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Why Egyptians Want to Take Control of the Interior Ministry in Egypt

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A/S Posner also raised police brutality with MFA Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd who responded that the GOE takes the issue seriously. Aboulmagd said that since 2005, the Interior Ministry stopped paying fines for police officers found to have abused detainees. He noted increased

prosecutions against police officers for torture and abuse. Aboulmagd said the Interior Ministry is participating in human rights training through the UN Development Program, and internal courses. He opined that it would take a "generation of training" before the police accepted the concept of human rights.


Stunning are the realities that Egyptian officials find torture to be so integral to the culture of government that it will take a "generation of training" to be less repressive toward citizens. Also, one cannot help wondering what the U.S. official hearing this opinion thought: Did Margaret Scobey, who classified this cable, ever wonder why anyone needs to be taught human rights? Don't you just stop brutalizing or torturing people? Don't you just stop making it so it's impossible for citizens to challenge their detention?

The Interior Ministry is especially brutal to bloggers, which is not surprising when you look at this cable, "Bloggers Moving from Activism to Broadening" from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in March 2009. It points out bloggers then were "broadening the scope of acceptable political and social discourse and self-expression" and influencing media and society by discussing "sensitive issues, such as sexual harassment, sectarian tension and the military," something that did not happen years ago. Bloggers are working to expose police brutality and corporate malfeasance even though the "restrictive political climate, government of Egypt counter-measures and tensions among bloggers."

Bloggers are criminalized for "insulting" President Mubarak or Islam. Bloggers who have used the Internet to organize and support protests have been arrested.

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The U.S. Embassy cable concludes that in 2009 there were 160,000 bloggers writing "in Arabic, and sometimes in English, about a wide variety of topics, from social life to politics to literature. It notes that one NGO estimated "a solid majority" then were between 20 and 35 years old. Also, thirty percent of blogs were estimated to be blogs focused on politics.

Yet, another cable indicates that activists have worked to push the U.S. into pressuring the Egyptian government to urge the government to call for an end to policies of torture. In February 2010, activists noted that police torture was "pervasive" and "attributed it to senior level Interior Ministry pressure on officers to extract confessions, especially in murder cases, by any means necessary. Changing Interior Ministry policy was considered something that could restore the "rule of law, relations between police and the public, and the overall human rights situation."

Unfortunately, the U.S. policy seems to have operated under the conventional wisdom that this torture and repression was simply happening primarily to Islamic extremists, individuals the U.S. publicly opposes. The U.S. probably was in no position then to tell the Egyptian government to stop torturing its citizens when it has a torture problem and an impunity problem of its own. So, while human rights activists called for justice, there was a dilemma of credibility that would impact any push for accountability or reform.

Now, as night continues to fall, as protesters continue to defy orders, they will continue to try and take this building. Calls for Mubarak to go are inseparable from calls for the Interior Ministry to be taken over. The Ministry represents everything Egyptians despise about Mubarak's regime and, if the revolt continues to grow, the Ministry will likely come under control of Egyptians.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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