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Corrupt And Violent, Egyptian Police Immune To All Revolutions

Policemen in Cairo
Policemen in Cairo
Aly El Raggal


CAIRO — The record of police violations is extensive, ranging from murder to extortion and illegal bribes. While some claim these are individual incidents and that the situation should not be generalized, tedious accounts of numerous violations reveal the dysfunctional role of police in daily Egyptian life.

Within the old structures of authority under former President Hosni Mubarak, police were at the forefront of domination and social subjugation. In the 1990s, the Ministry of Interior relied extensively on police and informants for three reasons: the sudden population increase and rampant rise in informal housing, the war on terrorism, and the weak presence of institutional police forces in different parts of the city.

Police officer usually come from a different social background than the bourgeois, or tribal, higher-ranking officers. This allows them a better understanding of lower-class neighborhoods, including the nature of relationships. It also gives them the advantage of mastering the language and rhetoric in these areas.

But, why do people in society acquiesce to police authority?

First, police and their individual practices embody the authority of the institution. As an individual, he personifies the whole. This autocratic institution assumes an omnipotent disposition. Legitimacy is not the defining framework for its actions; it is the other way around. This explains the high rate of unlawful killings, as officers and their subordinates perceive themselves to be above the law.

There is also a widespread fear of physical assault when it comes to dealing with police. Assault and abuse have been common features of the Egyptian police code. Indeed, a large section of society perceives physical abuse necessary to keep the lower classes in their place.

The detainee "needs a few slaps, so he can come to his senses and realize where he’s going. This is not the Sheraton," as one police officer puts it. This unbridled authority to use physical force, and the lack of accountability in most cases, gives security forces the chance to humiliate citizens without restraint. As a result, society has developed a fear of dealing with the police and a collective conviction that legal punishment should be evaded at all costs.

Egyptians have also been living under the Emergency Law for several decades, and today, the war or terrorism provides an excuse for further police crackdown.

A large part of economic activity in Egypt happens in the informal sector, reaching over 30% of GDP. Police often use this lack of legality as a basis for threatening these sectors. Craftsmen and street sellers are constantly harassed and extorted by officers and informants who impose illegal levies.

Taking mutual advantage

Moreover, society and authority figures have a mutual agreement to provide a quick service, even if this has detrimental effects. For example, there is a web of exploitive relationships between craftsmen and restaurant owners on one side, and policemen and informants on the other. Sometimes these take an amiable form, with services, products or meals provided to security forces at reduced rates. This is not always enforced, but is rather a means of social solidarity, given the wealth of security forces.

Another pattern, which has existed for a long time, can be seen in the mutually beneficial relationship between policemen and shop and cart owners in many areas. Free meals are served daily in return for services and the facilitation of licenses when needed.

This heavy police presence in every aspect of formal and informal life can lead to identification with or submission to policemen. They provide various services in return for public support in their districts. Thus, in many cases, members of society are partially responsible for police corruption.

Finally, there is a fear of police ability to obstruct services. For example, one policeman says, "You may not win if you're on my side, but you won't lose much. Go against me and you may lose your time, money and business. You'll be hurt badly. I'll make it tough for you." This is how such symbiotic relationships are formed, with interchangeable corruption.

These factors have widened the scope of police in a way that did not exist before Mubarak. The police officer is no longer the same as the informant, as was the case in the time of President Gamal AbdelNasser, or under previous regimes. The police officer does not spy on society anymore, and he is not just a representative of law and order. He has been promoted to manage every day operations. He now represents the institutional and the non-institutional, and has gained control of extensive social spheres.

Upon realizing the importance of their role, not only within the institution, but also in wider governance, police officers have managed to form expansive webs among themselves, which go beyond their work districts. They have gained more power through solidarity with each other, as was seen during several recent police strikes.

Police have not been widely held accountable for violations and social tyranny. They use their clout at police stations and during investigations, and assert control over medical institutions, like morgues, where they can occasionally tamper with reports. Additionally, they enjoy protection from the Ministry of Interior, which is aware of their importance, and which also despises most sectors of society, considering human rights violations and tyranny a small price to pay for security and domination.

Still, such structures have been subject to change. The fear barrier has been largely broken, and a large sector of the population has declared that it is no longer willing to comply with the status quo, and will defy the state using violence if necessary. It is also becoming more difficult for police violations to go unnoticed, given that human rights organizations are becoming a source of pressure on the Ministry of Interior.

But the system is robust and has been heavily normalized. It is attempting to regain its sovereignty, sometimes through revenge and retaliation, a battle that will quite possibly intensify in the near future.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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