On Sunday, Egyptians took the law into their own hands and killed two men they said stole a motorized rickshaw by hanging them by their feet. According to one photographer at the scene, among the 3,000 people who witnessed the lynching were women and children crying, “kill them.”
Only last week, the attorney general of the country opened the floodgates when he told Egyptians to arrest criminals themselves and turn them over to the police. The Egyptian police have been crippled by thousands of their members going on strike against President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood agenda.
Police who were still working could not reach the site of the violence because the roads of the nearby city of Mahalla were blocked by microbus drivers protesting the lack of available diesel fuel.
The lynchings took place in Samanod in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya. A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood said the area was out of control; there have been many rapes, including girls who were just coming out of school.
He said, “Unfortunately, the police are completely out of the picture in Gharbiya. They are not comfortable with their position, with the president or with their role after the uprising.”
The two men who were murdered were caught in the act of stealing the rickshaw; witnesses said the men were also attempting to abduct a girl in the rickshaw, who managed to escape. The men were savagely beaten and then hung by the rafters of an open-air bus station. Only after they were dead were they left at the police station.
The violence may escalate quickly; the two murdered men hailed from the nearby village of Mahallahit Ziyad. One anonymous witness said, “The lack of security has created a sense of terror here.”
The governing Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents had vastly different explanations for the chaos in Egypt; the Brotherhood spokesman in Gharbiya said the police were deliberately weakening themselves in order to catalyze a return to power of the previous Mubarak regime. Opponents claim that the attorney general’s encouragement of civilian arrests is the beginning of a civilian militia that will replace the police force.
The clashes between Morsi and Egyptian citizens continues apace; Morsi recently praised riot police, who have been criticized because they have violently clashed with anti-government protesters. On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators protesting an assault reportedly made on journalists by the Muslim Brotherhood at the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo.
The day before, in the poor governorate of Sohag, opponents of Morsi and the Brotherhood tried to force their way into the hall where Morsi was speaking. Although Morsi’s office denied the incident occurred, video clearly showed the incident took place.