Sunday, August 25, 2013

Was The Massacre At Rabaa A Surprise?

Was the massacre at Rabaa a surprise? Could the outcome  have been different?

Short answer is no!

This conclusion results from a basic understanding of the fundamental structure of Egyptian Police and the Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI).  A structure that was designed to protect the state from the citizens rather than protecting the citizens as its core mandate. Following are some thoughts I have on the topic
1. Use of conscripts: The vast majority of the the central security “soldiers” are conscripts. I was once told that at conscription intake times, all university graduates automatically get assigned into the army, then  the remainders are asked, who is literate and who is illiterate and the ones who can’t answer the question are the ones that taken for Central Security. I am not trying to mock them, but simply state that it is often, the poorest, least educated, and probably least intellectually capable are the ones that do wind up at the MOI and its Central Security apparatus.
2. Training of soldiers and indeed officers at Egyptian militaristic institution is all based on compliance and the use of humiliation to gain this compliance. The recruits are frequently beaten, imprisoned, tortured  to ensure their compliance. The compliance could be over cleaning an officer’s car, shining his shoes or picking his groceries, could even be for their staff officers who are often the nastiest. 
3. Egyptian police structure is fully like that of an army, national structure, four year college officers, including extensive study of law accompanied by beating and abuse of those who don’t comply with instructions, not exactly the best of times, to let topics like human rights sink in. Officers graduate and move up the ranks, Captain, Colonel, Brigadiers, all the way to Generals. Most leave traditional policing, for extended periods, to engage in other functions within the MOI: ID cards, car registrations, drivers license,  permits, prisons and countless other administrative tasks that make up the huge MOI Empire. A police general may be some twenty years removed from any traditional policing work. Contrast this with simple city based policing, where police officers receive qualify within 6 to 12 months and remain fully focused on policing in their own communities, with this huge cadre of police officers and hundred of thousands of illiterate police foot soldiers.

4. Egypt MOI and Policing in Egypt operates on a national level, so an officer from Alexandria is assigned to Aswan, then Mansoura then Port Said etc. and is almost never allowed to work within his own immediate community in actual policing work. A throw back to the days of the colonialists, when the British and French Administrations rotated their people lest they went native on them and became too attached to the communities they were there to control. This also offers the MOI a tool of reward and punishment, so an officer from Cairo who may take human rights a bit too seriously gets despatched to the Gaza border until he cools down.

The above factors and doubtless, many others are what lead me to conclude that, until fully re-engineered from the grounds up, it will be hard to expect different results from the MOI than what we have witnessed over the last few years. If the protest is armed, partially armed or even lightly armed as the Muslim Brotherhood defendants claim Rabaa was, then the blood letting would indeed be worse. We should not forget that hundreds of protesters died in the early days of Jan25 revolution and, there was no dispute that, those were indeed peaceful unarmed protestors.

Until the Police and MOI structures are fundamentally altered to resemble that of a modern police force, expect more mass needless killings, more torture and more brutality. Sadly President Morsi had the mandate to do just that; to reform the MOI, but he failed to get serious reform even on the agenda. Indeed Morsi praised the role of the police during Jan25 and pursued a policy of appeasement and coaptation with the MOI. 

August 23, 2013

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