When security is terror

Gamal Abdel-Gawad , Tuesday 8 Mar 2011

The hatred and mistrust of Egypt's State Security apparatus needs to be addressed and rectified if scenes as those witnessed at the weekend are not to be repeated

What occurred over the weekend at State Security headquarters is, by any measure, a catastrophe. These headquarters house files and information which was gathered illegally during an era when politics, the state, political parties, professional syndicates, labour movements, universities, mosques, churches, culture, media and business were reduced to one component; the security of the state.

State security offices were the scene of kidnapped citizens being tortured. It was here also that conspiracies were hatched to sabotage political parties and syndicates, as well as tarnish the reputations of activists and intellectuals. For this, state security must be done away with without regret.

But State Security offices also house files and information about extremist groups, local and international terrorist organisations, ties between organisations and means and routes of arms and explosives smuggling, local arms dealers and their partners abroad, about the factories and warehouses of dual purpose materials that can be used for civilian or military purposes including explosives used in mining and fertilisers used in agriculture.

All this information is valuable for any country which wants to protect itself whether it is a democratic or despotic regime, under religious or secular rule, applying a socialist or capitalist system.

I cannot blame protestors enraged by the actions of the security apparatus who want to get rid of one of the major obstacles to democracy in Egypt over the past decades. I do, however, blame the authorities who failed to realise the magnitude of anger which people hold against State Security, and failed to develop and apply a genuine democratic model in Egypt which does not include State Security as a component.

Since the first day of the success of the revolution and the fall of Mubarak's regime, I expected a senior official, perhaps the minister of interior, to come out and criticise the behaviour of State Security and apologies. Perhaps even give us an outline about the role of State Security in the coming phase and the steps that will be taken to ensure the realisation of this vision.

But none of this happened, and the former minister of interior circumvented the issue talking about the need for the police to treat the citizenry well, and that the police should stop asking for bribes. He avoided saying the magic words and the key to any conciliation between the police and the people: State Security.

Military and police officials hesitated to delve into the issue of State Security, so the people cracked it wide open. I hope that officials will move quickly to address other sensitive issues so the people don’t take it upon themselves to do so in a way which could jeopardize the country’s security.

Short link: