The strange abduction case that’s kept journalists busy since Monday is yet another example of how, in a reflection of the Egyptian government’s attitude, even criminals take the Egyptian citizen for granted.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise that in the first three days after the incident was publicized, the Egyptian government wasn’t even involved in negotiations with the kidnappers, despite the fact that almost half the hostages are Egyptian.
The five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian abducted along with eight Egyptians including Ibrahim Abdel Rahim, the owner of the travel company organizing the safari Aegyptus Intertravel, who were taken near Gilf El-Kabir in southern Egypt, were obviously classified into first and second class humans.
On a scale of one to 10, the foreigners would be closer to a 10 as the Egyptians naturally veer towards the lower rungs of the scale. In fact, if the Egyptians were to be released right now, the media would hardly notice. I can even bet that the main reason such a piece of news would find its way to international headlines would be to emphasize the fact that the foreigners were still being held and to get information about their condition.
It’s interesting how in all the reporting on this story, even in this very newspaper, the 11 Europeans are always mentioned before the eight Egyptians; but that’s not just because the Europeans are more or because half of the Egyptians were “just drivers, it’s because, to borrow the timeless words of George Orwell in “Animal Farm, although all animals are equal, some animals are simply more equal than others.
But why not? If everyday we read about how Egyptians are mistreated in their own country, why should the rest of the world care?
In this issue of Daily News Egypt, you’ll find a report on clashes between security and residents of the shantytown of Establ Antar who were forcibly evicted from their homes ahead of a planned demolition because the authorities say the homes are unsafe and liable to collapse.
The alternative accommodation, as the residents have complained, are no bigger than 35 square meters in the middle of nowhere with no access to basic infrastructure like clean, running drinkable water. They all agreed that they’d rather be homeless than live there.
But when they complained and attempted to return to Establ Antar, the residents were placed under siege, literally held hostage, and forced to stay at their “new homes.
True that states sometimes need to protect people from their own folly – no sane person will support these residents’ return to homes that could collapse over their heads at any moment, especially that more pieces of the Moqattam hill are falling everyday – but how fair is it to simply throw them into more inhuman conditions than those they’ve been suffering their whole life?
In a nation that’s been held hostage for so many decades, the eight now stranded somewhere in Sudan or Libya don’t count for much whether inside or outside this country.
Just recently during a conference held at the Journalists’ Syndicate, reporters and civil rights activists lashed out against the impotence of the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait vis-à-vis the mistreatment of Egyptians in Kuwaiti prisons.
One lawyer and former prison inmate said that many of the over 100 Egyptians held in prison were subjected to “beatings, electrocution and bone breaking and had no recourse to a lawyer or contact with the outside world save for mobile phones smuggled and hidden in their cell. Several attendees also harshly denounced the negligence of the Egyptian embassy and consulate, which did nothing to protect Egyptian citizens.
But still we’re still more outraged at what goes on in Guantanamo, even though the same things happen again and again in our own backyard.
So for all those who are shocked by the current hostage situation, don’t be.
It’s business as usual, at least for the eight Egyptians. Let’s just hope that this time around our government will learn a little something from the Germans, Italians and Romanians about the value of human life.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.