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The Officers Backing Egypt's President
JOSHUA STACHER is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an assistant professor of political science at Kent State University. He is the author of Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (Stanford University Press, 2012).See more by this author
Once again, Egyptian protestors have taken to the streets to lash out against the disappointing political transition there. This latest turmoil, which began on the second anniversary of the January 25 uprising, is worse and has lasted longer than previous confrontations. Last week, the fighting was most intense in Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said, where police fired tear gas, birdshot, and live ammunition into the crowds, leaving over 60 Egyptians dead and another 1,000 injured. There is also a video circulating of police brutally beating a man, who had been stripped down to his underwear. But the state's continued use of force has done little to stop civil disobedience.
The government has blamed this latest uprising on foreign troublemakers and unruly youth militias, such as the newly established quasi-anarchist group the Black Bloc. On January 27, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi belatedly addressed the nation, urging calm while imposing a curfew, and declaring martial law in the cities along the canal. Morsi ended his speech with a threat: "If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more." But further cracking down on citizens would not curb violence in Egypt. In fact, it would only reinforce protestors' claims that the state continues to repress citizens and that the transition has been a sham.
The Egyptian Ministry of Interior remains the country's most virulently detested institution. In 2009, it employed a total of 1.7 million people, including nearly 850,000 policemen and 400,000 officials in the dreaded State Security Investigations Service (SSI). Under the Mubarak regime, the police and the SSI were responsible for a copious amount of unwarranted domestic surveillance, corruption, torture, and police brutality. The regime also used the police and the SSI to steal elections, limit freedom of expression, and repress the opposition.