Following the killing of a taxi driver by a police officer in Egypt last Thursday, the Egyptian president has called for a new law or the amendment of existing legislations to ensure police accountability for abuses. The tragic incident took place in downtown Cairo after dispute arose over the officer’s fare for the ride. Witnesses say the driver, Mohammed Adel, was being insulted by the police officer who then pointed a gun at his head and shot him point blank.
What followed was a huge protest as hundreds of people took to the streets of Cairo. Mourners and disgruntled residents chanted “police are thugs” as they went on the funeral procession of the slain young man. Other protesters occupied the streets around a security headquarters building.
Although the said officer had been arrested and Egypt’s Interior Ministry has described the incident as a “mistake”, the citizens are not having it. How many more “mistakes” can there be? How much more can be endured by common citizens in the hands of Egypt’s security forces? The killing of Mohammed Adel is just one of several other incidents of police brutality in the country. And the protest only highlights ongoing tensions in Egypt over these prevailing abuses.
Last year, Egyptian lawyers went on a strike after their colleague was tortured to death by policemen. And just last week, doctors staged a large protest after policemen assaulted doctors in a Cairo hospital. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had come out last November to offer a public apology to Egyptians on the increasing number of police brutality, but obviously his apologies didn’t change a thing, and now he’s called for laws and legislation amendment, an action that is long overdue.
A culture of impunity has long prevailed among security forces in Egypt as police brutality has gone unchecked and unrestrained for years. This was a major contributing factor in the popular 2011 Egyptian uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power after the inhumane torture and killing of Khalid Saeed, a 28 years old Egyptian who was tortured and killed by policemen in Alexandria, Egypt. Saeed’s death raised a global awareness on the issue of police brutality in Egypt “and their systematic torture of Egyptians.”
Recently, Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian student of Cambridge University suffered the same fateas Saeed, as his badly battered body was found on the outskirts of Cairo on February 3 2016. Regeni was conducting a research on independent trade unions, a very sensitive subject in Egypt when he suddenly disappeared on the 25th of January – the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian uprising.
So far, investigations and reports have incriminated the Egyptian security forces, especially after“credible witnesses” in Cairo said they saw the 28 year old being arrested by plainclothes policemen on January 25, the same day that he was reported missing. Egyptian authorities have come out to debunk these claims despite “unequivocal marks of torture” found on Regeni’s body.
An Egyptian official near where the body was found said the young man must have been involved in a car accident, but the prosecutor in charge of the case spoke of knife wounds, cigarette burns and torture. Further autopsy reports revealed signs that Regeni suffered “inhumane” and “animal-like” violence. Still, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of interior denies the involvement of Egyptian security forces in Regeni’s death.
The reaction to the young driver’s killing coupled with other cases of police brutality and the ongoing tension surrounding it could mean another uprising in Egypt. Like legendary Fela said, “This uprising will bring out the beast in us”, Egyptians have had enough, and are now more than ever, ready to express their displeasure against years of unrestrained police brutality in the country. President el-Sisi appears to be aware of this, and is clearly taking steps to avert a second uprising.