Monday, June 15, 2009

Late night visit by the Egyptian Police

The door bell rang. 11:35pm.

Two men entered. Rabiyeh, our doorman arrived with Mohamed, a plane-clothed police officer, who said he wanted my name. So, I said “Andy.”

He had a blank piece of paper and proceeded to write it. I dictated it to him slowly, “ أ ن د ي Alef Noon Dal Yeh.” And then my last name: “ ل ي هLam Yeh He Marbuta.” He seemed to hesitate for a moment. Did he want it in English? Did he expect me to hand him my ID?

“Why do you need my name? What is this about?” I inquired.

He didn’t explain himself except to say he needed it. I was very suspicious. Swine Flu?

My roommate Joseph followed my lead and simply gave his name in Arabic. “Yusuf.”
“What is your passport number?” he continued. I had given a copy of my passport to the supervisor when I first moved in last November, as I’ve always done with my previous landlords. So, instead of fishing out my passport, I simply told him, “you should ask the manager for it. He has it.”

Then, suspicion turned into annoyance turned into anger. I pressed him again: “why do you need this information?!”

“We are afraid for you,” He responded cryptically.

So, I responded matter of factly: “If you have no good reason, then go. It is very late now and I have to go to class in the morning. Salaam Aleykoom. Peace be upon you. Good night.” I shook his hand as he left. He had an unfulfilled look in his face, perhaps surprised by such unanticipated resistance for such a simple piece of information.

I am no civil libertarian, but the longer I live in Egypt, the more I feel like I need to protect my privacy, avoid the police and get a gun.

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