Liberating downtown from its occupiers


For decades, the streets of Kasr El Nil and Talaat Harb in downtown Cairo were a picture of tidiness and elegance. So I was utterly shocked to see masses of street vendors clogging the streets and sidewalks as I was passing through downtown today. Not only have these vendors created an eyesore, the way they are displaying their goods has reduced the passage of cars to a single vehicle, and has completely blocked the sidewalks from pedestrians. This, of course, is illegal.

The shopkeepers in this area are facing a serious challenge as it has become impossible for them to sell their wares and earn their living. Customers can no longer see their shops, nor reach them.

In order to avoid clashes with the occupying mob, policemen look the other way, unwilling to enforce laws of public order. The result is that criminals are acting as if the January 25 Revolution gave them permission to create a state of chaos. Clearly they have forgotten the youth who came out en masse in the early days to clean Tahrir Square themselves.

As I continued my way through downtown, I found the street vendors occupying others sites; he area around the railway station, 26th of July Street, Kasr El Nil bridge and El Galaa bridge. These have all been turned into impromptu cafes served from food carts, with tables and chairs spread along the length of the bridges’ footpaths.

In another example of lawlessness, those who call themselves “Salafists” took it upon themselves to besiege the headquarters of the Egyptian National Security Service accusing all of its officers of committing excesses and abusing citizens, describing them as “dawn visitors” and demand the eradication of this important institution. They should know that the police without a national security organization would be like a body without a brain.

Even if there are individual cases of officers in this organization who committed excesses, one cannot generalize and accuse the entire organization of complicity. It is an unfair distortion and obstruction of the very important role this service plays. To be clear, the National Security Service is only responsible for gathering information, not for deciding what to do with it.

This is not the first time that salafist groups and their leaders such as Hazem Abu Ismail have assailed institutions and individuals. The headquarters of Al Wafd newspaper, the Giza Police Station, the former interior minister, and Cairo’s Media Production City have all been victims of attacks meant to intimidate, disrupt and destroy freedom of expression.

I really have to wonder what makes Hazem Abu Ismail think this is his role. What makes him think he is exempt from accountability before the law? And what kind of egotistical person is he to insult our army and discount the value of its leadership?

No doubt some revolutionary groups, through bad judgment, joined the groups affiliated with Abu Ismail, and were unaware that their main demand is to eradicate our national security service. I would ask the members of the public prosecution to be fearless and firm in their investigations into the groups that aim specifically to destroy our state institutions.

The peninsula of Sinai is another area critical to our national security. Outlaws still threaten its borders and protect the remaining tunnels that provide escape routes for those who killed our soldiers in Rafah.

In all my writings I stress the necessity of security and stability, and its connection to discipline and the return of economic production. And in terms of the recovery of the tourism sector, this will not happen unless those abroad see that things have changed and that security has returned to the Egyptian streets.

In short, stability will never return without security, and without stability, the economy will continue to languish. I hope that our national security institutions are able to perform their duty and protect the state, the rights of the citizens, our national unity, and Al-Azhar.

Translated from Al Ahram

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