Revenge crimes in Upper Egypt: The incapable judicial system exacerbates the crisis

A horrific murder of a student at the Faculty of Dentistry has shocked Egyptian society and turned into a hashtag demanding the arrest of the perpetrators and that they be brought to trial under the title “Where is Dr. Islam’s right?”

The student Islam Abdel Karim is one of the victims of revenge crimes in Upper Egypt, where he was killed in a village in Minya Governorate in broad daylight at 11pm in front of passers-by. Islam was killed by two of his cousins ​​because of another revenge crime that took place five years ago in retaliation for the killing of their brother. They tracked his movements and stabbed him with a sharp instrument, then they separated his head from his body.

In Egypt, revenge crimes mean that the family of the murdered man assassinates the murderer or one of his family members, and they may choose the best youth from the murderer’s family. Usually, the family of the new murdered man, in turn, responds by killing one of the murderer’s family, and so on. Revenge crimes were passed on to successive generations in Upper Egypt and some families do not remember how the killing episodes started. The hideous crime renewed talk about the phenomenon of revenge crimes in Upper Egypt, which claim hundreds of lives every year. Last year, three people were killed, including two brothers, and six others were injured in an armed attack inside a mosque, after Friday prayers, due to revenge between two families in Assiut.

The governorates of Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Minya and Beni Suef are the most common places where revenge crimes take place among tribes, which have left thousands of people dead. The most prominent of these crimes is revenge between the families of Asirat, Abnoub, Assiut Governorate, which has recorded a record number of about 200 people since the beginning of the conflict in 1950. Assiut Governorate tops the list, with a study of the Ministry of Interior in 2003 reporting that more than 11,000 people have been killed in 20 years.

Among the most heinous of these crimes in the governorate of Assiut is the killing of an entire family, the Shafaa family, at the hands of the Awlad Omar family, who were waiting for them while they returned from a wedding, in retaliation for the killing of a member of their families. According to official statistics issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Health, the number of victims of revenge in the governorates of Sohag and Qena in Upper Egypt exceeds the victims of traffic accidents.

Causes of revenge

Observers believe that most of the solutions through which the state dealt with the custom of revenge have been security solutions, for example trying to control the holders of unlicenced weapons or the displacement of rival families from the villages in which they live. As a reason for the absence of justice in judicial trials and the slow settlement of crimes, families resort to taking their rights into their own hands using arms or through customary arbitration councils, which reflects their lack of conviction or confidence in the law and the judiciary. Although there are many common reasons that tribes and families use as an excuse for killing, such as killing for the sake of honour (adultery) and conflict on the ground, the episodes often start for very simple reasons, such as a conflict between children or a dispute over the primacy of irrigation or others.

The strangest reasons for revenge feuds were in the village of Kom Hatim in Qena Governorate, in which 17 people died from the families of al-Tawil and al-Ghanayem because of a dispute over a mobile phone charging card. The episodes of revenge killing are still ongoing. Other revenge killing took place for trivial reasons, one of which was because of a football match between two families, to the extent that seven young men were killed between two families for the death of a dog at the hands of one of the people after the dog attacked him.

Women and revenge

The women of Upper Egypt also take revenge, as they play the role of the guardian of the traditions, because they often push the man to take revenge. The women’s role does not stop at that, but sometimes she carries arms, which is what happened in one of the villages of Sohag Governorate, as a woman named “Nihal – M” vowed to take revenge for her murdered brothers, then she shaved her hair, wore men’s clothes, carried a machine gun, and killed 12 of her rivals.

Observers accuse the regime of not dealing with the crisis, as it left the governorates of Upper Egypt for years with poor services, in addition to the absence of government oversight and turning a blind eye to arms in Upper Egypt.