Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is happening Egypt?

Since the January 25th Revolution, Egypt has been different. A natural occurrence for a post-revolution state; politicians are resigning, corrupt officials are being arrested, the people feel they hold the power, and criminals run amok.

Oh I'm sorry, is that last option not one that we're supposed to discuss? Because that certainly seems to be the stream of thought in many outlets. Embassies will ignore reports of rape, police will sit with their hands tied when cars are stolen, criminal gangs who have robbed, attacked, shot at, and terrorised people remain free. And where is the coverage of these events? Why are people continuing about their every day lives, all be it a little more tense, as though everything were normal?

The image that people are being fed of Egypt today is a country of progressive change and the natural ups and downs of transition to "democracy." It still seems that for the outside world, Tahrir is the window into Egypt. The reality on the inside is different - drastically so.

Just over one month ago now, I heard a horrible story of a woman, we'll call her B [name changed for privacy reasons], being attacked in the desert near Mubarak 2. B had been out walking her dogs, when a group of 5 men, some with swords for weapons, ambushed her. They robbed her of all her possessions, stole her car, and attempted to rape her. Had these 5 men not been interrupted by another person walking their dogs in the desert, I dread to think what might have happened.

B has been understandably terrified. She went through what she thought were all the right avenues to ensure that this gang would be apprehended. She spent hours in the police station recalling the details of her attackers. Any woman who has tried to report a sex crime in Egypt will know, it is ALWAYS the woman's fault. It does not matter how the attack happened, it does not matter if you were an unsuspecting victim. B was told that she should not have been walking her dogs in the desert and it was her own fault that she was attacked. She was even told "you have a garden, just let your dogs go there." The concept of actually walking a dog for exercise is foreign to many Egyptians.

This is where B had her car parked in the desert by Calypso

One would hope that the police, with B's accurate description of her attackers in hand [see below], would canvass the neighbourhood. Canvass they did, but not to uncover the gang of men. They went around to Bs housekeeper, asking if it was common for her to have male visitors. They wanted to establish a pattern whereby in Egypt B would be considered a whore, thereby ensuring that she herself must have somehow prompted the attack.

B did not give up there. The day of the attack, while B was still stuck at the police station, her friend phoned the German Consul Peter Ely. B was then informed via SMS of a meeting that she should attend, which she was unable to as she was still stuck in the police station. B herself sent an email to the German Consul, who then forwarded her complaint to the German Embassy in Cairo. The embassy was impudent; they blamed B for not having attended the meeting that she was clearly instructed to attend by an embassy employee. Yet no such employee ever contacted her.

Many people would call it quits here. B did not. She tried to contact media, nobody would pick up her story.

She has taken her story to the internet, and a group was created for people residing in Hurghada to tell their experiences here. The group is designed to shatter the image that has been created for people intent on visiting Hurghada, "All is well, all is safe, have no fear."

As long as it was only local residents being attacked - and let me note that B's incident is not isolated, there are many reports of burglaries, car jackings, purse snatching, and theft that run rampant in the streets - the government saw no reason to alarm tourists. Local residents have continued to post their information in the new Hurghada news group, and were sadly not shocked to learn that the gang that attacked B struck again two nights ago.

This time is was a German tourist and his 17 year old daughter who became the victims.

The 2 were being driven on the outer Ring Road of Hurghada when a silver Hyundai Elantra approached their car on the side. They attempted to get the car to pull over. When the driver did not stop the car, the passenger travelling in the Elantra pulled out a gun and attempted to shoot out the tires of the German's car. The Elantra continued to try and push the car into the desert. After an 8 km chase, 2 trucks appeared in the distance which prompted the Elantra to speed off.

As soon as this information was posted in Hurghada news, it became evident that this gang was the same gang as had attacked B. Down to the final details: one of the 5 men wears a white and checkered headscarf.

Sadly, as the reality is in Egypt, both stories have already been warped by rumours. I have been told that B was attacked in any number of locations throughout Hurghada. Having just spoken to her, I can confirm that she was attacked in the desert between Mubarak 2 and the street that Calypso lies on.

This blog is a message. To those living in Egypt and those hoping to visit. Despite what the media might be trying to tell you (or rather, not tell you), do not forget that there are still many criminals unaccounted for. The trade in illicit guns has spiked drastically since this time last year. Egypt is not the safe haven it once used to be. Don't be stupid, stay alert and aware. Keep your doors and windows locked at night, and do NOT engage anyone in the streets.

Here is B's description of her attackers.

Description of the perpetrators of 13 June 2011.

5 young men aged around 20 -25 years.
Size: 1.75 - 1.80 m; slim
4 of the criminals were wearing normal casual wear, jeans and T-shirts, very clean.

1 - probably the boss of the gang - was wearing military clothing (camouflage French or American) and a beige vest. His head was covered with a headscarf Palestinian style (Yasser Arafat wore this pattern). It was bound as it is often seen on quad safaris. His skin colour: light brown, large hanging eyes, thin face, thin beard around the mouth and chin.

2 of the criminals were armed with swords. The swords had a length of 90 cm and were wavelike jagged, Color: matt silver.

Model of the stolen cars: Daewoo Lanos, built in 2004, with anthracite bright sun spots on hood and trunk lid, car license plates: ط ر د ٢٥٣٤

Below are some links with more information on the current situation in Egypt: 

Interior ministry: Police cracking down on crime, searching for 110,000 suspects and fugitives

Gun policy and figures [these figures start from a few years back - pay attention to the government figures, many of these guns were stolen during the revolution]

Arms thriving in Upper Egypt [and the number of Upper Egyptians living in Hurghada has increased exponentially..coincidence?]

You may request an invite to the Hurghada news group here.

And for women, find information on how to avoid harrassment and MAKE YOUR OWN PEPPER SPRAY here

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