The real terrorism
I started writing this post a week prior to the revolution, but didn’t post it, kind of got occupied with the struggle to topple the regime and all..
But I think now its time to post it….
So this is what happened in brief…
Going home in a taxi, a police car (box as we call them in Egypt) and 4 officers decide i have to tell them where i live!
The highest ranked one (23 years of age maximum) starts to raise an eyebrow and put on the “bad cop” attitude…
“so what’s your problem? Why don’t you want to tell us where you live?”
“Why?” I ask in a tone of confidence, not affected at all with the terrorizing attitude he is trying to extend to me
“Just because (Kida in Arabic)”
“Is there a problem? I know my rights, and I know you can’t stop me unless there are 2 present cases, there is a report looking for someone like me, or that i am breaking a certain rule..(ishtibaah aw ishara in Arabic)
“No, that’s wrong… You do as i say… This is my area, no one comes and goes unless we ask them who they are”
Me: “Well, you didn’t ask me who i am, you asked me where I live! and Strangely enough, I have lived in this area for 12 years and no one ever stopped me”
“What’s your problem? just tell me where you live!”
“No, I know my rights, you are not authorized to even stop me”
“I know where you live anyway, and where you are coming from…” in a new attempt at provoking me
“why do you ask me then if you already know” ever so calmly i replied
“You are coming from (wrong place) and live in (wrong place)”
“Wrong. Can I leave now?”
Getting really mad he said “You are not allowed to leave until you show me some ID”
“Show me yours first” ever so quickly i replied…
The shocked look on his face was so amusing and only topped by the amused looks on the other officers of lower rank surrounding him.
He eventually took out his police ID, holding it tightly in his hand, showing me the back side of it, I reached out to see it he aggressively stated, “Its against the law for a civilian to touch my ID”
I responded “Well, its illegal for you to stop me now with no cause, so I suggest we head off to the police station so each one can get their lawful rights!”
He stood there puzzled and angry, went on ranting about how he didn’t want to go to the police station, as he has no problems with me as long as I tell him where I live!
I decided that this was taking too long, so I just said politely and innocently
“Listen, this conversation is of no use anyway, I do not have the national ID anyway”
A crooked smile drew on his face… “it gets better and better”
I stated back “I have my Canadian passport with me, would that work?”
I hated that I had to use that card, but it was starting to get messy. I mean, this is supposed to be a national force to protect Egyptian civilians, not to give a green card for foreign passport holders to do as they please!
He ofcourse, had to let me go, relentlessly, and could not really leave me without a final comment…
“I will allow you to go, for now, but I know how to get back at you.”
That was it. He woke up the raging pmsing no bullshit female in me.
I told the taxi driver to start the car and leave, only to find the officer in his car following us!
I quickly and have to admit, seemingly irrationally, told the driver to halt, and propped myself out of the car window, took a picture of the officer, and the plates of the car. I then asked the driver to head to the nearest police station.
I was an angry woman on a mission.
I started remembering on the short ride to the police station the 3 other similar incidents I had gone through in my years living in Egypt. But those are different stories on their own.
I want you to get the exact visual of the following, so I will bore you with a couple of seemingly irrelevant details:
Me, with my short dress, big blonde hair, made up face (I just came back from a shoot for my show), loud heels, a designer small bag hanging from my arm, and with a severely angry expression on my childlike face, walking into the police station around 1:30 am full of dirty, horny looking men who call themselves,” servants of the law”.
Needless to say, many of those so called “servants” ran to me. Born and raised in a chauvinistic society, they either instantaneously assume I am ill reputed, or in need of rescue. They did not know they had a long night ahead of them!
I was escorted into a small ground floor office of apparently the young officer responsible for the night shift.
“Whats your problem?” he said as he looked me up and down in disrespect.
“I am Canadian, and I have a problem with one of your colleagues”
His attitude changed then and there, and escorted me himself to the upstairs office of the highest ranking officer at the station, who was in bed sleeping at that time.
I was met with a lower ranking officer, but older man, who was very helpful, and was actually impressed that I gave him the plate number of the police car.
The night went on, and each time I tell my story to someone, they realize it is over their heads, and wake up a higher ranking officer to come and “fix it”.
A couple of younger officers were there, and realized instantly that I knew what I was doing, knew my rights well, and was not leaving until I get the name of the officer who stopped me. They realized I knew that I could not file a complaint against him in his own jurisdiction, not because it was illegal, but because no one will be involved in that, and apparently his father was “someone important”.
I was left alone in the glass doored office for a bit in the middle, and heard faint shouts from outside. I took a peak only to find that the officer in question holding the taxi driver, MY taxi driver by the neck and screaming “tell the basha she is lying, tell him she is making all this up”.
This is getting more interesting by the minute, I thought to myself. I walked out of the office calmly with my little dress and big hair, and asked quietly, “What are you doing with this man? He is with me”
The officer’s superior looked at me with disguised innocence, and said “we are just interrogating the driver, like we did with you.” As if that made sense.
“First of all, you did not interrogate me, I came to file a complaint, and second, if you want to interrogate him, you do so in the office infront of me, as I assume you will as well with this officer I am complaining about.”
A moment of silence.
Followed by orders to leave the driver and escort him in the office with me.
So here we were, Me, the Driver, the bad cop (who’s name turned out to be Mazen), the highest ranking officers of the police station and a couple of spectators.
Mazen started with the intimidating scenario of bad cop, keeping strong eye contact with me, lighting his cigarette and blowing in my direction in intimidation, the works!
And me, I kept getting phone calls from my friends who found out I was there from my tweets, and kept receiving threats from my behalf to stay away from the station, since I did not need anyone to come rescue me.
When the high ranking officer asked me “why don’t you call anyone to be with you now?”
I had to respond “why would I need anyone with me here? Isn’t this supposed to be the safest place in the area? Or should I be worried about something?”
With his not so well trained poker face he responded “ofcourse not.”
He proceeded to ask me AGAIN what happened infront of the officer, and to my surprise, he actually made the arrogant Mazen admit he did not follow authorized procedures, as Mazen proceeded in being disrespectful to him as well as what I was saying. Apparently his daddy was a REALLY important person.
All the officers there at this stage were trying to calm me down, and to “fix it”. But I was keen on proving my point. You will not get away with using your powers to terrorize civilians, nor to have a little bit of fun with pretty girls going home late.
I told them at the end, all I need is Mazen’s full name and information, and I was transparent with my reasons, which simply were that I will be filing an official report in a delegated division of the Ministry of Interior Affairs handling officer conduct and citizen complaints.
On the phone with me was one of my close friends, cultural and political Guru, Dr. Nabil Farouk, who was as usual, helping me out and guiding me in my citizen fighting for justice efforts!
When they made it clear they will not give me Mazen’s full name, I stated that I have their full names, since I took note of them when they introduced themselves to me, and will have to use this information to get him. I left them with their shocked facial expressions at 4am to walk out of the station, with my little dress, big hair and the taxi driver.
I had a good 2 hours sleep before a phone call from an “unknown number” woke me up.
“Good morning Ms. Noha, was getting worried about you, haven’t seen complaints from you for quite a while” said the calm deep voice at the other end of the call.
“Well, your boys have been awfully law abiding for a while, but apparently they cannot work under pressure.” I answered in a sleepy voice, referring to the All Saints Cathedral bombing in Alexandria that had tragically occured recently.
“Ok then, let us deal with the problem at hand, first of all, I would like to apologize to you on behalf of head of security of Cairo district, we have zero tolerance with officer misconduct with civilians in general, and that has been reinforced recently. Second, I would like to ask you to visit us today after we are done with processing the complaint to give us your written testimonial and sign it, that is if you like, if you don’t want to, that will not stop the procedures of investigating into the complaint.”
“Oh come on dear sir, you know I have no problems at all, on the contrary, it is my pleasure to help out” I said with a sarcastic humorous tone.
“Ok then, please expect a call from me during the day” he said laughing.
I will not bore you with details of my day, except that I had 2 historical encounters, one with Blake Morrison, investigative reporter from Washington Post, and with Najla, a long time online stalker turned friend. Both epic, but each deserves a blog post on their own.
I got the call later the day as Mr. X on the phone promised, and I headed towards the main building of the ministry.
Again, my day had started as a television anchor, so I went to this meeting in a little blue dress this time with semi big hair.
I walked in to the institute which is deemed sacred by a huge population of police personnel country wide with my little blue dress, semi big hair, and loud heels.
I was escorted regally into a grand office, with a built man sitting behind an old fashioned, but apparently expensive desk. He did not seem like an old man, and when I took a look at his introductory brass plate for his name and position, all it said was his name and “police officer”. Really? I was sure he was not just a police officer, but who knew how this institute worked!
I sat on the couch, put my bag down and said hello.
He instantaneously responded “Well hello young lady, no wonder our boys cannot help themselves around you, you are stunning.”
I very much right away responded “Well sir, I believe there is no law against being pretty is there?”
He laughed as I tried to stop myself from commenting against his extremely biased statement.
I again, and for the 59th time probably, recited my incident the night before, and asked him “so am I blowing things out of proportion like one of the high ranked officers told me last night?”
“Actually, no, I would like to thank you for being a responsible citizen, and for knowing your rights and fighting for them, and actually helping us do a better job”
I smiled, and nodded, secretly wondering if this attitude is due to my foreign passport holding status. No need to wonder? Well, benefit of the doubt is a must at all times, I suppose.
We then embarked on the process of writing the complaint. I told him I couldn’t really write well in Arabic, so he offered to write for me as I dictated him. I stressed on the fact that Mazen’s superior officer admitted that he did wrong, and that in his presence, Mazen admitted to all I accused him of.
Mr. X looked at me in admiration, as if saying, how can a cute little girl like you be so sinister?
I read the complaint, signed it, and asked if I could get a copy of it.
He agreed, only a little unwillingly, and got one of the lower ranking officers to make a copy of it with his fancy high tech machine inside the office, right beside his personal bathroom.
He told me he will be updating me with the procedures of the interrogation and I stated that I will surely be waiting.
During the next couple of days, I received calls from the Taxi driver informing me that Mazen was calling him on a daily basis, trying to be all friendly, and asking for my address, and the driver’s address, but “Boody” the driver, refrained from giving him both.
Then the revolution happened. At moments, I could swear the police officers that were responsible for terrorizing us in the square and on our way to the square were the subjects of my history of fighting for female rights against the terrorism of police officers to women, but I could never be sure.
My hatred for this police force have grown since then a million times, and tried to raise my voice to the world when they asked if the police brutality is something that emerged during our revolution, with my clear message of “police corruption has been always in our streets, with officers given the right to do as they please, and given the feeling they are above the law, not servants of the law”.
“When dealing with them, you instantly get the vibe they have been educated and raised to believe they are Gods, and they are above all laws and regulations, that they own the streets and everyone on them. Such a huge difference between the vibe you get when you chat with an army officer. One of the army officers we chatted with during the revolution, specifically infront of the People’s assembly building downtown, a couple of days prior to February 11th – It is not our job to act as traffic patrol in the morning, protect you guys in the afternoon, search for corrupt police in the early evening, and put them on trial in the late evening. Our place is on the borders, protecting our civilians, fighting battles if needed-. I believe the difference in mentality is quite obvious.”
I have to say though, in defense of my personal ideologies and principals, we cannot ever generalize any characteristic. That will be prejudice at its core. But I am just speaking of my experiences, which can all be summarized in the story above.