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Demonstrating policemen threaten to leave elections unsecured

Lower-ranking policemen took to the streets Monday calling for the removal of the interior minister, a cleansing of remnants of the old regime in the ministry and higher wages

Sarah Raslan, Monday 24 Oct 2011
police
Lower-ranking policemen demonstrate in front of Cairo's interior ministry Monday (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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More than 10,000 lower-ranking policemen from across Egypt demonstrated outside the Ministry of Interior in central Cairo, calling for the minister to resign and threatening to initiate an open ended strike until their demands are met. Should this be the case, the policemen also warned that they will not secure the upcoming parliamentary elections from transgressions and violence incited by hired thugs.

They chanted against Mansour El-Eissawy, the minister of interior, calling for him to step down and for the minsitry to be cleansed of remnants from the former regime.

“Our demands are clear,” said Ali Hassan, a lower-ranking policeman who has served for over 15 years.

“We want higher wages, fair promotions, proper healthcare for us and our families, equal pay according to efforts and workload, proper working hours and a cleansing of the ministry of former interior minister Habib El-Adly’s henchmen,” he said.

He added that recent graduates who have connections within the police force or interior ministry get paid double the salary of others and are promoted ahead of colleague's of the same rank and with years of experience.

"Just because your uncle has a friend whose grandmother knows someone does not mean that you should be promoted while others with years of experience never advance," he said.

Some demonstrators shared stories reflecting their bad experiences of the police force and the ministry. Others sat on the ground in front of the ministry gates to signal their readiness to stage a sit-in, while others stood and sat on top of buildings across the street from the ministry and yelled chants with the demonstrators.

Two policemen, who requested that their identity not be revealed, said they complained to higher-ranking officers after working long hours and were assured the matter would be discussed the following day. Instead of discussing the issue as promised, both men were investigated for ten days without pay.

“We just want to be treated fairly,” they said.

“This is Adly’s ministry. Nothing has changed,” they said pointing at the ministry’s gates.

Another group of demonstrators paraded through the crowd, carrying a man in police uniform wrapped in an Egyptian flag. They proceeded to the ministry’s black and gold metal gates and started banging and calling for the minister to come out and face them.

Interior Minister General Mansour El-Eissawy took office in March, following the January 25 Revolution that ousted former president Mubarak and his cabinet.

Police demonstrations did not only take place at the ministry of interior, located close to the revolutionary Tahrir square. Hundreds of policemen were protesting in Hurghada today and police demonstrators in upper Egypt threatened to block the railways.

Here in Cairo, the demonstrating policemen said they would hold a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Interior and threatened to storm Cairo International Airport and occupy the airport’s terminals.

The demonstrators said their protest was peaceful but an April 6 Movement member, Amr El-Sawy, who was filming the demonstration was attacked and assaulted by the protesting policemen. April 6 later reported that El-Sawy was arrested following the altercation.

The demonstrating officers said that if their demands are not met, their strike will spread across Egypt. 

Police and security forces in Egypt lost the public's sympathy long before they attacked protestors during the 18-day January 25 Revolution. The brutal beating to death of Khaled Said in Alexandria by two policemen in June 2010 is seen as a key factor in spurring the popular uprising against the state that swept Hosni Mubarak out of power after nearly 30 years.

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