The higher strata of the middle class, with society’s higher authority, insist on supporting the security strategy for confronting terrorism and extremism. On the one hand, they fear that using any other strategy may detract from the luxury they enjoy. On the other hand, they do not feel any direct harm from the security’s subjugation or incursion in the public sphere.
They cannot see that this subjugation may cause social disturbances which may undermine the pillars of stability and the continuation of all the social structures, not only their own stability and continuation pillars. This lucky social strata worry only if it appears that the security strategy may directly affect their interests or family. Therefore, sometimes, or more precisely a lot of times, they bury their head in sand and try not to see the danger threatening them.
In facing the incidents that may harm their interests or families, they tend to deny them, pushed by good intentions and almost involuntary thinking, to convince themselves that everything is fine, or to avoid thinking about possible alternatives they may choose if they just suppose that the logical explanation of that these incidents assures that their interests and families are often threatened by what the “mob” are threatened by. In other words, the security confrontation strategy interferes with their interests and aspirations.
All what those belonging to the higher strata of the middle class wish, is that everything is fine, even if some incidents contradicting this occur. They will tend to be convinced of any explanation that acquits the rulers, even if deeply they have large uncertainties. Most probably they will say to themselves, and only to themselves, that even if what happens here or there is “transgressions” or even “crimes”, they have to disregard that for the “return” of security.
On the other hand, rulers always try to assure these strata, in all sincerity and devotion, that they deal with the “elite” respectably, and any toughness or cruelty is by “the mob who are only ruled by force”. For example, when one of the officers discovers that he cruelly humiliated or violated one of the sons of these strata, it means that he talked to him as an ordinary citizen, he quickly says in an apologetic tone: “Sorry sir, I do not know you.”
In a lot of times, this happens after the humiliated person screams: “Don’t you know who you are talking to?”, and he usually says what his job is or his family tree to prove that he belongs to the strata which is supposedly exempted from humiliation. Remarkably, such issues end in peace, where the two parties reconcile, considering that what happened is just a misunderstanding because the officer did not determine precisely the social situation of the person he humiliated.
There is a minority in these strata that believes the security strategy in confronting extremism generally works, but it needs some improvements. This party assumes initially, and publically, that the Ministry of Interior actually committed violations, and even crimes, but these violations and crimes, in their opinion, are not enough to change the security confrontation strategy, or even to condemn the ministry. They are acceptable violations for many considerations, and also because we cannot criticise or hold the security institutions accountable in the peak of the battle; this will weaken the spirits of their forces and their ability of confrontation.
However, what are the considerations justifying these violations and crimes? Some people say that the security entities’ violent method is the only method they know and used for a long time. Therefore, if some police personnel commit excessive violence, the ministry, the current regime and the present security confrontation strategy do not hold any responsibility; only these personnel are responsible for violence.
Other justifications for the security institutions’ violations are that these institutions are under massive pressure and great challenges, which may push some of their personnel to act more violently than needed, especially that these personnel faced, during and directly after the 25 January Revolution, severe humiliations that may make them hold some legitimate feelings of revenge.
Finally, to those who are justifying or more precisely defending the police crimes and violations, overcoming this situation depends on time which definitely will bring back the police prestige, as well as the security, and consequently relief the pressure off the security personnel. However, remarkable efforts should be done and it is decided that these efforts also will take appropriate time, in order to raise efficiency and capabilities of police personnel so that the number of victims and injured citizens due to security confrontations as well as of the security personnel, especially the innocent ones, decreases.
The question now is: could all these aims and hopes be achieved with time? To answer this question, let us first consider that the usage of the terms “bring back prestige” and “return of security” means that we are talking about attempts to bring back situations existing in a previous era with all its details: Mubarak’s era.
So we should carefully wonder: what was the prestige of security personnel depending on? And what are the measures used to consider that the security is stable? Answering the first part of the question, we say that the security personnel or officers, whether in fighting crime or confronting terrorism, or even facing the disliked peaceful opposition, were often building their prestige when they were announcing, for example, to the “bad guys” in the neighbourhood that they are “thugs” and “do not care about a law or minister”.
Along the same lines, and in order to assert the desired prestige, you see an officer recording, and distributing as well, scenes showing how he beats, humiliates and rapes one of the microbus drivers, applying the policy of oppressing the prisoner so that the free man would get scared. In other words, the officer’s prestige is asserted when he drives his car without plate number for instance or in zones where no cars are allowed like the Cairo International Book Fair.
We can notice through the above that “ID holders” who work in the different security and sovereign institutions assert their prestige through proving that they are above the law, meaning that they breach the law on purpose to assure their power and prove their prestige. Add to this that the security institutions see that terrifying the “mob” is the other thing that can bring prestige and consequently impose security.
This understanding of prestige does not come from, or rely on, the security strategy in confronting terrorism only. However, it comes from one of the major components of the comprehensive overall strategy of all the presidents of the 1952 family. We mean by this the state’s security strategy.
It is the strategy that sees that the voice of the clashes should be higher than any other voice, including the voice of the law itself, because clashes now are many and varied, whether in facing terrorism, the economic crisis or the global conspiracies led by Qatar intelligence. The security state supporters’ share in Al-Sisi’s era is boosted and getting stronger. Those with this perception bless the ways of security confrontation strategy in getting back prestige and security. Moreover, they give it legitimacy and do not push towards following other different ways like what some people claim or perhaps wish.
On the other hand, the security to be brought back is the security that was, perhaps we all remember, dealing with people using force in order to suppress and humiliate them, in addition to depriving them of their rights to express, organise or peacefully protest. This is in order to deprive them of their economic and social rights. Regarding the radical opponents, they are being imprisoned if they do not deter and get back to their hideouts and burrows. Of course we all remember that this strategy really succeeded to keep the opponents away from the public sphere.
It succeeded also in keeping the mob away from the main streets, but when the opportunity came in Shari’a Friday that was known in media as Kandahar Friday, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians supporting political Islam came out of these burrows and hideouts in a million-man march. The higher strata of middle class wondered naively, and in a real panic as well about where these people came from. They had to learn from this lesson that the security confrontation strategy did not succeed in eliminating extremism. On the contrary, it contributed to its growth and boom inside burrows and hideouts: poor neighbourhoods and slums deprived of all facilities and services. We all have to remember that the Egypt Mubarak took over while the Brotherhood were a few tens of thousands. He left it while they were few hundreds of thousands as a result of the security confrontation strategy that relies on the security state supporters within the regime.
At the end let us wonder: could we improve security forces’ efficiency and capabilities? I think that people who support the administrative-economic reform or economic administrative reform among the ruling group are the most enthusiastic ones to this idea , whether showing its old aspect by including supporters and allies to Gamal Mubarak, or showing new aspect by including supporters and allies to Al-Sisi, and this tendency will not be able to achieve any new and concrete reforms, as long as these reforms are partial and are not related to any complete project for reform, as long as the ruling group imagines that the administrative reform is possible without political reform.
We all remember the great efforts made by administrative reform advocates to develop notarization office was a way more than the results achieved, with all respect to the achievements accomplished. Let us imagine that the mentioned efforts were included among major ones, in a harmonic way, in order to accomplish strategic, economic, political, social and cultural goals; we were going to witness totally different results, concerning the achievements quality and quantity.
To conclude, improving the strategy of security confrontation, in a concrete manner, is impossible, because simply, it contradicts with the overall strategy stated by the ruling group, because of what mentioned, we should wonder: is there any alternative strategy?
Farid Zahran is a publisher and writer. He is the co-founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party