Egypt’s New Police State It is in Sara Khorshid’s opinion that Egypt is heading back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who setup Egypt as a police state that instilled brutal suppression and fear. She writes that she was discussing politics in an Egyptian cafe with her sister and a French newspaper editor when a customer had an outburst and yelled at them, “You are ruining the country!” It turned out that the same customer, an average Egyptian woman, had reported them to the police for conspiring against Egypt. They had their personal documents seized and were interrogated. Khorshid writes that suppression has gotten worse under Mr. Sisi when compared to Morsi or even Mubarak because at least under the latter two privately owned media were allowed more diverse views. She sees the same patterns in people as there were under Nasser when ordinary citizens were convinced that any opposition to the government was dangerous.
Hamza Namira, a popular singer of the 2011 revolution, has been banned from state radio. All songs and artists have to be approved before appearing on air and Namira’s work was deemed unfit to be played since it criticized authorities. Namira is the second major cultural figure to get into trouble with the regime. Khaled Abol Naga, a famous Egyptian actor, has been accused of treason for criticizing the president.
The “New” Police State
I’ve been following al-Sisi’s Egypt for nearly 3 months now and payed attention to his actions from his first 100 days address at the UN to now. I’ve had a swaying opinion on him from the start. At one end of the spectrum he is a stabilizing force that the West desperately needs and despite his flaws we need to ally ourselves with him. On the other end he is a hardline leader that some Egyptians consider to be worse than Mubarak. I applaud his efforts to make himself more open to the West and his economic initiatives but I cannot excuse his expansion of powers and abuse of human rights. The ousting of the Brotherhood and Morsi was a controversial and somewhat unpopular decision and I understand that some extra precautions need to be taken but al-Sisi is taking it the extreme and within a short time has created a police state where citizens report each other for seditious behavior, no different from any totalitarian regime of the past. The main question is if the West and the Middle East are going to let this happen. The Middle East and to a lesser extent the West are more concerned with ISIL than anything else and criticism of Egypt has been muted and the US in particular has praised al-Sisi on several occasions. Al-Sisi promises free election but at this point I doubt that he will live up to his promise or at least push back the dates further and further. If this does happen and ISIL is either dealt with or put on the back burner than I wonder what the international response will be. It certainly won’t be a military response and I doubt the US will cut aid or install sanctions. Even if they did cut aid Egypt is no longer reliant on the US for money and all that will happen is the US will sour its relationship with one of its most valuable Middle East Allies.