On Thursday, Tom Rollins wrote: [T]he most worrying upshot of yesterday’s violence has been reactions in government and on the street.
At Nahda not long after the police rapidly cleared the site, local residents were cheering vans taking away the detritus of the one month-old occupation: air-conditioner fans, scrumpled-up Brotherhood banners and bags of rubbish that some person would have called their belongings at one point.
Nearby, four plainclothes soldiers sat around sipping tea and smoking cigarettes underneath an apartment block, chatting and watching state TV relay images of policemen clearing away protesters in Nahda. They were happy. On the street outside a trickle of policemen walked back with tear gas guns and rifles slung over their shoulders, joking with each other and carrying themselves like war heroes.
Most pro-Morsy protesters had already moved to Mohandiseen. When I got there, crowds were huddling for cover on Balat Ahmed Abdel Aziz. People were running between barricades and an up-turned police van was on fire in the middle of the street.
Inside the field hospital in Mostafa Mahmoud mosque, doctors were resuscitating a man, shot in the head, whose eyes had burst out of their sockets from the pressure. Five bodies were laid out on top of each other in a makeshift morgue too small to hold all the dead. You could tell when the next casualty was coming in from the tsunami of screams and cries coming down the corridor. Chest wounds, head wounds; all from live ammo. 22 dead.
I spoke to people who saw armed Brotherhood yesterday. But does that justify what happened? Did the fact Hamas had rockets justify what happened during Operation Cast Lead in 2008? Then too an organized security force pummelled retribution on hundreds of civilians for the alleged crimes of a few. People justified that too, sided with authority. Collective punishment on dubious charges.
Worse still, on Wednesday night, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim thanked the police for showing “self-restraint.” He then vowed to return Egypt to the halcyon stability of the Mubarak era.
“I promise that as soon as conditions stabilize and the Egyptian street stabilizes, as soon as possible, security will be restored to this nation as if it was before January 25, and more,” he said, according to Reuters.
It’s an amazing statement. Of course Egypt could be said to have been more stable under Hosni Mubarak. Police states are good for stability. It’s the word they’ve been writing in Lucida Handwriting on the “Egypt: Good for Business” brochure handed out at US State Department events for years. But for a government supposedly acting in the name of the 25 January revolution, this takes a special dose of doublethink. Sisi and the government are getting comfortable.
And so the old regime is back, this time with a new face, new tactics. Mubarak is in prison but the security state is back on the streets with impunity.