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When murder becomes a national project

While some in Egypt were celebrating the new Suez Canal bypass, Egyptian security forces were reportedly “eliminating” five citizens in Fayyum, southwest of Cairo. It has been claimed the deceased were members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Over the past two years, it seems to have become normal for murders to coincide with celebrations. After all, the military regime that has ruled Egypt since the 3 July, 2013 coup appears to have adopted murder as a national project.

To make matters worse, the independent Egyptian newspaper al-Shorouk published an article about the Fayyum crime – in which it parroted the interior ministry’s version of events without speaking to the victims’ families or any independent witnesses.

The paper also used the interior ministry’s terminology, such as “terrorist cell” and speaking of the group’s “dens”.

The elimination of opponents is the foundation of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s political project. It has been this way since Sisi sought authorisation on 26 July 2013 to fight “terrorism” – and succeeded in gaining such authority through sheer propaganda.

Since then, the regime has transformed murder into a national project that is commended and supported in public, with what must be unprecedented internal consent and external collusion.

Extrajudicial killings that take place in homes, on the streets streets and in prisons are treated as the state’s fundamental right.

No one is safe

This is a fascist project that does not differentiate between the Islamist and the secular, a member of the Brotherhood or another party.

Shaima al-Sabbagh was shot dead by the police earlier this year. She was a leftist and was carrying flowers, not a weapon.

Islam Atito, an engineering student, was abducted from an exam hall in Ain Shams University by security services and found dead the next day. He was not an Islamist.

Karim Hamdi, a lawyer, reportedly died under torture in a police station. He was not a Brotherhood member. Nor was Essam Derbala who died a few days ago in Scorpion prison – or the tens of others who are understood to have died in Sisi’s torture cells, or who were directly murdered.

According to the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, 36 people have died in the past month during torture in Egyptian prisons.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights estimates that 71 people have died under torture since January, while the Alkarama human rights centre reports that 285 people have been killed in Egyptian prisons since June of last year.

Manufacturing consent

State-sanctioned murder is one of the main characteristics of dictatorships, especially those seeking to solidify their power following revolutions. This is what is happening in Egypt.

The regime often attempts to justify its killings, saying the deceased were preparing a terrorist act or were in some way involved in terrorism – as it did in in Fayyum.

A populist frenzy often accompanies such acts, reflecting the level to which the Egyptian public consciousness has been sabotaged.

It has become the norm to see and hear calls in the media to kill regime opponents, and to see people cheering when dissidents are killed – as if the death of opponents is the only way to deal with them, and the more a ruler kills, the more successful and capable he becomes.

Despite all this, Sisi still has the audacity to claim that he has come to save Egypt from destruction and that he calls for life – while it is his opponents who call for death.

By Khalil al-Anani,
an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

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