CAIRO ÂÂâ€“â€“ Social media arenâ€™t just for revolutionaries seeking leadership change. The Egyptian police, it seems, wants to be friended too.
Facebook and other networking sites were widely used by anti-government activists who drove Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power this month. Now the sites are helping to propel protesters into the streets in several other Middle Eastern countries.
But in Egypt, where law enforcement is often hated and feared, one police officer is hoping Facebook can do for the forceâ€™s public image what it did for young protesters, one click of the â€œLikeâ€ button at a time.
â€œOf course we saw the success of Facebook in the January 25 movement, so we tried Facebook as well to bring the police together,â€ said Ahmed Ragab, a police major in the Giza area.
â€œThe point of the group was to support the spirit of inclusiveness with the police and people and to return the trust and the brotherhood that was lost after Jan. 25.â€
Last Sunday, the day police in Cairo took to the streets to demand better pay and portray themselves as victims, Ragab launched the Martyrs Demonstration page to honor police officers who died in the demonstrations, announce coming police protests and drive home the message that officers are Egyptians too.
When Ragab posted his photo on the page, he chose one showing him in plainclothes rather than in uniform. Though police officers are trying other means to reach out â€“â€“ including marching through Tahrir Square, the heart of the recent uprising, to the shock and sometimes anger of protesters there â€“â€“ Ragab called the website the most important way to connect with people now.
â€œSo for that reason we turned to Facebook to create a solidarity movement and not chaotic protests,â€ Ragab said during an interview at the Police Club, a trying-to-be-ritzy establishment on the Nile River, restricted to higher-ranking officers only.
The choice of Facebook as their platform was made in part because their message there can reach outside the countryâ€™s borders, he said. Police are keenly aware of their poor reputation inside and outside Egypt and want to fix their image on a global scale.
Ragab believes there was a rather rosy relationship with the people that was fractured during the height of
But distrust of the law runs deep in Egyptian society, long before clashes with police and government supporters left scores of protesters dead and Tahrir Square was transformed from a traffic circle to a symbol of resistance.