Egypt: Popular Justice Tackles Police Brutality

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Malek Mostafa, Ahmed Abd El-Fatah and Ahmed Harara are three Egyptians shot in the eye while protesting in Tahrir square. Harara lost his first eye while demonstrating in the Day of Rage on January 28, 2011, against former President Mubarak, and later lost his second eye after being shot during the second wave of the revolution against the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.

@linawardani: I went to see Ahmed Harara, I said hi and stretched my arm, he didn't answer, he couldn't see me he lost an eye Jan 28, the second nov 18

Neither those members of the country's security forces who killed or wounded hundreds of Egyptians during the first wave of revolution, nor those who did it again in the second wave have been punished yet. However, in the past two days people have started to share a video showing a police officer shooting [ar] and someone congratulating him for targeting one of the protester's eyes successfully.

Popular justice

Since then netizens have been sharing snapshots of the video showing the officer's face and deciding to dig deeper and reveal his identity.

A snapshot from the video showing the officer's face. Photo shared on Twitpic by @Sabrology

A snapshot from the video showing the officer's face. Photo shared on Twitpic by @Sabrology

Later on, users on Twitter claimed that they were able to identify him [ar]:

اسم الظابط المسئول علي إصابات العين وكأنه ناشينكان يتدرب عليه…ملازم أول محمود صبحي الشناوي. ريتويت
@ASU011: The officer responsible for shooting people's eyes as if he is targeting them … is Lenten Mahmoud Sobhy El-Shennawy. Retweet

As a way of naming and shaming the criminals, people also distributed leaflets [ar] and drew graffiti [ar] in the nearby streets [ar] about the officer with his name and crime written below it, asking people to find him.

Graffiti showing the officer's face for people to identify him. Photo from Facebook page, 'Sons of the Egyptian revolution'.

Another blog post published more information [ar] about what is believed to be his address, mobile number [ar] and a reward for whoever can arrest him.

There are different opinions about what should be done with the officer once found. Doaa El-Shamy sees that threatening him is the best non-violent option [ar]:

لا احنا مش هنضربه احنا نستناه تحت بيته يا يتحبس زي خرفان العيد يا يجرب ينزل وتتخزق عينيه ده القصاص لكن ولا نروع بيوت ولا نبلطج
@doaaelshamy: No, we are not going to beat him, we will wait for him at his home for him to be locked there like a sheep and to be scared of going out or else people will take their revenge from his eyes. However we will not attack his home or do any violence.

Abdelrahman Ayyash suggests [ar]:

أنا ضد قتل الظابط اللي اسمه محمود الشناوي اللي بيستهدف عيون المتظاهرين، لكن انا مع انه تتاخد منه قرنيتيه في عملية جراحية وتُهدى لأحمد حرارة
@3yyash: I am against killing the officer named Mahmoud El-Shennawy who targets protesters’ eyes. However I am for taking his cornea after a medical operation and handing it to Ahmed Harara.

Ahmed Fikry made fun of the situation [ar]:

فى مصر فقط .. يضع الشعب مكافأة على القبض على ظابط شرطة
@dr_fikry: Only in Egypt: A bounty is placed by the people for arresting a police officer.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights decided to pursue legal action against the officer, whilst Twitter user @MohHKamel [ar] believes that sharing the officer's information is a crime and should be stopped.

Other Twitter users have said that the address people are sharing [ar] is not in fact correct.

Another example of popular justice occurred when Twitter users such as @WagdyMez [ar] and @waelabbas [ar] reported that a pharmacy had refused to give some people medication when they discovered they were taking them to Tahrir square, the focal point for protests.

صيدلية سيف ترفض بيع الادوية لثوار التحرير…..كلنا لازم نقاطعها
@MariamHesham1: Saif Pharmacy refused to sell medications to Tahrir revolutionaries … we all should boycott them.

However, the exact opposite [ar] was reported [ar] by other users:

صيدلية سيف اديتنا حاجات ببلاش النهاردة للتحرير
@HebaFarooq: Saif Pharmacy gave us medications for free to [take to] Tahrir.

The question remains, whether popular justice is the best option when the legal system fails to protect people's rights. The examples in this post are certainly not the first initiatives of their kind; Piggipedia (@Piggipedia) used to profile those of Hosni Mubarak's security officers who were involved in torturing and suppressing dissent, by publishing their photos. Most probably, these will not be the last cases of popular justice in Egypt as well.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

1 comment

  • pp

    Beginning of XVIII cen. John Locke – father of liberalism : man has natural rights (namely LIFE, FREEDOM, PROPERTY) the state has to guarantee him, the state is not the source of them, they belong to all men since their birth!
    Full XVIII cen. Montesquieu – Power must limitate Power : theory of the 3 Powers (namely EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIARY) which must be independent and control one another – base of all Democratic systems
    End of XVIII cen. French Revolution – Power to individuals all equals (BROTHERHOOD, EQUALITY, LIBERTY)
    XIX cen. Birth of Democracy in western countries – result? Birth of social classes based on richness, birth of class fights between richand poor
    End of XX cen. – beginning of XXI cen. we are back to the XVII cen. : few people have everything, decide everything, use people as stones in a checkboard.
    Now. What do exactly Egyptians wont? To become ‘free’ as Europeans (i.e. in the hand of few rich who do whatever they want) or rich as Europeans? Are they so ingenuous to think that in Europe people count something? Are they? Well, in Europe too so many have the same illusion, but if you look to the indignados movement you’ll see that more and more have understood the game!
    So, I’ve no answers. But what is sure is that european sistem isn’t a guarantee for freedom, for justice, expecially for social justice.

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