‘The poor of the train’ exposes stark disparity between military commanders and soldiers

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A video clip which sparked outrage in Egypt was circulated last week on social media of an incident that took place inside a train. The clip shows a train conductor and the train chief scolding a soldier for not paying for his ticket and trying to get him off the train by force. The matter developed into a verbal quarrel that included the train staff making insulting remarks about his military uniform, and mocking his being a conscript without an army rank. They also tried to force him to remove his mask, violating the prime minister’s instructions and the Minister of Transport, and demanded that he pay a fine of EGP 22. The video clip showed that the soldier had only part of the small amount required for the ticket price and did not have the rest.

Social media commentators expressed their sympathy with the army recruiter and his financial condition, which meant that he did not have EGP 22 for the price of a ticket, and also expressed their anger at the train chief’s insistence on embarrassing him and removing him from the train. Many activists praised the fact that a woman paid for a ticket for the soldier, refusing that he be handed over to the military police. Others commented on the insult to the conscript and his inability to pay for the ticket, compared to the privileges and high salaries enjoyed by officers and military ranks in the army and police, in addition to the fact that they travel in trains and on public transportation for free.

Train recruiter

The broad interaction with the incident was followed by a media statement from the Transport Ministry. Following the incident, the Transport Ministry announced that the perpetrators of the incident were suspended from work and had been referred to an immediate investigation and that the investigation results will be announced upon completion.

The Ministry of Transport apologised for the train employees and affirmed that all workers on the railway have respect for the general public and all armed forces and the police in particular. For its part, the armed forces issued a statement that clarified that it appreciated the measures taken by the Ministry of Transport against the incident that only reflects the behaviour of one of its workers. The General Command of the Armed Forces expressed sincere thanks and appreciation to the Egyptian woman who witnessed the incident on the train and insisted on paying the soldier’s ticket.

The condition of recruits

The ridicule faced by the soldier on the train and his inability to pay for a ticket and sympathy for his condition shed light on the difficult situation experienced by thousands of young men who were conscripted into the army. They perform this military service with people alongside who live in luxury due to their family’s social position or the jobs they have within the government.As for the third class of soldiers, who don’t have qualifications, they have become the regime’s shield in confronting the political and social protests against the authority.

The lives of many of these recruits are also lost in repeated bombings and armed operations in the Sinai regions. At the same time, the regime fails to fulfill its duty to this recruiter, who is killed for the sake of leaders who know little about the field operations. According to the testimonies of some conscripts, the period of their compulsory conscription is forced labour.