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There will be no progress

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Managing editor Rana Allam

Rana Allam

There will be no progress, as long as we keep repeating the same mistakes, as long as hypocrisy and lies are the name of the game, as long as no real change happens.

There will be no progress in the Tourism industry, as long as our government continues to believe that it is a “marketing” issue, not a security one. As long as our government proceeds with meetings and requests to foreign governments to lift travel bans, while at the same time the Ministry of Interior holds foreigners in detention without charges, the campaign won’t work. When the tourism minister “reaches out” to travel agencies through YouTube videos, and fails to reach out to the interior minister to provide security in the country, progress will remain stagnant. Tourism has plunged to unprecedented depths, simply because Egypt no longer has safe streets. Although our government continues its attempts to sell us the idea that it is the “political turmoil” that is causing the tourism plunge, it is a tough sell. It is true, though, that the latest travel warnings issued against Egypt are because of the state of emergency and curfew, but the downslide began way before this; it began with the failure of the police to protect the people on the streets. It started when tourists were kidnapped, when  Egypt came in the bottom of the list  in The  World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index in terms of security and safety, coming below Pakistan, Yemen and Chad, in March 2013, when Britain raised the threat level on Sinai travel in 2012.  This occurred long before the state of emergency and curfew! There will be no progress unless we address the problem: the Ministry of Interior’s inefficiency.

There will be no progress in the deteriorating, horrifying traffic situation in the Egyptian capital, unless the ministry of interior starts working. There will be no improvement unless their concept of traffic police transcends the “let’s take your licenses because they are not renewed” and start addressing the real problems. When they paralyse major roads and big streets to check every passing car’s license, yet neglect those who completely ignore traffic laws…there can be no improvement in traffic. Unless police vehicles follow traffic rules, no one else will. Unless they stop idiotic solutions like tying up a car’s tire as a punishment for the driver’s double parking, completely ignoring that tying up this car will simply prevent correctly parked cars from moving…there will be no improvement. In a country that paints no lane lines on the streets, has no pedestrian rights whatsoever, has no respect for traffic laws, has no such thing as minimum and maximum speeds, and a traffic police that believes the problem will be fixed by paralysing a street to check car licences, how will there be progress?

And just a side note on traffic in Egypt, consider this: Egypt used to depend on Nile River and trains’ transportation for 80% of its goods; this was reduced to 20% in the 1990s because the interior ministry could not secure neither the water nor the trains transportation, so, basically, most of the trucks and trailers on Egyptian streets and major roads, which are creating most of the traffic problem and fatal accidents, is in fact the interior ministry’s inefficiency at its best! We have a problem, and it is the interior ministry! Unless they come out of their coma and realise that the traffic police needs a complete overhaul, traffic in Egypt will only get worse.

There will be no progress in terms of the assaults and harassment against women, unless the police wake up. Assaults on women have become, as the whole world knows, a huge problem in Egypt. When hundreds of women get sexually assaulted in one small area of Cairo, with no police in sight, when a girl is run over by her harasser’s car and then he gets released, there will be no improvement. When the police conscripts harass women on the streets (with their stares or their words, or with throwing kisses in the air for a passing woman), and when it is better for a woman to disregard filing a complaint of being sexually assaulted to avoid being harassed inside the police station, we have a problem. Women in Egypt are not allowed to carry any selfdefence tool, neither pepper spray, mace nor tiny tasers, they are not even allowed to tint their car windows and hide inside, because of “security measures” set by…guess who? The Interior Ministry.

There will be no progress in the human rights problem in Egypt, as long as the police are allowed to detain anyone they like, anyone who might annoy them. We will not see a day of freedom as long as the interior ministry has unlimited authority over our lives. The way they detain thousands in a few weeks, students held without charges, with no rights  given to those detained, including communication with their families, Egypt will not see rights for any humans. Seriously, it seems the interior ministry does not even see Egyptians as humans, given that they do not even declare the real numbers of those killed or injured, or those in detentions. Although torture continues in police stations and detention facilities, the complaints filed are much less than before, but this is because people are afraid of the police.

There will be no progress as long as Egyptian Copts, who make up at least 10% of the population are in danger of sporadic on-going acts of violence and blatant discrimination. Churches attacked, houses burned, Christian women harassed, with no policeman willing to move. Reports of security forces watching in silence while attacks occur are regular. Then the brilliant government, as always, thinks it can fix the problem by a love-fest broadcast on national TV between The Pope and the Al Azhar Sheikh and the Prime Minister! This method has never worked before, the problem is that the law is being enforced by the interior ministry which does not treat these acts of violence as “crimes” but as “sectarian conflicts” that should be solved by a “Council of Wise Men” and not by punishing criminals according to the law. Again, the “sectarian” violence is a manifestation of the interior ministry’s failure.

What progress can there be when such an interior ministry is being backed by one regime after the other? Do they think that when they ignore the problem, it will go away? That Egypt will forget why it rose on 25 January 2011, even though things are going from bad to worse? Do they think that attempting to have yet another Mubarak-style police state will solve Egypt’s problems?

Even if they were able to silence the people, stop women from filing complaints against harassers, and detained Egyptians from filing complaints against torture, even if Egyptians forget human rights, will they forget their daily lives? Will they forget the traffic and the sexual assaults? Forget the tourism industry that is a history now? The investors who refuse to come to Egypt and prefer Dubai as their Middle East hub, because of the chaos that is Egypt and its government facilities, mostly impeded by the interior ministry – will this be forgotten too? I will not even begin to speak about the security clearances and documents needed to open a business, nor will I speak about the customs authority and ports and airports of Egypt, nor will I elaborate on visas and work permits problem for foreigners that all have the ministry of interior’s signature of failure. How long do they think they will get away with this?

There will be no progress, unless we start dealing with the problem and stop covering up for the failure that is the ministry of interior!

About the author

Rana Allam

Rana Allam

Follow her on Twitter at @Run_Rana

  • Ahmed Heikal

    Very well put and cleverly organized Rana. Those who lack creative solutions have been the founding fathers of Egyptian government and enterprises at least 60 decades. It is the belief of many that they may have a better luck executing a strategy that has been known not to work.

    While you seem to direct most of the criticism to Ministry of Interior, I am tempted to say that the PM is the one in charge, and therefore, he stands responsible for his boys. Being that we have a 77 years old PM, a true baby boomer, it may take him a little longer to draw this conclusion. Possibly by the end of his “interim ” caretaker government time.

  • Reda Sobky

    Well thought out analysis and call to action. It is important to remember that June 30th was only 10 weeks ago and by the time the violent crazies were removed from the streets weeks had passed. The western propaganda machine continues to portray them as victims and disregard their brutality and ethnic cleansing as you see in the New York Times every week or so. There is a convergence of the agendas of a number of players in which they see economic pressure as a tool to cause the failure of the current administration. I am constantly exposed here in the USA to a stream of “coup” type pieces that always focus on the fabled 1.2 billion “aid”. There is an urban myth among the think (less) tanks and their state department friends that becoming allied to the deposed as moderates would outflank the “radicals”. It is repeated like a mythic truth.
    I think the alchemy of the equation needs to be changed somehow from a view of the past and the fantasy of reversing it, to Egypt open for business. I am so impressed with Hegazy I think if he convenes a work group they can inventory the issues you bring up and some others and help the PM reframe the debate in terms of the challenges the future presents and how to meet them now: socially, educationally, economically and organizationally, like a ten point plan for the here and now. The constitutional committee will have to deal with the political structure and I am optimistic that some of the best minds in Egypt have been chosen and they will succeed.
    Law and order must be reestablished as the top priority and that requires cleaning out the lawless groups which is yet another burden on the Interior ministry workers who are exhausted and somewhat battered by the murderous attacks they have been subjected to and trying to come to terms with their new role as protectors of the people instead of the agents of their oppressors under the Mubarak regime. Tall order.

  • sam enslow

    The Republic of Georgia had a police force that was the most corrupted and hated of the countries of the former USSR. Today it is the second most respected institution in that country after only the Church. Not only do the people now appreciate the police, but the individuals who serve as police officers are proud of their positions and responsibilities. They start the day going out to protect and serve the people of their communities – not go “hunting”. I would suggest if anyone wants to reform the police that they ask Georgians for ideas and suggestions.
    The US and EU, I am sure, would also contribute training and materials to establish crime labs and teach investigative techniques that are effective and protect citizen’s rights.
    The current police policies are based on the Gestapo and USSR’s KGB. The goal is to protect the State, meaning the “boss” – not the people. It is the job of the police to solve crimes and to protect the people, not to punish them. That is the job of judges and courts.
    I am sure that there are many, including high ranking officers, who want to reform the police and who are blocked by politicians who say, “Not yet. It is not now the time.” The time is now. Citizens went to Tahrir to complain about police brutality and injustice. It is not wise to meet those demands with more police brutality and inefficiency.

  • http://balasticman.blogspot.it/ Balasticman

    In answer to your questions, yes.

    • Ahmed

      Egypt is a broken country, I hope and Pray that this will be the last experience you won’t forget in lifetime. worst government is better than coup.

  • AzzaSedky

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. We need to step out of the coma we’ve been living in for so long and start getting things changed.

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