“Come near my gaff again and I’ll fuck you up, you cunt”
A man with the wonderful name of Qadry Hasheesh came round to our house this week to take measurements for iron gates my family are installing.
My aunt who lives upstairs has wanted to install a gate for a while, initially because my other aunt who lives downstairs runs a soup kitchen for street cats on our building’s communal stairs and they everyday disregard the don’t shit where you eat advice.
Security is now another concern – a concern that pre-dates the revolution but became more pressing after it – hence Mr Hasheesh’s visit.
I gave him a down payment and he put the money in his jacket pocket.
Close your zip, my aunt suddenly ordered, and both Mr Hasheesh and I looked down at his trousers.
Our eyes met on the way up, and for that brief moment the room was suddenly filled with penises and bums and underpants until I could stand it no more and blurted out, she didn’t mean that zip.
In order to extricate the conversation from this crisis situation I constructed an air bridge out of shoptalk, and asked Mr Hasheesh what business is like at the moment. He said that orders were up after having dropped slightly after last year’s huge spike beginning January 28th 2011.
My cousin came home with a huge tank-like vehicle a few months into 2011 saying that she feels more secure in it with her children than a smaller car. Our neighbours are currently replacing the glass panels of their building’s lobby with an iron grille. There seems to be a general perception that the country is crawling with bandits intent on rape and pillage.
If reliable crime statistics exist in Egypt I don’t know where to find them other than in Habib El-Adly’s head, so I can’t say whether the perception that crime has increased dramatically is indeed just a perception. There have been several armed robberies recently as well as kidnappings for ransom in Cairo and brief kidnappings by Bedouins in Sinai.
An American woman kidnapped for two hours last week told the media that her captors were “very hospitable” or something of the sort and I got the impression that I experienced worse treatment at the hands of a Bedouin while negotiating the price of a quad bike in Dahab.
I would be stunned if it transpired that crime hasn’t increased since the revolution, and I don’t just mean because the army and its short fuse has been in charge since the revolution.
Crime was a victim of Mubarak’s clumsy neoliberal policies just like everything else in the country, and where Ahmed Ez had a monopoly on steel, the Interior Ministry had the franchise on naughtiness, co-opting local tough guys as informants and allowing the wealthy lawless to buy their way out of trouble.
I have droned on elsewhere on this blog about the size and extent of the Interior Ministry network, its army of informants and the mafia-like structure of its operations. Without knowing very much about these operations, it’s clear that the neighbourhood thugs who previously either worked for the Interior Ministry or had some kind of arrangement with it woke up to a very different situation on January 29th 2011.
I’m shocked that there wasn’t a massive wave of crime right away. Ordinary crime policing seems beyond the rozzers; after years of regarding suspects as piñatas who contain confessions instead of sweets, they simply don’t know how to investigate crime. Which isn’t to say that they don’t slip into the old habits, but rather than they can’t resort to brutality as often with the same impunity (unless they’re in riot police uniform). So why shouldn’t established and prospective criminals have a go since there’s no one to stop them.
The astonishing thing is the reaction to this great tsunami of crime, dominated by one word: conspiracy. Rather than say:
Shit. A gentleman with a knife has just stopped me on the ring road and relieved me of my car in broad daylight – why aren’t the police doing their job?
Ordinary Citizen has a tendency to say:
Shit. A gentleman with a knife has just stopped me on the ring road and relieved me of my car in broad daylight – why have the vicious tentacles of the former regime acting in concert with foreign powers intent on Egypt’s destruction chosen me?
Nowhere was this more evident than during a session of the People’s Assembly on Tuesday. MPs had supposedly gathered to discuss the recent Interior Ministry clashes and listen to the sour-faced Interior Minister who went in to do a bit of lying.
Things started out with the usual bluster from MPs demanding they be given the floor in order to complain about not being given the floor. Then there was a brief upturn when a man read out the results of a fact-finding committee. The committee concluded that – gasp – the police have actually shot at protesters with birdshot and live fire, and demanded that confidence be withdrawn from the Interior Minister.
It was the turn of the Interior Minister and his loose jowls after that. There is something extremely unpleasant about this man, he strikes me as a man with mild psychopathic tendencies, the type of man who carries a baseball bat in his trunk for arguments over parking spaces. He is also a crap liar and subjected MPs and the viewing public to a description of how his men only protected their “house” (the Interior Ministry) with teargas and not a single bullet was shot.
After he finished this rubbish there was a collective click as MPs turned their cognitive faculties off. They they began churning out a stream of tawdry, second-rate, paranoiac shite about Egypt’s threatened existence that would have embarrassed Bashar el-Assad’s scriptwriter.
Here they had the minister in THEIR fucking “house”, brazenly lying and contradicting the findings OF THEIR OWN FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE. Here was their chance to skewer him.
Essam El-Erian, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party who enjoyed several free stays in a state facility as a Muslim Brother during the Mubarak years took to the floor. Here is a man who knows the dark heart of the Interior Ministry!
After mumbling about the violence for a bit El-Erian asked the Interior Minister whether there are “hidden hands” “working behind” the Minister’s back, thereby taking the discussion on an early foray into the land of wilful nonsense.
But as we know the FJP are courtesans who don’t like to rock the boat. Ziad El-Elemy spoke, too. Here’s an independent-minded young man of strong character and morals! He’ll give it to the MOI bastard!
El-Elemy started out splendidly by basically calling the Interior Minister a liar. But then a bombshell! (the Interior Minister denied any use of bombshells subsequently): Amr El-Qady, a member of the Creativity Front (an artists’ cell that responds to police violence with modern dance) had “received a call from SCAF general El-Assar while El-Qady was trying to negotiate a ceasefire during clashes” (through mime).
The fact that El-Assar had telephoned El-Qady from the Interior Ministry Building, El-Elemy said, proves that “El-Assar was directing the massacre that took place”. The young MP provided absolutely no evidence to support this allegation and one wondered whether he wasn’t actually just name-dropping about a general calling his pal. Also if a crime ever takes place and you are near it, don’t ever ring up any of Ziad El-Elemy’s friends.
And so it went. In case you don’t know the PA is approximately three minutes from the scene of the MOI clashes and the entire area has been reduced to a war zone blocked in sideways by separation walls and from above by a cloud of teargas. You can’t walk for stumbling over evidence of the police using excessive force, just as in the case of the Port Said Stadium tragedy the fact that the police did nothing was blindingly fucking obvious.
Our MPs however, in keeping with the experimental school of analysis used to interpret current events and the lust for conspiracies instead chose to ignore all this and wonder if the Interior Ministry has been infiltrated by the Incredible Hulk.
Still, the rest of the session was OK. An MP started bellowing out the call to prayer. God is on our team, where can it go wrong.