The Egyptian who dared cross the thin blue line

The Egyptian who dared cross the thin blue line
Feature: An Egyptian policeman caught on camera showing restraint and politeness to an aggressive member of the public has gone viral - for all the wrong reasons.
2 min read
05 May, 2015
The woman in the video is the daughter of a wealthy Egyptian tycoon [YouTube]

Police have acquired a fearsome reputation in Egypt.

Then a video circulated on the internet, purporting to show an Egyptian woman at Cairo Airport hitting a police officer and throwing a glass of water in his face.

"You don't know who I am?" she yelled at the police officer. He responded with utmost patience, and asked a gathering crowd not to film him.

It appears that Egypt's interior ministry are happy for videos of this kind to circulate on the internet. 

It shows the world the best side of the country's police force.

The officer is polite and patient, and refuses to respond to the taunts of the woman acting aggressively towards him.

Lamis al-Hadidi, a presenter on the pro-government channel CBC, interviewed the police officer, Lieutenant Colonel Hazem Fawzi.

She showered him with praise and he explained how a police officer should control their emotions and respect the law at all times.

Two-tier system

There is, however, another side to the story.

The woman in the video is Yasmin al-Narsh, whose father, Mohi, is the chairman of the Narsh Express tourism company and owns tourist resorts in Cairo and Hurghada.

The Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm alleged that Narsh lost her temper after the police officer discovered that she was carrying 200 grams of cannabis.

The story launched a barrage of sarcastic Arabic-language hashtags - #Freedom_for_Yasmin_al-Narsh being one of the more popular.

It highlighted a double standard at work in the police force. Egypt's security forces are renowned for their brutality - many videos posted online show police and military fighters assaulting protesters - including left-wing activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, who was shot dead at a peaceful protest early this year.

The ways the officer showed restraint and patience with  this well-connected citizen could not be more different to the incidents of police violence that have been well documented.

Instead of showing Egypt's professional and disciplined police force, the interior ministry has inadvertently reinforced a commonly held belief in the country - that a display of courtesy and humility from the police is noteworthy enough to put on television, showing that there is one law for the rich, and another for the rest of us.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.