31 January, 2009

"The people in the service of the police"

On 25 January, Egypt celebrated "Police Day," commemorating the massacre of over 50 policemen in Ismailiyya by British forces on that day in 1952, which triggered widespread demonstrations and riots in Cairo. Today however, as Zeinobia writes, the police have turned from a symbol of resistance against foreign occupation to a symbol of repression. Not only because its main role is to protect the regime and quell all forms of political dissent, but also because of the daily abuse many Egyptians suffer from the hands of the police.

It's an interesting coincidence (or maybe they were actually inspired or provoked by the media coverage surrounding this day?) that microbus drivers in Giza chose this week to go on strike, protesting abuse and harassment by the police.

When I read about this strike, I was reminded about a small episode I witnessed a few weeks ago on the microbus from Lebanon Square to 6h of October City. After one of the passengers got of the bus at the beginning of 6th of October without paying the fare of 2,50 pounds, the driver immediately started to complain loudly to the rest of us: "He's a police officer, that guy. Of course he doesn't pay the fare. Now he's going to take a tuk-tuk to his house, for free of course!"

To this one of the passengers replied: "Yeah, they're all like that. This is the only principle they teach at police academy these days: The people in the service of the police!"

Pic above: The police protecting the people from dangerous political dissent during a Kifaya demonstration on 12 December 2006.

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