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Sisi and the Can’t Shoot Straight Gang

When Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi is just a blip on history’s radar, discerning eyes will look back on this week as revelatory of the current polemic. Both the soul crushing murder of Regeni and the explosive gathering of the Doctors’ Syndicate in protest of Ministry of Interior abuses come at a crucial juncture in Egypt’s rule. …


When Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi is just a blip on history’s radar, discerning eyes will look back on this week as revelatory of the current polemic. Both the soul crushing murder of Regeni and the explosive gathering of the Doctors’ Syndicate in protest of Ministry of Interior abuses come at a crucial juncture in Egypt’s rule.

These two events divulge details of a regime, a ruler and a deep state who are a combustible mixture of naïveté, arrogance, and a lack of strategic depth perception. Interestingly, Sisi and the Cant Shoot Straight Gang are in a catch 22. These two highly revealing face-offs are virtually guaranteed to be lose-lose propositions for a man in such desperate need of a win. By crossing red lines with astonishing consistency, Sisi’s regime is writing its political obituary.

Arrogance habitually overrides logic. This is how impunity is born, and it is precisely why Egypt’s security forces are consistently teetering on the edge of red lines. Whether via judicial decisions doling out life in prison, death sentences by the hundreds or eviscerating hundreds of lives, the Sisi regime has been consistent in tightening the noose around its own neck. Yet the regime has survived for nearly 30 months. Falsely, this gives the impression that Sisi is untouchable. Yet popular support is only a mirage when you control public discourse through various media. There is no escaping political reality as each misstep weakens the hold on power. This week there were two gruesome faux pas.

The first ill judgement cost a precious life. A young, brilliant man with a Cambridge education came to complete his journey in a nation that piqued his intellectual interest at a dangerous time and paid with his life. Under no circumstance should an interest in the labour movement of a nation cost one’s life. But, in a nation where conspiracy theories resonate across every social strata and most prominently at the security level, that irrationality likely cost Regeni his life. Security services who arrested Regeni, asserted the New York Times and other reputable sources, did not believe Regeni was a mere graduate student. In their minds ‘’they figured he was a spy,’’ an Egyptian security official explained to the Times, ‘’after all who comes to Egypt to study trade unions?’’ But the Ministry of Interior, which has made a most vicious comeback since it was taught a lesson by the people during the 25 January Revolution, does not care. There are no breaks because its officers realise Sisi desperately needs the muscle, now more than ever.

There was nothing haphazard about the police’s decision to stop Giulio. He had been followed since, at least, December when he was photographed while attending ‘’an independent union gathering’’ by an unknown man. On 25 January, Regeni disappeared after being stopped by two plain-clothes men who searched his bag, phone and passport. What cinches his arrest are phone contacts that include ‘’people associated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the leftist 6 April Youth Movement’’. To the security mind, these groups are terrorists and to associate with them is equally to partake in terror. The Times, as well as sources who spoke to this writer, both indicate that the confidence with which Regeni answered, in the minds of an arrogant security officer used to being in control, sealed his fate. Wonder what they were expecting? For Regeni to welcome them with a hug as they kidnap and murder him?

When Giulio resurfaced days later, after pressure from the Italian embassy, there were signs of ‘’seven broken ribs,[…]electrocution on his penis,[…]cuts from a sharp instrument (likely a razor multiple sources confirmed), […] injuries all over his body, abrasions and bruises[…] from being kicked and punched’’. No Egyptian, pro-Sisi or not, needs to be told that these are the hallmarks of torture by police and the National State Security Apparatus. What happened to Giulio has happened, no less tragically, to countless Egyptians. But Regeni was a foreigner, a red line state security virtually never crosses. Italian pressure is shining an embarrassing and unceasing light on Egyptian security brutality as well as Italian hypocrisy.

When Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended a major economic conference meant to energise the Sisi presidency, it is doubtless he was well aware of his counterpart’s draconian calling card. However, where the needs of the state arise, the rights of individuals fall by the wallside, particularly those of Egyptians. When the victim is Italian, Renzi’s tone naturally changed and Italy’s friendship with Egypt became contingent on the emergence of truth regarding the brutal murder, said the PM on Friday.

Indeed, the addition of independent Italian investigators on Egyptian soil is sure to uncover truths the Egyptian state would much rather see evaporate without the attendant scrutiny that their unveiling will provoke.

Damage to the Sisi regime is also being done by security forces domestically. Weeks ago, when several police officers marched into a hospital in Matariya, a Cairo suburb, demanding stitches for a policeman who didn’t require them, the situation quickly spiralled out of control, according to the doctors. Two doctors were alleged to have been assaulted. And the medical profession responded with thousands of doctors pouring into central Cairo streets for a general meeting of the Doctors’ Syndicate. That such a gathering could be uncovers the tip of an iceberg that may, ultimately, puncture the Sisi bubble. Police have, by most accounts, outpaced the abuses of the Mubarak era. Police have developed a case of intentional amnesia: police abuses were one of the chief causes of the Egyptian revolution. So when the same precinct responsible for killing 14 Egyptians over 2 years is responsible for the fiasco at the hospital, there is no accident. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal rights (EIPR) called the support the doctors received “a reflection of the level of police abuse of authority.’’

Rather than bend to the winds of anger of a powerful union, the government continues to shoot itself in the foot. Days before the syndicate meeting, several officers from Matariya police station were arrested. However, 36 hours later, they were released based on job recognisance. In a nation that has seen thousands arrested and held in remand for over 36 months for far less, this risked and did engender anger. The result? Thousands in the street, destabilising a regime continuing to haemorrhage popular support, and a hashtag of Support the Doctors’ Union that dominated social media channels internationally for hours. Lessons learned from 25 January? Apparently not. Still operating with the mentality of the 1960’s, when computers weighed as much as a car, the regime continuously underestimates the power of social media to galvanise popular opinion. This writer, an avid observer of the political power of Twitter in Egyptian circles, witnessed many pro Sisi Egyptians yesterday issuing their support for the Doctors’ Syndicate.

A group of organised, intelligent professionals politically embarrassed a government far less aware of the dynamics of political theatre in 2016. Ultimately, the upcoming week will require what Sisi has yet to show: a firm but just hand. Sisi could bow to law and the doctors’ demands for punishment of the guilty. Punish the guilty and he may appear to be backing down;  remain stubborn and he risks a partial national strike by doctors. Lose-lose. Sisi is betting, and against the casino at that, that the seeds of fear planted will carry the day. He will learn: gambling and politics don’t mix well.

Nearly three years before the uprising of 2011, labour unions faced off with Egyptian security in Mahla, Egypt’s textile centre. It was perceived, correctly, as a warning shot and later understood to be a long-term cause of revolution. Friday may prove to be as significant. For thousands to chant ‘’the Ministry of Interior are thugs’’ in central Cairo is not a moment lost on many.

It was a warning shot.

With history as a guide, the state will likely remain violent, blind, and deaf when it comes to these grievances. Lessons have not been learned.

They will learn the hard way.

 

Amr Khalifa is a freelance journalist recently published by Ahram Online, Tahrir Institute, Muftah and Mada Masr

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  • Georges

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02

    The article above from the NYT regoups all the allegations made by other media
    sources about Mr Regeni having been hauled away by the police.

    All
    because ….

    (1) ‘ one witness said that the footage (from stores mounted cameras) would have shown Mr Regeni, an Italian being led away by two …. security agents ‘

    In other words : an unsourced, anonymous witness hypothesizing that the footage
    might have shown My Regeni being hauled away presented as damning fact. Then
    this assertion is negated at the end of the article as follows:

    ‘ The shopkeepers with the video cameras said any evidence was lost days after Mr Regeni disappeared because the footage is wiped out at the end of the month ‘ before Mr Regeni remains were found. Again a purely conjectural hypothesis by a
    witness that may have never existed (and even if it did exist that would change
    nothing) is presented as damning incriminating fact.

    (2) Another alleged evidence consists of 3 Egyptian security being interviewed separately, as if under arrest by the unidentified source and expected to cooperate fully with its inquisition, declared unanimously that ‘ Mr Regeni had also aroused suspicion because of contacts on his phone (mobileas reported by other sources) that the officials said included people associated with the islamist moslem brotherhood and the leftist April 6 youth movement ‘

    How can this be since his phone would have been seized and examined only after
    his arrest, which in turn is due to his phone having been found with the
    suspicious names ? Since when the consequence precedes the cause ? The Egyptian police, Mr Regeni and the phone would have needed to travel back in time after his arrest at a speed exceeding the speed of light, which is impossible
    precisely because if it was possible it would result into consequences
    preceding their causes !

    (3) ‘The Egyptian police have yet to request the footage from the shopkeepers with the video cameras, a fact that human rights advocates say is typical of police investigations indicating …. a cover up’

    Why would the police be expected to request the footage before they knew about
    Mr Regeni itinerary along the shopkeepers street, and before they knew his
    remains were found, after February 1, when any alleged footage was erased, whose content concerning Mr Regeni was hypothetically mentioned but never seen by an unsourced, anonymous witness ?

    (4) ‘ one witness, who requested anonymity said he had seen the two officers stop the Italian. The witness said that one of the officers had been in the neighborhood on previous occasions and had asked about Mr Regeni… ‘

    – What is the source of this info (media, police .. ) while allowing for keeping
    the witness anonymous ?

    – If Mr Regeni was suspected as a trouble maker by the police, why wait until
    January 25 to haul him away, specially given that they had shown a great deal
    of premptive tactics in arresting suspected troublemakers prior to the critical
    date of January 25 ? Why wait until then to make a predictable arrest from
    their stand point, and given that they were expected to be on alert for on
    going disturbences and take the risk of Mr Regeni going underground ?

    – What proof is there that the whole thing was not made up by Kareem Fahmi,
    Youssef Nour and Declan Walsh and/or other media sources ? After all their
    Egypt bashing record is so strong they have every incentive to distort facts .

    Just asking

  • Georges

    If I were you I would not mention too obvious references to ‘can’t shoot straight gang’ given your own record of crooked shooting,
    Did you forget already forgat the non existent names, April and October you made up about the Egyptian navy ships during the sea borne terrorist attack in 2014 ?
    Also tell our citizen X engineer friend that there is no equipment capable of directing detecting explosives and IED. It simply does not exist. The closest is the LAV vehicle capable not of detecting but of withstanding the destruction caused by the explosion but the crew gets killed anyway because of the strength of the shock wave. As an ehgineer your Citizen X friend can’t shoot staright either.

  • Feloul are allies of ISIS

    People who believe that the April 6 movement is a terrorist organization are themselves idiot terrorists. Only nutcases believe the delusional anti-April 6 propaganda.

https://dailynewsegypt.com/2016/02/14/sisi-and-the-cant-shoot-straight-gang/
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