There is a tacit awareness that kiosks serve as the hub around which Cairo’s drug trade turns; police officers and the kiosk workers under their direction pulled into orbit with the drug users.
A senior student at the Police Academy, who has asked to remain anonymous, explained to Daily News Egypt that those who work at kiosks are forced to work as informants and to share the profit generated from Egypt’s drug trade to be able to operate their business safely.
Major General Yassin Hossam Al-Din, former deputy governor of Cairo and the current governor of Ismailia, told Daily News Egypt that most of the people operating kiosks in Cairo and other governorates are former convicts and criminals, who received their kiosks as a form of subsistence, which the governorate provides for them after they have completed their time in prison.
Kiosks, in greater Cairo and other Egyptian governorates, have become a social focal point for young men and teenagers. However, recently, certain kiosks have become not only a place for social exchange a place where featuring the consumption and sale of drugs, especially hashish.
In affluent neighbourhoods – such as Garden City and Zamalek – this phenomenon is far less common, with the majority of drug sales occurring in private, and often among a relatively close social circle.
On the other hand, in lower-income areas, small or large scale drug dealing and distribution does not require as much indiscretion, as the police do not have as much presence and control in these neighbourhoods. Drug consumers have clearer conduits to sources of supply.
Between these two points, the kiosks serve as a source of supply and cover for middle class consumers.
In places like Heliopolis, Nasr City, and Maadi, each street or area has its own dealer; either a person from within the area or an outsider who is working with the principal supplier in the area. The dealer takes a share from his supplier and distributes it within the zone he works.
This dealer is not always a drug dealer only. He is either a “baltagy” (a hired-hand employed to settle conflicts often violently) or a procurer of sex services (if not a sex worker).
Moreover, according to the young residents of Maadi and Nasr City, kiosk owners are not always the dealers themselves, but the dealing happens in their vicinity. Although many of them may not consent to this, some take advantage of the situation and begin selling legal smoking constituents, things that the hashish smokers need, such as rolling paper, tobacco, or cigarette filters.
As for those who do not consent to the idea of dealing on their premises, they generally do not complain or inform the authorities, as their business could be harmed if they report this action. Some sources indicated that drug dealers or users buy the kiosk owners’ silence either with money, protection, or by giving them a small portion of their drugs.
Recently, police forces tightened their control over the situation, decreasing the number of kiosk dealers. However, drug sales have not stopped. Drug dealers have become mobile, and are a push of a button away.
Youssof A. and Ahmad E. have purchased drugs from dealers that use mobile phones to facilitate their sales. According to the two, the process works when a person calls the dealer and asks for a certain amount, and they choose a time and place to meet. Usually, a kiosk is the agreed upon place.
The dealer usually arrives at the agreed upon place with no more than the amount ordered. The more cautious dealers take buyers into a place in which they feel more secure, walking them through a complex maze of small roads to guarantee the buyer’s safety, before making the deal.
Youssof also said that “there is no kiosk in Nasr City that is not considered a dealing spot for some people/youth”. He also said the dealers do not sell to people they do not trust, so as to avoid getting caught. He added that there are kiosk owners who operate as middlemen, rather than dealers. They sometimes buy hashish from dealers, and deliver it to the persons buyers, taking a small commission.
The buyers who use this method range in age from 15 to 25 years old. The reasons drug users gave as to why they began using drugs vary; some said they began using drug in a social context. Others said they began drug use out of curiosity.
Others said that they began smoking in general, and later took up smoking hashish specifically, after they began their secondary education. For them, hashish provides them relief from the stress of their studies. Some said hashish helped them to concentrate better while studying.
This somewhat corresponds to the statistics given by the head of the Drug Abuse and Addiction Fund, Amr Osman, who stated that 29% of youth who use drugs believe that it helps them become more bold and courageous in their lives, while 36% believe it allows them to become socially accepted, and 34% say drug use helps them overcome depression and stress in their lives.
Further investigation revealed that some in the youth demographic have claimed that certain police officers are the main suppliers of drugs – either as producers or through drug supplies they have seized. Further, police officers are believed to have dealers working for them to distribute the drugs, who in turn enjoy impunity.
Some users claimed that the dealers they buy from have told them that their drug supply originates from the police. Moreover, they added that when a police officer faces problems with a drug dealing or possession case, or when the annual report is filed at the end of each year, the officer asks one of his dealers or informants to find some minor drug dealers to confess to those cases. In turn, these minor dealers spend some time in prison, and are paid a considerable amount of money in recompense.
Moreover, some of these kiosks exist directly in police territory. A dealing spot exists at a kiosk behind the First Nasr City Police Station, and is considered well-known to the youth around the area.
Daily News Egypt observed a drug deal, behind the Ain Shams Police Station. A series of pre-agreed signals were made to indicate to the dealer that the buyer had arrived. The deal went smoothly, though there was no evidence of a connection between this dealer and the police.