The Arab Spring: Their side of the story (the police)?
Chaos! “Is this what you guys sought from the revolution? Is this how you perceive freedom?” said Mahmoud, a Special Operations officer who was sent to Tahrir on January 25th and 28th among the Central Security Forces commanders. Mahmoud did not wait for my questions; he was already filled with antagonism and resentment. I invited him to sit and asked if he would like to drink anything, but he did not reply; he was absorbed in the current situation of police officers, and was relieved he would be able to “get it all out to someone who is willing to listen.” Seeing him in such state obliged me to put my questions aside and give him space to “get it out.”
At that moment, television was showing news of the Zamalek-Tunisia football match. Mahmoud cried “look at the number of people barging in the stadium to attack the Tunisian players! You tell me then, how should we force all those people out without any act of violence? We are being blamed for not doing our job properly, yet we are asked to abide to human rights laws. Should I reach for every person who stormed in the field and tell him “please get back to your seat sir!”?” To be true, I could not reply; should I tell him they must learn from the Western police for example. It didn’t make sense to me because Western police do use violence when required.
It is somehow difficult for those young police officers to work differently than what they were taught in the Egyptian Police Academy. They were taught to obey orders of their chiefs, actually not just their chiefs, but all officers who are superior. “Give me new commands and I will conform; write me a job description; teach me new ways than what I was taught earlier instead of instructing me to obey blindly without reasoning. Look Hind, the old regime was corrupt; it taught us the corrupted methods. If the new regime won’t be corrupt, by logic, how would we be allowed to use the corrupted methods?”
“Not a single country in the world can survive without police, and if you think that disbanding Social Security forces is a victory, then you are mislaid. Darling, before the 1952 revolution SSF was called ‘Political Police’ now, it will be called ‘National Security’ just like the FBI in the states or the Scotlandyard in the UK, the only difference is that they work according to certain regulations, and that is what we need in Egypt.” I asked him then if he thinks that the country really needs forces to fight the so-called terrorism or outlawed groups, and if this would also include protesters and opposition groups? He said he believes anyone acting violently should be punished otherwise the country will turn chaos. At that time I did not really approve what he said, but later after the events of the church in Imbaba, he called me and said “do you still believe Egypt does not need Social Security Forces?” I was speechless for that when he called me, I was particularly thinking about the same issue.
The following meeting, I was introduced to Tamer, an officer who was securing Maspiro area. As Mahmoud told me earlier, Tamer is an officer known among his acquaintances as “desperado” who has killed 54 drug dealers in cold blood! Tamer, however, didn’t look like a killer. To be true, I’ve never seen murderers before, so I can’t really give my opinion in this. On that day, I also invited my friend Mohamed, a physician who was protesting on both dates. We had long discussions on those events. Mahmoud and Tamer kept saying they did not have any live weapon while Mohamed kept arguing that they are not saying the truth until we all found out that Tamer do not consider the khartoosh as a live weapon since it does not kill!! That, as a point of fact, made me laugh out loud, shocked of how we, civilians, have total different perspectives than those officers, as if we are coming from total different cultures.
Tamer then said “Look, put my name in your interview, I am not afraid. You must know that on January 25th, 11:00 pm, the CSF got orders from The Ministry of Interiors to ‘terminate’ those protests and the sit-in Tahrir by any means, and we were provided with live arms. Have you known or read of any live weapon shot in Tahrir that day?” Tamer went on saying that they did their best not to fire on any civilian. “Hind, that is what they fed us with since we enrolled in the Academy, we must obey rules, yet, we did our best not to. Why are you blaming us and leaving those who gave the orders out!” Tamer told me many names imprisoned now – back then were still out – who, from his opinion, were responsible for the orders to fire on civilians.
Mahmoud went on talking about his favorite subject “last week while sitting in the police vehicle in front of Imbaba’s police station. A resident from the neighborhood, or in my words, a thug, threw a lighted filter of a hash cigarette on my face! I was shocked and unable to react. Is this what the revolutionaries sought? Would they be happy when police officers become totally incapable of doing their jobs? Would they feel better when their only way to victory is to see those police officers disrespected?” I stopped Mahmoud here telling him that this is not the reality, and as police officers have not planned any of it, revolutionaries have not planned any of it as well. Mahmoud did not comment to what I said, but his facial expressions revealed his disapproval. He promised to send me a video that, in his words “might prove the reality of what happened on January 25th and 28th. “It was not selmeya Hind, protestors attacked us and you will see this in those videos !!