I read the world’s most depressing article the other day, entitled ‘Policemen have rights too!’ which made me want to hug a copper and then chuck myself off a bridge.
Egyptian policemen are not exactly flavour of the month here given the proclivity of some of their members to insert strange objects in even stranger orifices, and record the proceedings on mobile phone cameras. The article (published in a respected independent newspaper) describes the experiences of ordinary policemen, and in the process demonstrates the complicated nexus between victim hood and oppression. Their stories once again demonstrate that even those who abuse their authority in order to wound others are themselves being crushed by the monster in our midst. What is most frightening is how these conditions are apparently endured without vocal complaint; that the most precious thing of which these men (and the Egyptian people) have been robbed is their ability to imagine, to even contemplate an alternative existence and refuse the reality imposed on them.
“Every so often a higher ranking officer goes past, and when he does you’d better not be standing crooked, or with your hands in your pockets or bending your leg. And it’s a catastrophe if you go the toilet. You’re not allowed to move, you have to stand still throughout your hours of duty and if you don’t you get fined and lose bonuses.”
“Ya basha what other government sector in Egypt works 12- 14 hours a day? And without appreciation or even a kind word…Even you lot from the press and the media insult and scorn us every day, and blame all of us when one man smacks a suspect…What’s it got to do with me? I don’t hit anyone and I’ve never insulted anyone – on the contrary, we have to stand in the street putting up with crap while we police the traffic and while we’re on guard duty and some stupid teenager comes up to us and threatens us and speaks down to us and insults us…and we can’t go to the police station all the time and make a complaint…”
“I’ve worked in the police for 29 years, from Aswan to Siwa to Marsa Matrouh to Damietta…I’m in a flat and my kids are in another flat in Cairo, so I have to pay for two flats. I get time off once every two weeks or sometimes once every month, and I can say that I have spent the Eid with my family seven times in 29 years. I’ve been in this rank for 13 years because there are no spaces in the higher ranks, and my salary after bonuses is 1,420 pounds a month…What can I tell you… I swear that I am ready to travel to Libya or any other country – I wont ask for a contract in France, or America. We’re fed up, we’ve had enough and we’re disgusted. We see the corruption with our own eyes – thieving happens openly and the country is being sold before our very eyes and everyone is helping themselves everywhere you turn.”