Amwal Al Ghad English - 2013-05-08 07:33:05
In a dimly lit Cairo workshop, Hussein spins a metal pipe on a lathe, sending sparks flying. In a few minutes, it’ll become the barrel of a gun. Sometime after that it will join the growing arsenal of illegal weapons on the streets of Egypt.
Artisans who make machine parts by day are turning into bootleg gunmakers at night, says Hussein, 54, who asked not to be identified by his full name for fear of prosecution. He only sells to a middleman because “trust the wrong person and you’re going to jail.” He can make as much as 3,000 pounds ($435) per gun -- about 20 percent of what a legally licensed one costs.
“Fear is big business nowadays,” Hussein said. “People buy the guns because they’re afraid. People buy the guns because they want to scare others. We’re in a jungle now.”
More than two years after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, the proliferation of weapons and a spate of vigilante killings, violence and sexual attacks are eclipsing the hope born from the revolt. Fueled by political deadlock and economic stagnation, the security breakdown threatens to put solutions beyond the reach of President Mohamed Morsi.
A growing number of Egyptians feel that “you can actually achieve your goals using violence,” said Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo. Beneath that lies the “dashed expectation and hope of the youth,” he said.
Hashish to Tramadol
A few miles from Hussein’s workshop, the glassy stare in Abdel-Rahman’s eyes reveals some of that despair.
At 24, he looks a decade older, his skin sallow from the Tramadol painkillers he pops, his shirt reeking of the hashish he says dulls the boredom. A year ago, he was working in a Cairo gift shop, selling souvenirs. He said he had a fiancé, “but she left me for someone with hope.” Now he snatches the occasional purse to fuel his habits.
Egyptians who had expressed hope for food and jobs during the uprising, are instead confronted with unemployment and rising prices. Lines for subsidized fuel have triggered protests and strikes, as well as brawls.
Hardship heightens the sense of breakdown, and the woes confronting the $257 billion economy add to the potential for violence. That, in turn, has a “massive and very serious chilling effect” on investors, said Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation research group in New York. More»