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  • Author: Michael Barak
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Since mid-June, there have been growing social media protests by residents of the city of Port Said, Egypt against the mayor's intention to reposition the statue of de Lesseps (1805-1894), a French engineer and statesman who initiated and led the Suez Canal excavation project. In their view, the statue symbolizes European colonialism and denigrates the blood of the Egyptian people who scarified their lives in a war against the oppressive colonialist enemy. The discourse reflects an ideological struggle over the interpretation of symbols and monuments in the public sphere and corresponds with similar protests that have taken place recently in several Western countries, with the resumption of riots against the murder of George Floyd, which highlights the phenomenon of tearing down statues identified as symbols of oppression.
  • Topic: History, Social Media, Colonialism, Protests
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Egypt, Port Said
  • Author: Alex Walsh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The 2011 Egyptian protests started in earnest nine years ago on National Police Day on 25 January, a holiday that Hosni Mubarak had introduced to commemorate Egyptian police officers killed and wounded by British colonial forces in 1952. Protesters upended the original meaning of the holiday to turn it into a symbol of police brutality and corruption under Mubarak. In the drama of the 18 days that followed, Egypt’s internal security apparatus fought the protesters in the streets, delivering one shocking provocation after another, galvanizing the protest movement and ultimately contributing to the removal of Mubarak. Since 2011, the police and internal security forces of many countries in the Arab world have been at the centre of the conflicts and struggles that shape the region for better and for worse. Recent and ongoing encounters between protestors and police in the streets of Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan are a stark reminder that the police are more than just a proxy target for a protestation of the state. They are also the object of much anger both as a grouping, and in terms of the concept of policing and social control they embody. The impact of this sustained contestation of police behaviour and doctrine in the region deserves reflection. Has the police and policing changed in the Arab world? And if so, in what ways? This paper maps out some of the main modes in which the police and policing have been contested since 2011, and provides a preliminary assessment of its impact. It argues that mass mobilised contestation has only been successful in the instance where institutional reform followed. It notes that hybridisation of policing – where informal security actors cooperate and challenge formal security actors – has spread in many countries but that the concept of state security – with its emphasis on the state over citizens – continues to prevail across the region. Indeed, almost a decade after that fateful 25 January 2011, many of the aspirations of citizens protesting the police are far from realised, even while there are some promising developments.
  • Topic: Protests, Repression, Police, Police State
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo
  • Author: Nael Shama
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Regional Studies: CIRS
  • Abstract: By examining the events of the Arab uprisings, this paper looks into the nature and dynamics of armies’ responses to popular uprisings. It argues that the outcome of the massive, regime-threatening Arab revolts in 2011 can be assessed by how a military responded to protests: did the army shoot protesters, did it stay idle, or did it largely defect? In light of the rich literature available on the historical experience of the “Arab Spring,” this paper shows that an army’s response to end popular uprisings in authoritarian regimes is determined by several key factors: the military’s level of institutionalization; its relationship to the regime; the degree of the regime’s legitimacy; the amount of international aid it receives; the prospects of foreign intervention; and, finally, the strength of the army’s bond with society and its perception of its own role within society. Additionally, there is a factor often overlooked by scholars; namely, how the military assesses a regime’s capacity to solve the crisis in order to triumph. The paper draws on evidence from the six cases of the 2011 Arab Spring—Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Tunisia—to illustrate the dynamics of troop loyalty or defection.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Human Rights First
  • Abstract: On the fifth anniversary of the mass Tahrir Square protests that ousted former President Mubarak, Egyptians are suffering severe repression and political instability. As this crisis deepens, Washington continues to send troubling mixed messages about its commitment to trying to resolve it. The U.S. government should, at long last, use its considerable influence to support civil society and advance human rights in Egypt. Such an approach would both help Egyptians and serve U.S interests. This blueprint draws on dozens of interviews with Egyptian human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists, academics, families of detainees, lawyers, government officials, and others, conducted during a research trip in January 2016. It examines conditions in Egypt, the strengths and shortcomings of the U.S. response, and potential opportunities for the U.S. government to support civil society and strengthen respect for human rights. This year will be a defining one as violent extremism, regional conflicts, and political and economic mismanagement threaten Egypt—and as President Obama shapes his legacy in the Middle East. In 2009, he delivered a message of hope in Cairo: “America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.” Much has changed in the intervening years. In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2015, President Obama opted for analysis rather than exhortation, noting that: “repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed. The history of the last two decades proves that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.” He continued: “I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength; it is showing weakness and it is showing fear. History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble, but strong institutions built on the consent of the governed endure long after any one individual is gone.” Yet the U.S. government’s handling of the enduring crisis in Egypt has too often failed to draw obvious conclusions from the Administration’s analysis of the detrimental impact of human rights violations on stability and progress. As a result, many Egyptians view the Obama Administration as supportive of the repressive leadership in Cairo. This support for the dictatorship will render Egypt less stable, undermine U.S. efforts to prevent violent extremism, and further damage Washington’s credibility in the region.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo