on camels snatching purses, committing crimes and groping women.  Cairo is a city of over 70 million, therefore criminals don’t really stand a chance, and I have seen many instances when Egyptians witness someone committing a crime, such as purse snatching etc. where people inevitably chase after and apprehend the criminal. What I can say from my experience as a woman is that I have never felt threatened or unsafe walking the streets of Cairo alone (and I do so at most all hours of the day/night). In fact historically, and “despite the absence of 90 percent of it’s police force after the revolution Egypt has one of the lowest crime rates in the world”, said prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa (perhaps because of their absence!). As evidenced below however, there are very real threats coming from within the police that are well documented and destroy the trust of the people:

Police card, found by civilian security on one of the armed "thugs"attempting to enter Tahrir.

Photo courtesy of Aiyman Shabrawy: http://twitpic.com/photos/ChapZzy

In Tahrir, at all hours, citizen activists search and check the ID’s of everyone who enters the square and have in many cases prevented future violence, from taking place. In another documented incident of thuggery, six arrested ‘thugs’ say they were paid by a businessman to disperse and attack an Alexandria revolutionary sit-in during a police investigation at El-Atareen police station on Tuesday night.* This should make clear that there is major manipulation taking place, which is again being ratcheted up from within the government and echoed by the media as seen in this recent report by CNN titled: Video: Illegal guns flood Egypt’s streets: How cheap weapons are flooding Egypt’s streets in the absence of security, who have a vested interest in creating an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.  Even though it was a recent story done previously (many times) it also shows how the Egyptian people as a whole (especially right after the revolution) were taking matters of safety into their own hands, by arming themselves and working with their neighborhoods and communities to keep them secured.

The most widely targeted are those documenting the revolution.  Foreigners especially, but mainly anyone with a video or camera is a target and I know many, including Egyptians, who have been attacked for documenting in Tahrir. One Egyptian activist said the government induced hysteria is “because the images coming from Tahrir and which were seen all over the world, were the number one weapon used against the government during the revolution.”

Of course not all the criminals and agitators are paid police thugs – some are random people who believe the media and information coming from officials, others are those committing crimes or looking for trouble for whatever reason. These more random rogue individuals however, are easy for almost all revolutionary Egyptians to spot from a mile away.

Since the police have given no reason to date, to be trusted to serve and protect, nor as we have seen are the army capable of doing so…the only thing left for Egyptians to do (as Palestinians have had to do for decades, in the absence of a real government) is govern, serve and protect themselves!  The people of Egypt are demonstrating this model of citizen policing, to the world…

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