Ever since the Black Lives Matter movement exploded into the headlines,
violence by American police officers has come under fire from activists
and ordinary citizens alike. Less discussed, however, is how the U.S.
government winks at the police brutality of its client states abroad.
The military government in Egypt, for example, is cracking down hard
on its restive citizenry – harder than any time in memory. And the
United States, which sends the country over a $1 billion a year in
security aid, is looking the other way.
The cops on the beat in Egyptian cities are a menace. They demand
bribes from motorists on any pretense and mete out lethal violence
on a whim.
On February 18, a Cairo policeman shot
24-year-old Muhammad Sayed in the head because the youth asked
him for a few extra dollars to do the cop a favor. The policeman is
facing murder charges. But, as in the United States, it’s common for
Egyptian courts to acquit officers or send them away with a slap on
Beatings and other abuses are rampant
at the country’s police stations.
Last month, according to the heroic El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation
of Victims of Violence, a Cairo-based group, there were eight deaths
in police custody – and almost 80 cases of torture. The group estimates
500 Egyptians died in police custody last year, and over 600 were
Even worse are the plainclothes agents of the Interior Ministry,
who operate with near total impunity against perceived political dissidents.
When these secret police take people away, Egyptians say they’ve gone
“behind the sun.” No one knows where the detainees are, and anyone
who looks for them too long will go blind.
Those Interior Ministry goons are the leading suspects in the torture
and murder of Giulio Regeni. The Italian graduate student was found
dead on a desert roadside, his body bearing cigarette burns and
other signs of repeated torture, in early February. He’d been missing
for 10 days.
Because he was from Europe, Regeni’s case got a lot of media attention.
But it’s grimly ordinary for Egyptians to disappear and die under