Handing Egypt’s security services a licence to repress the Muslim Brotherhood will return us to the police state the revolution worked to overthrow.
Friday 16 August 2013
There is a real problem with the forcible dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, both the heavily armed encapment of Nahda and the lightly armed one at Raba’a al-Adawiya. One can argue that it is immoral to kill over 500 people, or that armed protests using unarmed protesters as human shields is despicable or that the unprovoked attacks on security personnel is reprehensible. But putting aside moral issues, real problems persist.
The trouble is using force without much thought to the problem at hand. That is what stood out in the Mubarak era and what we are witnessing a return to. Security solutions rarely work to solve a problem without a political course of action to back it up. The Muslim Brotherhood leaders are stubborn. They did not listen to anyone when in power, never listened to reason when out of power, alienated their allies and rarely if ever kept their word. They made negotiations near impossible. But that’s all the more reason why dealing with them needed to be smarter.
This path will only mean further empowerment of the police. When extremist groups are pushed into hiding, the police will use that as an excuse to collect data, interrogate, torture, abuse. The people, blessing the crackdown, will gladly accept. The crackdown has already radicalised many of the supporters of the deposed president. The appointment of retired generals as governors means the state has opted for a security solution instead of a political one.
State Security now has an excuse to meddle in our affairs, again in the interest of national security. Egyptians will be asked to support their government in whatever decisions they take because there is a real threat from Islamists. Anyone who criticises the government can be accused of supporting Islamists. Will anyone care?
The path is a dangerous one. There is reason to believe that the brutal Mubarak police force will return to its practices, namely that the police force itself has not changed in anyway, never reformed, and never held to account.
There will always be the rhetoric of “What choice did they have?’ , “Was there another way?”, “You can never have negotiated with them”.
Police could have put a plan in place to protect the churches that were attacked as a backlash to the dispersal. Police could have only targeted armed personnel. But the police have not been reformed or trained and, in effect, the army brought in a butcher to do a heart surgeon’s job.
The Muslim Brotherhood is handing back the police their licence to act with brutality, but so are all the other Egyptians sponsoring the impunity of security forces. They have criticised ElBaradie for turning his back on this path. In reality, there is no role for a politician in a state that chooses a security solution to every problem.
The question of whether we will return to a police state full of political incompetence and brute force is an important one. Is there any revolutionary fervour left in the people not to accept this route? Or have they been drained through all the blood and the failed attempts at starting something that looks closer to a democracy?
The blessing of a security solution by the people is worrying. The persistence of the problem of Brotherhood supporters will only sustain the need for a continuing security solution. It is uncertain how long such a state can be suspended, or what it would take not to travel down that path of a police state. Maybe it will take another act of brutal injustice by the police for people to change course. Who knows how many Khaled Saids, Jikas or Guindys it will take for us to get back on the right course of a revolution that was primarily triggered by police brutality.