“We are demanding to arm ourselves” is a statement that wasn’t issued by a military body but  by representatives of civil and Islamic forces, after a wave of attacks on the headquarters of political parties including Al-Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood. Upon refusal of the Ministry of Interior, some have considered hiring private security companies.

“We are demanding to arm ourselves” is a statement that wasn’t issued by a military body but  by representatives of civil and Islamic forces, after a wave of attacks on the headquarters of political parties including Al-Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood. Upon refusal of the Ministry of Interior, some have considered hiring private security companies.

Issam Al-Aryan, vice president of the Freedom and Justice Party, announced in a TV interview, his wish to arm some Muslim Brotherhood youth to protect the headquarters. These statements didn’t please Major General Ahmad Bilal, a security expert, who described them as “political stupidity”, stressing that Al-Aryan’s statements implied that “the President who once was the leader of his party couldn’t handle things or impose security although the Ministry of Interior is part of a government that takes orders from the President”.  

Security companies are the back door to arming

Up until now, the Muslim Brotherhood and other forces have not been allowed to use arms, something Bilal ruled out happening in the near future. But arming political forces can happen in number of other ways, namely through security companies whose mission is to protect some places and institutions especially since such companies are far from societal control.

Bilal believes that it is possible for some political forces such as the Muslim brotherhood to secretly employ its members in some security companies, which do may not heed professional standards in their work and do not seriously investigate their employees. He says it is possible for these companies to license arms for their employees who are originally Muslim Brotherhood members. The Muslim Brotherhood has already got illegal arms as seen in the case of the bodyguard of Khairat Al-Shater, deputy of the group’s General Instructor, who was arrested with an unlicensed gun.

Al-Aryan’s statements came after the headquarters of the group and the party were attacked in a number of governorates including Ismailia, where the group’s headquarters in the Seventh Zone were burned and the façade of the Freedom and Justice headquarters was smashed in Al-Thalathini Street. Ahmad Ismail, a member of Al-Shora Council in Ismailia and a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, has denied his party’s plans to defend its headquarters on its own, in spite of Al-Aryan’s TV statements, explaining that protecting buildings of political parties is a responsibility of the Egyptian police. He feels the police have recently done a poor job in this regard.

Arming law graduates

Ismail stresses that delegating this mission to security companies means privatization of the Ministry of Interior, something which nobody would allow. “Should the police’s negative neutrality continue, there are many alternatives including delegating law graduates to do the job after training them and getting rid of the corrupted leaders in the Ministry of Interior, like what happened in Ukraine, which got rid of 18,000 police members after its revolution.” He explained that his party hadn’t denounced its aims, the most important of which is to restructure the ministry but dissolving the parliament had delayed that and stresses that this will be among the priorities of the next parliament.

What if the Muslim Brotherhood’s Headquarters are attacked during the Egyptian Revolution’s second anniversary on January 25th?

An official in the Islamic Group in Ismailia, who requested anonymity, stressed that its members had agreed with the Muslim Brotherhood members to protect the headquarters in case the police failed to do so. Ismail denied this.

Al-Wafd Party prefers human armors

Protecting their headquarters is not only the concern of the Islamic forces but also the liberal ones such as Al-Wafd Party whose main buildings in Cairo were attacked last month. Muhammad Juma, chairman of Al-Wafd Committee in Fayed, said: “Human armors are the solution to the issue of protecting Al-Wafd Party’s headquarters”. Juma came hastily from Ismailia to his party’s main headquarters in Cairo upon hearing about the attack by “terrorists from Abu Ismail Movement”. He stressed that he was surprised to know that his friend who accompanied him in his car was carrying an unlicensed automatic weapon. This friend explained that he wouldn’t use the gun unless Al-Wafd’s headquarters were attacked, saying that if the Ministry of Interior couldn’t control the situation, “Al-Wafd’s men certainly could.” Juma was horrified and feared that political conflicts could develop into a war of armed militias between them.

Juma confirmed that some leaders of Al-Wafd Party suggested hiring a security company to protect the party’s headquarters but all the members rejected that suggestion especially since it is highly expensive, stressing that the best option currently is that the headquarters’ employees along with the party’s members from all over the country protect the party’s property.

Only the church guarded by the Ministry of Interior

Dr. Najib Dawood, a clergyman in the Catholic Church, has agreed that protecting churches and Christian institutions will remain the task of the Ministry of Interior because Copts, he sayid, won’t accept killing their fellow people as long as there are authorities whose mission is to punish sedition and trouble makers.

According to Major General Muhammad Annani, director assistant of the police in Ismailia, the police did their best in terms of protecting and guarding party headquarters. He confirmed that an armored vehicle, two police cars and a firefighting car were assigned to protecting the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Ismailia. The other vital institutions such as the main churches were protected, shifting the blame for burning of the Brotherhood headquarters onto Brotherhood members themselves. ” I cannot disclose the details (about the investigation) right now because it is illegal”. He confirmed that no one of those accused by the Muslim Brotherhood of burning their headquarters in Ismailia was arrested.

Annani is amazed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s demands to arm some of their members and asks “Then what is the job of the police?” He stresses that the police are neutral in peaceful demonstrations but if things escalate to attacks on institutions and public and private possessions, then the police have no choice but to intervene. At the same time, Major General Annani admitted the difficulty of arresting individuals suspected in the burning case, as it happened during a demonstration involving hundreds of people.  

Private security companies under scrutiny

But what are the mechanisms of monitoring the work of private security companies, which some suggest as alternatives? Major General Annani says a great deal of investigation is being done about security company employees before guns are licensed, which is only permitted for big institutions such as Suez Canal Commission.  Civil citizens he says are not allowed to have guns to protect headquarters of political parties and forces.

As for the ability of political forces to penetrate security companies, consultant Muhammad Samir, manager of a private security company, confirms that the profession of a security guard is extremely widespread and that each company has its own policy of choosing employees and permitting them to use guns licensed by the related authorities, including the police. But his company has a specialized team, which works 24 hours a day to follow up its employees in all work sites and ensure they are neutral. The Muslim Brotherhood and other political forces, he claims, would not be able to secretly employ their men in his company without his knowledge. He says that his company may agree to guard the headquarters of any political party or group if they requested his services.