We’ve barely had time to mourn the nine young Egyptian men who were unjustly dragged to the gallows last week, and we are still shedding tears for them and the fifteen soldiers who were killed at the hands of treacherous terrorists a week before. Now we have been hit with a catastrophic train crash and fire that killed 25 people and injured 50 others. It is as if the people of Egypt are destined to live in constant grief, with endless funerals ever since the 2013 military coup.
The train crash demonstrated the extent of the deterioration, corruption and neglect of state institutions and the collapse of the infrastructure in the country. It also illustrated how little the regime values the life of an ordinary Egyptian; compensation of just $4,000 per person has been paid to the families of the victims.
There have been many train accidents in Egypt, although it was the second country in the world to build a railway network after Britain in 1851. The network was opened, as was the Suez Canal in 1854, under the rule of the Egyptian Khedive Ismail Pasha. The railways are now in a deplorable state due to neglect, a lack of maintenance and repairs, and corruption that has spread across all state institutions. The Egyptian Railway Authority is one of those institutions, and despite the increase in ticket prices placing an even greater burden on ordinary citizens in light of the high cost of living, the state does not provide a better service as it promised when prices were increased. Instead, more people have been killed and injured.
After another rail accident last year, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said that the railways needed $10 billion dollars for development. “What’s better,” he asked indignantly, “develop it or put the $10 billion in the bank where it will make me $2 billion more?” He preferred profit over people. This is the work of a broker, not the President of a state who is responsible for the lives of his citizens. For Al-Sisi, people have no value, which is why he constantly violates their human rights and deprives them of their dignity, either by killing opponents indiscriminately, arrests, torture in prisons and police stations, or forced disappearances.
When he was asked about the executions and arrests in a press conference after the European-Arab summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh last month, he answered vehemently, “You are not going to teach us about humanity. You have your rules ethic and values. We respect yours. You should respect ours.” It is as if Europeans are different to his people.
This horrifying incident exposes his understanding of humanity. In Al-Sisi’s eyes, his people are less valuable than their people. He has forgotten or ignored the fact that people are people no matter where they are, and that human values and standards are universal and do not change. When such words come out of the mouth of the highest authority in the country, they have to be viewed as a racist crime against humanity by international legal standards, as he is expressing racial discrimination with scant regard for international conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, he contradicts all values of justice and equality adopted by religions and philosophical doctrines. Al-Sisi views Egyptians as inferior to other human beings; that they do not deserve freedom, democracy and a decent life. He believes that they deserve death without a price because human beings in Egypt differ from human beings in the first world.
While Al-Sisi refuses to spend $10 billion on railway development, he is spending gratuitously on his administrative capital, boasting about building the largest mosque, the highest minaret and the largest church in the Middle East in a barren desert inhabited by nobody. It is ironic that as we are talking about the train crash and fire, he has borrowed $1.2 billion from Chinese banks to develop the capital’s electric trains. It is also ironic that the train wreck coincided with laying the foundations for Africa’s tallest tower.
The images of the people engulfed by the train fire reminded me of the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya massacre and the flames that engulfed the protestors, with some major difference. In the Rabaa massacre, those trying to treat the injured were shot at by government snipers, so the rescuers were killed before the wounded. In the train crash, people and ambulances carried the bodies of the victims, but in the Rabaa massacre, the bodies were moved by bulldozers. The families of the train crash victims received the bodies unconditionally, but after the Rabaa massacre, families were forced to sign a statement saying that the martyrs had committed suicide before the bodies were handed over.
This is Egypt in the era of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi; an era of killing, crimes, fires and disasters. This regime feeds on blood, while Egypt’s funeral rites are very public indeed.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.