Cairo: When Hamed Al Shazli paid 1.8 million Egyptian pounds (approximately Dh1 million) in 2009 to buy a store near a police station in eastern Cairo, he thought he would recoup the money and even make gains in a few years. He admits he was wrong.
“Since the revolution against Mubarak, my business has gone from bad to worse due to the endless protests and now the violence almost everywhere in the country,” Al Shazli, 58, says.
Long-standing president Hosni Mubarak was swept from power in a popular uprising in early 2011. The army’s last month ouster of Mubarak’s elected Islamist successor, Mohammad Mursi, following large street protests, has inflamed Egypt’s unrest, triggering violence in which hundreds have been killed.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has condemned his toppling as a military coup and vowed to bring him back to power.
“When I bought the shop, I thought I was lucky because it is situated near Al Wayli Police Station. Being a neighbour of a police station in Egypt used to guarantee protection from thieves and thugs. This is no longer the case,” adds Al Shazli, who trades in household appliances.
Mursi’s supporters have frequently taken to the streets in large protests, disrupting the traffic and sparking clashes with his opponents.
In the wake of a deadly clampdown by security forces last week on two pro-Mursi camps in Cairo, alleged Islamists attacked dozens of security buildings. In one instance, suspected Islamist gunmen stormed a police station in Kerdasa, south of Cairo, lynching 11 security personnel.
The Interior Ministry has said that nearly 100 policemen have been killed in the past week alone.
“Although the police station near which my store is located has not been attacked, this is not a reason for me to feel at rest,” says Al Shazli. “As a precautionary step, I moved my goods away from the store and closed it for further notice. How long will the situation continue? Only God knows.”
State and private TV stations have recently shown footage of bullet-pockmarked police stations allegedly targeted by Brotherhood’s followers across Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of 85 million people.
Hamza Shukri, a coffee attendant, says he has moved with his family to live in his parents’ house for fear that a police station next to his home in eastern Cairo could be attacked.
“The station was attacked during the revolution against Mubarak, but my apartment was not affected. Now matters are very bad and I am not ready to take risks with my family,” adds Shukri, a father of four.
The military-backed government has authorised police to use live ammunition in self-defence as part of a nationwide state of emergency.
The Brotherhood, which has a history of mutual mistrust with police, has accused security agencies of hiring thugs to assault its supporters and attacking public buildings purportedly to warrant a relentless crackdown on Islamists.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to peaceful protests and has pledged never to resort to violence in response to the violence perpetrated against it by the coup authorities,” Mohammad Al Beltagui, a senior Brotherhood official, wrote in an article carried this week by The Guardian of Britain.
“We believe that our peacefulness is a more powerful weapon than all the killing machines employed by the army or the police,” he added.
“State institutions in Egypt, including the army, the police and the judiciary, have been hijacked and turned into tools of oppression.”