Egypt's military-backed interim government announced Monday it is bringing back Egypt's infamous secret police units, a move slammed as an insult to the revolutionary aspirations that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, the Guardian reports.
"It's a return to the Mubarak era," Aida Seif el-Dawla of the Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture told the Guardian. "These units committed the most atrocious human rights violations. Incommunicado detentions, killings outside the law. Those were the [units] that managed the killing of Islamists during the 1990s. It's an ugly authority that has never been brought to justice."
Yet, many say the secret police never went away in the first place, charging that the overgrown security state of the Mubarak era—supported by the Egyptian military and decades of US aid—has gone through different rulers since the 2011 revolts but remains essentially intact.
"These units for monitoring political groups are not back. They never went anywhere in the first place," Karim Ennarah, a researcher on criminal justice and policing at the Egyptian initiative for personal rights (EIPR), told the Guardian. "The only thing that happened was that they changed the name."
Egypt's secret police were allegedly disbanded shortly after the fall of Mubarak, after widespread anger against police abuse and torture played a key role in toppling the regime.
The secret police return as the Egyptian military and police escalate their use of overt violence against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, with a massacre on Saturday leaving between 70 and 130 dead, the lastest in a series of harsh crackdowns.
The military is unleashing a flurry of force against the Muslim Brotherhood—whose members have also engaged in violent clashes with civilians, and whose leaders violently repressed dissent while in power—under the guise that the violence is necessary to counter Muslim Brotherhood "terrorists."
Sharif Abdel Kouddous, writing for the Nation, declares this is nothing more than a "coercive security apparatus reconstituting itself under the guise of a 'war on terror.'"
The deepening crisis has dismayed many of the revolutionaries who struggled to overcome successive authoritarian regimes—Mubarak’s government, the direct rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the Brotherhood—only to see the military and old security apparatus rise again, perhaps entrenching themselves even deeper into Egyptian life.
An emerging "Third Square" movement in Egypt is opposing both Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF rule, calling for an end to all atrocities.