First Published: 2013-03-10

 

Collapse of state institutions under Brotherhood’s rule: Egypt Interior Ministry as example

 

Discontent in Egypt's police ranks boils over into unprecedented strike, with officers saying they will refuse orders until they are no longer used as political pawns.

 

Middle East Online

By Mona Salem – CAIRO

Nothing seems to stem spreading discontent

Discontent in Egypt's police ranks has boiled over into an unprecedented strike, with officers saying they will refuse orders until they are no longer used as political pawns, adding to the problems of President Mohamed Morsi.

Accused of excessive use of force by the opponents of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, police officers say they feel despised by the people when they are simply following orders -- and they will not take any more.

"We are suspending our work indefinitely because we refuse to take responsibility for the mistakes of a government that wants to get involved in political conflicts," police Colonel Hassan Mostafa said in Port Said.

"All of society is against us, it considers the demonstrators (killed in clashes) to be martyrs, and we don't even have the right to defend ourselves," he added.

The police, particularly the Central Security Forces (CSF), have been engaged in violent and deadly street clashes with protesters, turning the public even more against an already reviled institution long accused of abuses.

The CSF is the branch of the interior ministry used to quell protests.

The police want a law to clearly lay down their powers and duties, and have also demanded weapons to deal with ongoing political protests.

The police "are paying the price of a political conflict. They risk prosecution (over the deaths of protesters) or getting killed" in clashes which have spiked since the end of 2012, General Abdel Tawab Hefni of the police headquarters in Alexandria told the independent daily Al-Shorouk.

The discontent began weeks ago with isolated pockets of protest, but by Thursday police were on strike in areas of Cairo, Alexandria, the Nile Delta, the Suez Canal provinces, southern provinces and the Sinai Peninsula.

In an attempt to ease tensions, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim on Friday sacked the head of the CSF and appointed a new chief.

But his announcement did little to placate angry police, who said they will pursue their protest.

"We will continue our strike until the government accepts our demands, which are to keep the police of politics, stop the 'Brotherhoodisation' of the police (the appointment of Muslim Brotherhood members to key posts) and the dismissal of the interior minister," Colonel Mohamed Fawzi of Cairo police told Al-Shorouk.

On Sunday, Ibrahim pleaded for an end to "rumours" of police abuse, saying his forces had not fired a single shot at protesters since the start of the 2011 uprising.

He sought to dispel accusations that he was close to the Brotherhood, and tried to paint a united front among police, saying that those on strike were a minority, adding that he also wanted to be kept out of politics.

"We call on everyone to keep us out of their equations. We don't belong to any faction, ideology, opposition," Ibrahim said.

Protests have also been staged among CSF members.

In the port city of Ismailiya, CSF officers refused to be deployed to neighbouring Port Said, where clashes since the end of January between police and protesters have killed more than 48 people, including three policemen.

On Friday, Morsi had to call in the army to secure the city.

Police in Egypt have been reviled for decades by much of the population. And despite the ouster in early 2011 of Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime who relied on massive force to quell dissent, it is still considered a repressive institution.

According to local rights groups, more than 70 protesters have been killed since November 2012. On Saturday, two protesters were killed in fresh clashes in Cairo.

The cases of two activists allegedly kidnapped and tortured, Mohammed El-Guindi, 27, and Mohammed el-Shafei, 22, have caused outrage and reignited calls for police reform.

The police strike and the violence of recent days in Cairo and Port Said have to President Morsi's "troubles in-box," as he faces civil unrest and dissent across the country.

Commentators are already warning against a "collapse" of the police.

"The ministry of the interior is on the verge of collapse (...) and I see no other solution than early presidential elections," wrote Abdel Rahman Youssef, a moderate Islamist columnist, in Al-Shorouk.

 

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US lawmakers threaten Iran with new sanctions

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows

German airliner crashes in southern France with 150 on board

Egypt sacks spokesman who said Shaima al-Sabbagh was too thin

At least 30 killed in central Yemen clashes

Tunisia national museum reopening delayed over security concerns

Kuwait riot police disperse small opposition protest

Netanyahu apologises to Arab Israeli voters

Libyan pro-got warplanes target weapons depot near Tripoli

Libya pro-government forces target weapons depot near Tripoli

Sultan Qabous returns to Oman after ’successful’ treatment

‘Islamic State’ claims deadly attack on security forces in south Yemen