CAIRO: The proverbial being from Mars who accidentally lands in Egypt (assuming that it can read) will instantly identify Egypt’s national ailment as some deviant form of schizophrenia marked by haphazard outbursts of excruciating violence.
And that’s an understatement.
It seems that the “system has morphed into an a-reasonable creature who not only defies basic legal tenets, but also its own lopsided rules, amidst the growing madness.
Egypt has tragically stepped into the extreme end of the chaos continuum.
I’ll explain. On Tuesday the Cairo Administrative Court decided that the presence of police officers affiliated to the Interior Ministry on Cairo University campuses was both unconstitutional and in violation of university by-laws, effectively banning them there and in turn at other universities.
According to a report which ran in this newspaper, the case had been brought by members of the March 9 Movement, a group of Cairo University professors who press for university autonomy and academic freedom, who have been lobbying against intense and continuous interference by police officers on campus in all aspects of university life, including academic affairs.
The ruling was referred to Article 317 of the implementing statute of the Universities Law which provides that each university is responsible for creating its own security units that report to, and receive orders from the university president directly.
The article limits the duties of this unit to protecting university buildings and forbids interference in academic life. This is currently not the case as evidenced by the annual student union elections clashes when independent candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood and left-wing currents complain every year from being removed from candidates’ list because of such breaches by security forces.
That was Tuesday.
On Wednesday, there was a little war in Cairo University. Agencies reported that about 600 baton-wielding riot police clashed with 300 students who were holding a protest against the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The students were a mix of independents or members of various opposition groups who basically wanted to express solidarity with the people of Gaza and who challenged the government’s decision to bar several attempts by the Brotherhood and opposition activists to send convoys of medical supplies through Rafah.
The shocking image of one student lying on his back on the asphalt as blood streamed down his face is perhaps the most disconcerting piece of evidence of police brutality since the early 2006 “judges crisis when the lawyers of two independent Egyptian judges, who exposed election fraud and the corruption of other judges loyal to the regime, were barred from entering the courthouse on the day of the trial.
Images of rights activists, journalists and other judges supporting whistleblowers Justices Hisham El-Bastawisi and Ahmed Mekki being kicked and beaten, spread like wildfire on the internet back then, prompting synchronized demonstrations by Egyptians in 11 international capitals.
Apart from the fact that the Wednesday attack on the students ironically comes one day after the court banned police officers from setting foot in Cairo University, the attacks are all the more unjustifiable because these students were not – God forbid – calling for the downfall of the regime; they were not demanding their political and civil rights; they were not holding the 27-year ruler of this country accountable for the rampant unemployment plaguing the lives of young people with no glimmer of hope for a better future; they were not blaming him that 25 percent of Egypt’s population of 76 million lives under the poverty line, or for the corruption, cronyism and nepotism that have stilted this country’s development at a time when a country like Malaysia, which only existed as a unified state as recently as 1963, is well on its way to becoming a fully developed country.
The students were merely showing solidarity with the victims of a humanitarian crisis and drawing attention to a ticking time-bomb that will likely explode if nothing is done about it soon.
In the meantime, the authorities continue going to great pains to impose a media blackout on the trial of Hisham Talaat Moustafa in the Suzanne Tamim murder case, citing that public opinion was being influenced by the coverage.
What about public opinion on issues that actually matter to thousands of people like Gaza, food price hikes, housing crises, the slums suffocating Cairo and unemployment.
Last time I checked, public opinion was never a threat in a police state like Egypt. So if anyone out there who can make a difference is reading this, please stop embarrassing us in front of the Martians, pick up that schizophrenia prescription and use it.
Rania Al Malkyis the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.