Activists Fear Egypt’s Police Force, First Target of Protests, Is Out for Revenge

December 4, 2013 8:00 PM

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Activists Fear Egypt’s Police Force, First Target of Protests, Is Out for Revenge

As they have for nearly three years, activist filmmakers in Egypt continue to document the death of protesters at the hands of the security forces.

The latest offering from the Cairene film collective Mosireen, posted on YouTube on Tuesday, concludes with footage of Mohamed Reda, a 19-year-old student protester who was killed last week as police officers fired shotgun pellets at demonstrators on the campus of Cairo University.

The video, an indictment of what the filmmakers call “The Crimes of Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister of the Interior,” was posted online hours before the minister flatly denied that his forces had killed Mr. Reda, an engineering student, despite clear footage of officers firing at the protesters.

The new Mosireen video puts the latest death into context, with frequently graphic images of others protesters killed since January. That was when Mr. Ibrahim was put in charge of the nation’s police force, whose brutality was a central focus for the protest movement that started on Jan. 25, 2011, officially designated as Police Day.

One of Mosireen’s founders, Omar Robert Hamilton, argued in a sobering essay published on Tuesday in Mada Masr, an English-language news site in Cairo, “The police are the cancer at the core of a rotten state.”

Mr. Hamilton, whose cousin Alaa Abd El Fattah is one of 27 prominent activists arrested in the past week, said that the reason for the crackdown was clear: “Why? To send a message; the message the state has been sending since Feb. 12, 2011. It’s over. Go home. Shut up.”

He went on to cast the current crackdown in stark terms, as an effort by the interior minister, who was appointed by President Mohamed Morsi, but then made no effort to prevent his ouster by the military, to turn the clock back to 2010, when the security forces had total control of the streets.

Why am I writing this? Because devastation is upon us. Mohamed Ibrahim and the Ministry of the Interior have been unleashed. First on the Brotherhood and now on the activists who — for better or worse — launched and sustained this revolution we were once all so in love with. This revolution that gave so many of us the best part of our identities. This revolution that is drowning.

For the police, it’s about pride. The pride that’s taken such a battering since January 28. Men with guns and leather jackets have very little else to hold on to. Their lives revolve around pain and fear. The more afraid you are, the stronger they become. And you can never be afraid enough to satisfy them.

The British-Egyptian journalist Sarah Carr made a similar observation on Twitter last week, as the police snatched prominent activists at the first demonstration after a new law effectively banning protests went into effect.

As rights activists pointed out before President Morsi was forced from office in July, rather than attempt real reform he instead heaped praise on the interior ministry. In a speech to officers in March, the Islamist president even made the strange claim that the police “were at the heart” of the 2011 revolution. “Almighty God willed that Jan. 25 also be Police Day, a day of remembering the sacrifices of the police,” Mr. Morsi said then. He offered those words of praise the same week that a leaked government report blamed the same police force for the deaths of nearly 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising in 2011.

The interior minister’s claim on Tuesday that none of the officers under his command would ever harm a student, as reported by the journalist AbdelHalim AbdAllah, prompted a sarcastic reply from the activist blogger Mostafa Hussein.

Source: thelede.blogs.nytimes.com

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