By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — The revolution that changed Egypt is nearly a year old, and a growing security problem has many wondering if Egyptian security forces are complacent about or complicit in the mayhem around them.
There has been an unprecedented rise in violent crimes since 2011, which has largely been attributed to prison breakouts and a lack of police.
The brazenness of the violence is also troubling. Seven men went into a bank robbery shooting in January; the same day, three men stormed an armored car and made off with $500,000. A few days later, there was a surreal scene as families lined up outside of a Cairo morgue to watch the procession of coffins carrying the 74 people killed in the Port Said soccer melee.
Historically, Egypt has been safer than many Western countries, but this trend has changed.
Earlier this month groups of American and South Korean tourists were kidnapped in the Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen.
Currently, at least 20 Jordanian nationals are trapped in the Ras Sidr area in the governorate of south Sinai. “They can’t move because the road is being blocked by tires set on fire by Bedouin protesters demanding the release of Sinai prisoners,” said an Egyptian interior ministry source.
This increase in violent crime has taken police by surprise, as many city neighborhoods seem to slip fervently out of their grasps.
“We keep reading about crimes that never before existed in our community,” said Mohamed Radwan, the owner of a Cairo gift shop. “After so many years of financial frustration under [President Hosni] Mubarak, a certain class of people is willing to do anything for more money, even if that means killing people while robbing them.”
It appears that many of the criminals feel that Egyptian security forces are too busy confronting political issues to seriously deal with crime or provide security.
Ironically, the crime and unrest have brought a sense of equality to some Egyptians as both poor and rich share concerns over security. “We got used to burglaries and attacks and assaults in our poor neighborhoods,” said Soad Mahmoud, a Cairo street vendor. “But I see this everywhere now, cars getting stolen and people murdered for money in places that once used to be the safest.”
The Egyptian police have consistently made statements saying that the situation is under control, however the almost daily incident reports continue to bring criticisms of the security forces.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera — Jordanians “trapped” in Egypt’s Sinai — 26 Feb. 2012
Philadelphia Inquirer — Brazen crimes add unease to Egypt — 26 Feb. 2012
Boston.com — Egypt: Tribesmen kidnap 3 Korean tourists in Sinai — 10 Feb. 2012
Al Jazeera — Security in Egypt’s Sinai a cause for concern — 05 Jan. 2012