Police strike in Egypt: “we’re bearing the brunt of the govt’s mistakes”

Policemen protesting in Mansour, in north-east Egypt. Translation of the placards: ‘No’ to using the police to settle the political crisis.
Frustration over poor working conditions has boiled over in the ranks of the Egyptian police.
For the past week, local police forces and anti-riot brigades across the country have gone on strike, including in the key cities of Cairo, Giza, Port Said, Mansour, Ismailia and Alexandria. The Egyptian newspaper ‘Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ has reported that policemen were refusing to protect President Morsi’s home in the Nile Delta region, and that the army had been forced to stand in.
The police’s demands and grievances appear in some ways contradictory. They are demanding better weapons to control the violent street protests at which more than 50 people have died in the past month alone. But they also say they are sick of being used on the frontline to carry out the government’s dirty work. The police are calling on the government to make reforms to end the protests, instead of relying on the police to quell the anger on the streets.
They have given the government an ultimatum: fulfil their demands, including sacking the Interior Minister, or they will hold mass street demonstrations on March 22nd.
The government is unwilling to cede to these demands as they have rejected the police’s claim that they are being unjustly used in the ongoing unrest. Given that thousands of policemen are refusing to carry out their duties, the government released a statement on Monday encouraging citizens to 'arrest' criminals and hand them over to the security forces. The statement was strongly criticised by the opposition, who fear a return of the violent street militia that emerged during the revolution two years ago.
Video of policemen demanding better weapons to carry out their duties

“We are, as much as the protesters, victims of the country’s political crisis”

Ahmed Okasha is a police officer in Giza, near Cairo. He is on-strike.
We are protesting to denounce the government’s use of the same ideology we saw under Hosni Mubarak’s regime: an ideology which consists of replacing political solutions with repression and using the police force to carry it out. The revolution hasn’t made a difference.
A sit-in in Mansour, in north-east Egypt. The policemen say they are ‘on the people’s side’
Egyptians are protesting to demand political, economic and social reforms. They’re protesting against the government. And instead of facing up to its responsibilities itself, they are making the police the people’s enemy because the police are forced to represent the government. So the protesters lash out against us and we retaliate, fuelling a vicious cycle of violence.
We are, as much as the protesters, victims of the country’s political crisis. Police stations are set on fire and policemen are dying. We’re bearing the brunt of the government’s mistakes. So to say, like the Interior Minister did, that the police should be distanced from political conflicts, is completely unrealistic.
The government has to understand that the solution to the political crisis cannot come from the police; it has to come from the state’s institutions. The police force’s role is to maintain order, not to make up for the lack of government reforms or calm the general public’s anger.
“It's not up to us to be at the beck and call of the party in power.”
The policemen who are on-strike are calling themselves the ‘March 7th Movement’, referring to the day when the first strikes began (Editor’s note: a spokesman for the movement has suggested March 7th become a national ‘Police Day’). We’re calling for the resignation of the Interior Minister, and we want to rid the entire Interior Ministry of those who favour a politics based on police force. We want new leaders who will give the police back their rightful position in society.
The role of the Egyptian police is to defend state establishments and institutions, and not to be at the beck and call of the party in power.
This article was written in collaboration with France 24 Journalist, Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira). 


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