Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brutal Arab security forces offer hope

Security forces in the Arab world, and the glorified thugs they attract, do not prove the might of regimes, but their weakness

Nesrine Malik, Wednesday 18 August 2010

"......Like Napoleon's dogs in Animal Farm, the glorified thugs that form the lower ranks patrol neighbourhoods and arbitrarily persecute and impound sometimes on a whim, and other times with strict instructions from above. Their mandate is so generous, their remit so unregulated that incidents of abuse are common, with members acting out their own personal agenda.

Not only ambiguous in nature, they are abundant in number, with only slightly varying job descriptions. The state is so bloated, and there are so many different types of security concerns, that these bodies develop to handle them on an ad hoc basis and then flourish. It's a scattergun approach. Anything from the publication of a book of poems to student union elections can be seen as a threat to the government.

They range from the official formal outfits such as the powerful and omnipresent mukhabarat in Egypt and Jordan, to the more makeshift organisations such as the mutawwa (the "volunteers" of the religious police in Saudi Arabia) who haul errant members of the public into trucks for misdemeanours as minor as flamboyant haircuts.

In Egypt, in a resourceful example of security outsourcing, local men masquerading as concerned citizens in inner city neighbourhoods are recruited to snoop, spy and sometimes aggressively quash agitators.....

If anything, the omnipresence of security forces in the Arab world does not prove the might of governments, but their weakness. Far from being a depressing phenomenon, it is an indication that the will of the people, even after all these years of targeted crackdowns, is still not suppressed. As long as an uneasy "security" is imposed from above, the agents of fear cannot afford to rest easy."

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