The New York Times reports: The normally invasive Egyptian authorities had long left Studio Emad Eddin alone, seeing no threat from a performance space that houses rehearsal studios and offers classes in set design and drama.
But this month, 18 plainclothes men from the Interior Ministry showed up with a warrant, asked about licenses and then confiscated equipment, including some speakers and a sound mixer, according to Nevine El Ibiary, one of the studio’s founders.
The search came within weeks of similar raids at several cultural venues and amid a vast security dragnet in downtown Cairo — part of an extraordinary effort by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to prevent any protest commemorating the uprising that started on Jan. 25, 2011, and toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
The security response has been in keeping with the government’s reputation for repressing most kinds of dissent. But the scale of the clampdown has baffled many people here, as has the level of official alarm, from a government that has faced no challenge from large-scale protests in years. In word and deed, Mr. Sisi and other officials have treated even the possibility of demonstrations on the anniversary as a grave threat to the nation.
The sense of panic has been attributed to concerns that the public is losing patience with the government amid high unemployment, rising prices and a persistent militant insurgency that, among other things, has devastated Egypt’s tourism industry.
But those factors alone were not sufficient to explain the overheated response, analysts said. From the perspective of the security services, the date — Jan. 25 — was itself a danger, as a reminder of their catastrophic, if momentary, loss of control. [Continue reading…]