Egypt: More security than protesters highlights Kuwait Embassy demo

Egypt: More security than protesters highlights Kuwait Embassy demo

 The demonstration was scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday. As usual, there were far more security present than there were demonstrators.

What was perhaps surprising was that there seemed to be just as many uniformed security personnel blocking the streets around the Embassy as there were lining Tahrir square just days earlier. Bikya Masr counted at least ten large green military vans full of police and three blue vans for holding anyone arrested.

It was impossible to get within two blocks of the embassy. Every street was blocked, with state security standing in lines across roads and intersections. Plain-clothes security were also present, and quickly headed off a small group of activists headed straight for the Embassy.

Even the bawabs, the doormen common in many Cairene apartment buildings, were on guard. Clearly they had been given explicit instructions to man their doors. Bawabs are typically nonchalant about their jobs, and foreigners in particular can often walk right into a building with nothing more than a ‘good morning.’ In the blocks surrounding the Embassy, however, there was a bawab at every door and they were not letting anyone in.

Armed security personnel are hardly an uncommon sight in Egypt’s capital. There are guards stationed outside every embassy, bank, hotel, and sometimes seemingly on every corner in particularly expat-laden areas. Yet the security around the Kuwait Embassy was unusual. First, they were particularly obvious. While plain-clothes security men were present, there were far more uniformed police. Also, the vast majority were not the black-clad police which are typically standing guard around Cairo. The young men blocking the streets to the Embassy wore green sweaters and khaki slacks.

The whole scenario begs the question, why so much security around the Embassy? There were easily as many security crammed into the 3-block radius around the Kuwait Embassy on Sunday as there were around Tahrir on April 6. While the Egyptian government is never keen on demonstrations, Sunday’s security seemed to be overkill.

Then again, the regime is smart enough to see Sunday’s demonstration for what it was: an excuse to protest. Over the past few years Egyptians have found it easier to protest against the Mubarak regime via proxy, such as supporting Gaza or taking to the streets against Algeria last fall. It didn’t work this time, but that hardly comes as a surprise: the 21 Egyptians deported from Kuwait were supporters of ElBaradei, the latest thorn in Mubarak’s side.

Perhaps the excessive security is the Egyptian government’s way of returning the favor. Kuwaiti officials have been quoted as saying Egyptians should keep their politics internal, giving this as justification for the deportations. In fact, the move is likely a show of support to Mubarak’s regime. In return, the Egyptian government will keep women chanting “May the (ruler) of Kuwait fall!” as far from the Kuwait Embassy as possible.

Republished with permission from Bikya Masr