Two interesting things came to my knowledge in the past day. The first was through personal experience and the second was something that a friend told me about. They may be inconsequential to some (my friends certainly thought so), but I found them worthy of mention.
I went down to Maadi Grand Mall (located in Maadi, a Cairo neighborhood and where I live) yesterday to this internet cafe that I have been frequenting, on and off, for the last 7 years. It is the one of two internet cafes that I’ve been to in Maadi (the second one foundered and closed down) and I’ve gotten to know the owner pretty well over the years.
This day, he had a paper sign on his glass door which said, roughly and in Arabic, “Under the instructions of the Ministry of Interior, all internet users must leave their data with the management.”
A few days before that, coincidentally, I was at the store when this dude comes in with a clipboard and talks to the store owner for 10 minutes. I heard him talk about a meeting and other things. When the man left, I turned to the store owner and asked him what that was about. He said the man was a plain-clothes officer from the Maadi Police Station who was informing him about this annual State Security (Amn EL Dawla) meeting of Internet Cafe owners.
And now this.
Oh, and when I asked him if this paper sign was related to the meeting, he said yes… and that it was State Security that gave him the instructions. He also said not to worry about it and that nothing will come of it.
A friend of mine just came back from a trip to Lebanon and she told me that they now give them little slips of paper on the plane, before landing, asking them to fill in how much foreign currency they have, how much Egyptian currency they have amongst other things. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to be bringing in any gift that is worth more than $1,500 too. Also, they’ve gotten quite uptight about letting young males of military age that have not yet completed military service from leaving the country unless it’s for a medical reason or they’re visiting their parents who are outside of the country.
They are required, it being Egypt, to provide tons of documents proving these claims.
I now know for sure that I won’t be going to that internet cafe to use the internet. I cannot explain the psychological effect of knowing that whatever I do on the net can be traced back to me, even if I don’t want it to be. That day I went, I was just checking my email accounts… but still, it’s the “Big Brother” feeling.
Hello. We’re here. We know what you’re doing. Ha ha ha. You won’t get away with it, whatever it is.
I’ve been told by friends that this was already in effect in various other neighborhoods around Cairo… that may be so, but this is definitely a first for Maadi. What this means to me is that State Security are spreading their tentacles and giving us healthy doses of good, old fashioned totalitarianism.