Egypt: Minister Of What?

Egypt has always been the land of endless surprises.

Lately. the biggest surprise, of course, was the Tahrir Square revolution, which toppled 30 years of Hosni Mubarak rule in 18 days.

Since then, the surprises have come fast and furious – almost too many to keep up with.

Now two of the strangest just happened.

The first is the creation, by the Ministry of the Interior, of a new position: Deputy Interior Minister for Human Rights. What’s strange about this is how totally other-worldly it is to see “Human Rights” in the same sentence as “Ministry of the Interior.”

During all of Mubarak’s reign, mere mention of the Ministry of the Interior was enough to strike terror into the hearts of most Egyptians. That’s because this Ministry was the home of the dreaded Egyptian State Security Investigations Service (SSI), the internal security service whose police force was guilty of the most unspeakable crimes against humanity: murder in detention, torture, enhanced interrogation techniques so Torquemadish as to make George W. Bush’s CIA look like The Boy Scouts.

The second big surprise is that, in a stunning show of independence from Egypt’s current military rulers, one of the country’s leading civil libertarians has turned the job down.

He is Bahey eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). His organization, along with a small number of like-minded and equally-courageous groups, have been standing up against Mubarak’s monsters for decades before it became fashionable.

In a statement, Hassan’s group said he was “not optimistic that the political context in which the post was created will allow it to have a real impact on the situation inside the Ministry of Interior.” On the contrary, the group added, “it may only serve to cover up a still ugly reality that must be changed, a task which is beyond the capabilities of the deputy – and perhaps even of the Interior Minister himself – to accomplish.”

CIHRS went on to say, “This does not mean there has been no change in the security establishment, but it has been very limited, as was made exceptionally clear in the events of June 28 and 29. Indeed, on those days, even some directives and orders from the Interior Minster himself were not obeyed. What, then, would it be like for a deputy in a newly formed position without roots or traditions in the ministry? A deputy who, moreover, comes from outside the police establishment? This situation makes the post even less effective than an advisory position or might be even used as an appealing front to market current policies to the national public and to donor nations in Europe and the United States.”

The chronic human rights problem of the police and security establishment, the organization said, “is too complex to be solved by the creation of a deputy human rights post in the Interior Ministry. Indeed, the problem is closely linked to the extent to which people realize the need for radical, far-reaching reform in the Interior Ministry and other state institutions and ministries.”

It added: “The experience of the last few months contains little to indicate this realization among the Interior Ministry, the Prime Minster, or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.”

The organization charged, “There is no political will to institute real change and to make a clean break with past policies. This will inevitably affect the possibility for the genuine reform of the first state institution targeted by the January 25 revolution on the national holiday of that very institution.”

Habib el-Adly, Mubarak’s last Interior Minister, is currently on trial for murdering anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square as well as money laundering and unlawfully acquiring public money.

This kind of pushback against Egypt’s military rulers – SCAF, The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – has grown exponentially since the historic day in February when the demonstrators in Tahrir Square and around the world heard the news that the dictator had resigned.

During the days preceding that historic day, pro-democracy forces has made the army their darling. After all, it was the army that refused to kill its own citizens. Since then, however, the trajectory for the generals has been downhill at great speed. It has become increasingly apparent that the military council consists of generals who are indebted to Hosni Mubarak. It also seems clear that the generals find governing a lot more complex than deploying tanks and cannons.

And, as for Bahey eldin Hassan, what can you say to encourage a man who is doing exactly what he’s been doing forever?

Somehow, thank you doesn’t seem enough.

William Fisher, a regular contributor to The Public Record, has managed economic development programs for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere for the past 25 years. He has supervised major multi-year projects for AID in Egypt, where he lived and worked for three years. He returned later with his team to design Egypt’s agricultural strategy. Fisher served in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He reports on a wide-range of issues for numerous domestic and international newspapers and online journals. He blogs at The World According to Bill Fisher.

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2 Responses for “Egypt: Minister Of What?”

  1. kate says:

    Now, let’s examine what is happening on Egyptian soil. There has been no democratic reform or justice brought in by the Military Council for the Egyptian People. All these on-going state – corrupted media claims of mubarak and ministers of the ex regime being sentenced by the military supreme council are all false. The chaos in egypt is due to the release of criminals from prisons all over the country, by mubarak’s regime. Does the world know that there are thousands of criminals on the rampage throughout the county??? It’s not the US or Israel’s fault. Corruption and religious extremism by the regime is the main cause. Lawlessness is at its peak, since the revolution. Christian copts are targeted by armed gangs. Daily, coptic women and children are abducted, drugged and raped by armed gangs. The victims are sexually exploited & forced to denounce their christian belief and accept islam as their new religion. Saudi arabia is funding the islamization of coptic christians. In every attack on Copts, criminals are protected by the authorities and never punished by the law. It’s the coptic victims that are arrested and imprisoned by the authorities. This is just injustice!!! Churches and Christian businesses and villages continue to be attacked by salafi extremists. When will this ever stop??? Egypt will not get better until law & order is restored, by imprisonment of criminals with a new democratic government, supported by the U.N. The world is asleep at the wheel, believing “everything is honky dory” in Egypt, since this years revolution. Egypt is drowning, day after day. Sadly, the country is in a mess…….Everyone is now suffering in this atmosphere of corruption, inequality and injustice………

  2. The following comments were sent to me by the author of this report, William Fisher, who has asked me to post them:

    From: Mohamad Zaki Gomaa
    Cairo Egypt

    I would like to partially respond to angry reader Kate. Most of her statements are just loose talks or personal fantasies without sold evidence. I do not say that Egypt is in its best conditions. Different parties still confused to able fast move. They practice something like a learning process, resulting of course, in many mistakes of different parties. Accordingly, life is not easy for ALL citizens, not only Christian copts. However, no armed gangs daily drug, rape Coptic women and children!! No victims are sexually exploited and forced to denounce their Christianity!! You lived in Egypt for years Bill, did you ever heard something like that even once? Or this is a new trend started with the Egyptian revolution?! From where Kate got such odd ideas? Some people needs to know much of facts, to really able understand the world the live.
    From Wiliam Fisher

    Dear Kate:

    You wrote: “There has been no democratic reform or justice brought in by the Military Council for the Egyptian People. All these on-going state-corrupted media claims of Mubarak and ministers of the ex-regime being sentenced by the military Supreme Council are all false.”

    Under ordinary circumstances, this kind of statement would not surprise me; it’s happened in Egypt and elsewhere before; an autocratic despot convicted of plundering his country, who gets convicted, and the next thing we know he turns up in a place with no extradition treaties.

    But, Kate, shouldn’t the appearance of Mr. Mubarak, and his sons, and his cronies, in a cage in a court in police academy that used to bear his name – shouldn’t the reality of those optics tell you this is no ordinary proceding?

    Kate, you go on to say that “The chaos in Egypt is due to the release of criminals from prisons all over the country, by Mubarak’s regime. Does the world know that there are thousands of criminals on the rampage throughout the county??? It’s not the US or Israel’s fault. Corruption and religious extremism by the regime is the main cause. Lawlessness is at its peak, since the revolution.”

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