Tens of low-ranking police officers attempted to storm the Sharqeya Security Directorate, after the arrival of anti-riot troops from the Central Security Forces (CSF) Sunday morning.
Following arguments between the protesters and the forces securing the building, riot police attempted to disperse the protesters, who occupied the front of the building. Tear gas was fired, while the protesters threw stones and issued warning shots in the air.
An unconfirmed number of people were injured.
Sharqeya’s military governor arrived at the scene and tried to persuade the protesters of calling off the strike and reopening the police stations. The assistant to the Interior Minister General Kamel Al-Amin also met with a delegation representing the strikers.
They demanded the issuance of promotions, as well as the amendment of the Pensions Law, and for it to be applied to the victims of the police. They demanded equality with the officers who have a pensions department that offers financial support to their families.
The economic status of low-ranking officers, non-commissioned officers, is relatively low compared to higher-ranking officers. In some cases, it can take more than five years for non-commissioned officers, ranked as Corporals, to be promoted to Sergeants.
While non-commissioned officers are graduates of the non-commissioned Officers Academy, police officers are graduates of the Police Academy.
Commenting on the situation, General Abu Baker Abdel Karim, assistant to the Interior Minister, said that the situation is “under control”, adding that the police are “doing their job effectively”.
“I urge all security personnel to favour the interest of the homeland over personal interest,” he said.
Abdel Karim added that the ministry appreciates the role of all its employees, saying: “There are legitimate channels to present concerns and complaints. The protesters demonstrated outside the police stations and all services are still provided to the civilians.”
Daily News Egypt contacted the Zagazig police station and a representative said that all work is partially suspended amid attempts to close the police station. The representative added that some the detainees were supposed to be interrogated by the prosecution.
On Saturday, state media quoted “security sources” who said the ministry spotted members of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group attempting to “incite chaos”. The sources added that the ministry will take all possible legal actions against the participators and the inciters.
In a recent development, unofficial groups of non-commissioned officers released solidarity statements in support of their colleagues’ cause. The groups condemned the “negligence by the ministry”, calling upon President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to personally intervene to end the crisis.
Tens of police officers have been on strike since Saturday shutting down the Mina Al-Kamh and Zagazig Police stations, as well as other buildings belonging to the Interior Ministry. They demanded more economic rights, such as health care in Interior Ministry hospitals, compensation for “dangerous” missions, and meals, as well as overtime bonuses. They also specifically demanded a promotion process.
The protest also included soldiers, who similarly demanded more economic rights. Soldiers in the Ministry of Interior are divided into two categories; employed and conscripted.
The second type is known for staging more radical protests, mostly over mistreatment by the leadership of their security camp.
Last May, conscripts in Al-Azab village blocked the Fayoum-Beni Suef road, claiming mistreatment by their camp commander, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
Conscription is obligatory in Egypt for men between the ages of 18 and 30, and can last between one and three years, depending on the level of education.
Habitually, lower-educated conscripts join the ranks of either the Ministry of Interior’s security forces or its paramilitary arm, the CSF. The conscripts usually receive harsh treatment, and work in rough conditions.
In August 2014, dozens of CSF conscripts went on strike in Ismailia demanding better treatment and working conditions. The strike resulted in a confrontation between the soldiers and their officers, leaving two injured.
Another protest in February 2014 saw policemen closing the doors of the Kafr El-Sheikh Security Directorate, and staging a protest outside it, calling for better working conditions.
Formed as a paramilitary force to confront political opposition as well as student and labour strikes, the apparatus has largely been the main force for the Egyptian government to control the streets since the early 1960s.
Due to the policy to draft males into the military service, the CSF has been one of the most controversial government-run organisations in the country.
In 2012, CSF troops in Cairo’s Obour security camp refused to obey orders and blocked the road over the alleged murder of one of their colleagues by a superior officer.
In February of 2013, 19 conscripts were killed and 120 injured in the Badrashin train crash. It was reported by state media that most of the victims were recruits from Upper Egypt, on their way to training camps.
Escalation in Sharqeya comes as thousands of Egypt’s bureaucrats, as well as several labour syndicates and associations, that reject the newly applied Civil Service Law announced a million-man demonstration on 12 September to protest the law.