During the last few months, incidents of lynching have increased, especially in Al Sharqia Governorate east of the Nile Delta where 14 lynching incidents have taken place, according to authorities.

During the last few months, incidents of lynching have increased, especially in Al Sharqia Governorate east of the Nile Delta where 14 lynching incidents have taken place, according to authorities.

Amid shouts “Allah Is the Greatest,” Mustafa Sabri Mustafa, a civil servant who was suffering from acute depression and receiving psychotherapy for some time, was killed after he ordered a sandwich from a falafel vendor and did not pay for it. Mustafa was on his way to the psychiatric hospital when the woman vendor shouted “thief!” He was immediately surrounded by the villagers of Gundia in Bilbeis District, who punished him for the crime of theft in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.

Killed for a loaf of bread

Mustafa’s father, Sabri, said his murdered son suffered from depression, after being discharged from military service after the revolution. Sabri’s neighbor Abdurraouf Hassan said the deceased was a man of good deeds rather than words and that he knew the holy Koran by heart and volunteered to clean the mosque’s toilets, something the mosque’s janitors did not do.

“The villagers surrounded him once they heard the woman’s shout and started to beat him. He tried to escape by jumping into Morees Canal even though he could not swim. The villagers could have just let him drown, but they went after him in boats and picked him up. They placed him in a circle and the village’s butcher cut an artery in his leg and then stabbed him in the head and chest. My son was begging for his life, but the mosque’s imam was encouraging the crowd who were shouting ‘Allah is the Greatest.’ Then they dragged my son in the streets. It was all recorded on cell phones and uploaded on the internet,” Sabri said.

Collective and official complicity

Mustafa had been missing from home all day, and when video of his murder went viral on the internet it was seen by his brother, Nabil.

In the following morning, Nabil went to Gundia and started shouting before the villagers who then beat him and threatened to kill him as they did his brother. According to Nabil, all suspects have since disappeared; the falafel lady, the butcher and the mosque’s Imam, while the village headman turned in a man who was not at the murder scene. Nabil added that the police arrived the third day.

I did not do it

The sole suspect, Mohammed Alloush, who was temporarily released said, “I did not kill the psychopath since I was far away from the crime scene. The locals were fooled by the woman’s call and they told the police that his behavior was weird, but they actually have lynched criminals before.”

Alloush believed that the reaction of the villagers was justified. “We faced robbery incidents by bandits roaming the neighboring areas and the police did not interfere. A woman was kidnapped in broad daylight. We have the right to defend ourselves and immediately punishing criminals has proven to be effective in deterring bandits from robbing us,” he explained.

Collective crime

Deputy Chief of Bilbeis Police Station Colonel Hani Abdulmaboud described the crime as a collective one, since all villagers participated in the criminal act, suggesting that the villagers had lynched two real criminals before. “We managed to seize the suspect but he was released by the District Attorney’s Office on grounds of insufficient evidence. We tried to reach the village at the time of the crime, but the villagers blocked the road and we could not save him. We did try to enforce the law, but we were unable to,” he added.

License to kill

Head of the Psychology Department at the Faculty of Letters in Zagazig University Dr. Abdullah Askar believed that the rising number of such incidents in Al Sharqia Governorate, which has been known throughout history for its generosity and providing refuge to the oppressed, was a major collective transformation caused by a sense of insecurity due to the absence of police and the daily incidents of kidnapping and robbery, which generated their capacity for revenge aggravated by an atmosphere of fear.

He underlined the role of the media which deepened the notion of punishment particularly with regards to implementing comeuppance for stealing according to Sharia, a principle presented by Islamists as being an ultimate and instant deterrence, thus providing the religious cover for that kind of killing. He suggested that the traditional idea of vendetta travelled from Upper Egypt to the Nile Delta region and settled in that environment, which would further strengthen the relationship between police absence and public disorder for years to come.