North Africa, West Asia

Egypt’s mythical ‘law and order’

The Egyptian authorities appear to be more concerned with how to curb their opponents than they are with the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.

Mina Fayek
10 December 2013

As the controversial protest law was put into action, government officials as well as local media apologists justified the consequent repressive police measures as an innocent attempt to impose “law and order”. While the government is immersed in its ‘war against terrorism’ (sometimes rightly so and sometimes not), it’s also doing its best at alienating revolutionaries who took to the streets in protest as soon as the law was enacted.

Last week, prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested on charges of incitement and breaking the new protest law. According to eyewitness accounts, more than forty ‘special operations’ personnel raided Alaa’s house. His wife says she was beaten as well as Alaa himself and their laptops and mobile phones were confiscated.

Black comedy never fails to amaze in Egypt. The same day Alaa was brutally arrested, Assem Abdel Maged, leader of the Building and Development Party - the political arm of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, who had been accused of instigating violence in Bein El Sarayat area of Giza and who was also well known for his incitement against Copts in the Rabaa Al Adaweya sit-in, was spotted having breakfast in one of Qatar’s luxurious hotels.

Al Masry Al Youm quoted a security source saying the Abdel Maged left the country by illegal means. Therefore, the governments’ understanding of ‘law and order’ is questionable; while major suspects are fleeing the country, peaceful protesters are arrested.

The same day in Tanta – a city in the Nile delta – the local prosecutor general ordered the arrest of three police officers on charges of assaulting a prosecutor at a security checkpoint. The police reportedly refused to handover the police officers in question to the prosecution. Moreover, the Police Personnel Coalition, a coalition of low-rank policemen, declared the withdrawal of all security services from all prosecution buildings in protest over the arrest order.

The Egyptian government’s version of ‘law and order’ permits the police to decide whether or not to proceed with their duties and respect the law. Once again, how ironic!

In Minya – an Upper Egyptian city – sectarian violence has resurfaced leaving five dead, dozens injured and at least two houses, belonging to Coptic Christians, burnt down. While the police were busy enforcing the new law, they failed – yet again – to protect the Copts and impose ‘law and order’ despite several desperate calls, as the Watani newspaper reported. To make things worse, instead of transparent investigations into what actually took place, the authorities are allegedly holding customary reconciliation sessions, which often end up forcing the Coptic Christian minority to relinquish their rights (at times they are even deported from their home villages) and aggressors are offered impunity, rather than justice.

“Stabilization”, “sharia and legitimacy” and last but not least: “the State of law - law and order”; Egypt’s consecutive regimes, regardless of their religious or nationalistic ideologies, are notorious for abusively flashing these slogans in order to silence objections and repress critics.

However this time the narrative is reaching new levels of absurdity with a simultaneous increase in deficient government performance, especially with regards to security and the economy. The authorities appear to be more concerned with how to curb their opponents than they are with the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.

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