Amongst a host of readers and bookworms, Emad Abou-Ghazi, the new minister of culture, Nevine Mousaad, a professor of economics and political science and Bahi Eldin Hassan, a leading human rights activist, discussed the book “Temptations of Absolute Power” by Basma Abdel-Aziz (published by Sefsafa) at Alef Bookstore in Heliopolis yesterday, Sunday 13 March.
The book describes the history of the police in Egypt, reflecting on a record of domination and repression, which resulted in the Egyptian people developing a defensive and defeated mentality to survive.
It is interesting to note, as Hassan pointed out, the choice of the date of the revolution – 25 January – the traditional “Police day” in Egypt. This reflected the natural, yet long-delayed, reaction of people to a policy of violence and oppression exercised for years.
Abou-Ghazi said that he was attending the discussion as a researcher in history and documentation, not as his “temporary title of minister”. He considered the research in the book, which predated the revolution, as a powerful 'scream in the face of absolute power', just before that power fell apart.
Police brutality and its transformation to a power for repression rather than security and the link between physical violence and the political condition as a whole, also attracted Abou-Ghazi’s attention.
Mousaad praised the book’s ability to dive into the police officer’s perceived position and belief that they are “above the law”, resulting in a relationship with the people resembling that of a master and slave.
It’s worth pointing out that the police have changed their slogan from “The police are in the service of the people” into “The police and the people are in the service of the nation”. This change, as Mousaad reflected, is a sign that it is the people’s responsibility to protect their own property.
It is as if the police are giving up their responsibility to enforce the law, and asking individuals to take the law into their own hands, while the police protect the regime and suppress its opposition.
“The ordinary people on the street sympathise with traffic and regular policemen, differentiating between those and officers, even at times of violent confrontation”, maintained Hassan and referred to "the prophecy that came true [in the book] when security police withdrew from the streets”.
The book also mentions that “with all the oppression, the state also gives up some of its responsibility towards society, not only weak in law-enforcement but even withdrawing from daily life and its requirements, even the most basic of them”.