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Busted flush

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Philip Whitfield

Philip Whitfield

By: Philip Whitfield

You’d be livid if your boss blew your wages gambling. Consider how often the Muslim Brotherhood risks your life, how close Cairo courts catastrophe.

I’ll wager this. Isn’t the answer to Egypt’s enigma staring the head-scratchers in the face? Lump all Egypt’s woes under one defining issue. Security: a pitiful failure to provide a safe place to live.

Ditch all the highfalutin eco lingo and bigot bitching. Any argument over the constitution, people’s representation or the International Monetary Fund pales when it’s unsafe to walk the streets, drive down a main road or take a trip into the Sinai. Security is every family’s chief concern.

Villainous vigilantes vaunt vituperation. Vanquish viziers. Vow: vamoose.

Bold as brass Bloomberg’s Business Week unmasks Egyptian machinists by day turning bootleg gunsmiths come dusk. Headline: Investors Flee Egypt as Violence Spreads. The story goes worldwide to 4.8 million subscribers and 25 million others.

Wikipedia entry 8 May: Egypt’s Killing Culture. As police and politicians lose their grip, mobs take justice into their own hands. Under that incendiary lede follows the story. Egged on by communal acceptance, mob killings of alleged criminals have been spreading across rural areas of Egypt amid a chronic security vacuum and a surging crime rate.

These brutal vigilante executions have been on the rise, 17 since the 2011 revolution. The latest lynch mob involved hundreds of locals in Zagazig, Morsi’s hometown. The 16-year-old son of another Muslim Brotherhood boss was publicly hanged.

Nearby two officers admit they can’t do anything to stop it. Major Mohamed Dabbous told Al-Ahram: It happens in an instant. No way would we make it to the crime scene on time, especially if the road is blocked.

Captain Mohamed Farag says legal action is ineffective. Even those who clearly appear in videos are usually released in the end, he says. The prosecution can’t prove who killed the victim.

With that cop out no wonder people curl up in bed with the lights switched on and the doors clasped shut.

Nor are you safe at work. Three Al-Qaeda suicide bombers are caught about to blow up the American and French embassies, according to Minister of the Interior Mohamed Ibrahim.

Will the police catch the next lot in the nick of time? Let’s hope so. The ministry says Iran and Pakistan are training enemies of Egypt.

Also wringing his hands disclaiming any responsibility for lawlessness is a Bedouin leader in the Sinai. The relationship between the police and the people is deep animosity and desire for vengeance, he says.

People are completely marginalized, he continues. No wonder they have taken to arms and drug trafficking, jihadism or crime. Plans to form an army of Bedouins to maintain security are on the table.

Standing at 1am on Cairo’s Ring Road with an AK-47 automatic rifle pressed to his neck a cardiac surgeon faces three men who’ve forced his Skoda off the road with volley of gunfire.

I saw in their eyes they would kill me in an instant if I tried to fight them, Dr Yasser Mohammed says later. It was the first time in my life that I knew there are some people in this world who see someone’s life as worth nothing.

With the stakes suddenly much higher than the value of a car, he pleads with them to steal his vehicle. Take it, he implores. And they speed off in it.

As with so many issues that are difficult, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood abnegate responsibility. Asked what to do, a government spokesman suggests people should organise citizens’ arrests.

What happened? A week later, a group of men hanged two suspected thieves from a tree at a bus station. The men had been beaten to death, cheered on by a crowd of 3,000 rubbernecks. The men’s alleged crime: Trying to hijack a tuk-tuk.

A video does the rounds of a youngster hanged upside down after being dragged through the streets, gored from gashes inflicted by knife wielders.

Killings have tripled since the revolution. Prime Minister Hesham Qandil escaped when his car was hit with bullets. A gunsmith says even children are armed these days: They’re stoned on drugs. They wouldn’t think twice about shooting you dead or maiming you just to steal a phone.

Murders rose to 1,885 in 2012, up 130%. Robberies jumped 350% and kidnappings 145%, according to the Interior Ministry. People pay the ransom money because they don’t have any confidence in the police, the interior minister tells the Financial Times, in a revealing mea culpa.

The consequences of Egypt’s lawlessness are threefold. The government’s writ runs spasmodically here and there; gangsters thrive in no-go areas and at the first chance the Muslim Brotherhood government will be turfed out.

Morsi must shoulder the blame. He made much of the deal he stitched up with the military. He’s responsible for appointing guardians of national security.

Do you wonder why Morsi hasn’t reigned in the criminals roaming the streets, terrorising drivers and burglarising houses willy-nilly?

Weakness? Vacillation? Lethargy? Insouciance?

He’s compromised. His bedfellows in Hamas busted him out of jail on the fourth day of the revolution then flushed democracy down Dystopia.

Unable to distance himself from its political thuggery Morsi relegates the national interest behind the Muslim Brotherhood, a house of cards, insubstantial and subject to imminent collapse.

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator


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