Aswan mourns


Twenty five plus killed is the official tally. Locals claim many more casualties.

Being an analyst in Egypt is no sweat at all. The easiest and most fashionable explanation for everything nowadays is that the Brotherhood or Qatar are behind it. Blame the monster in the closet for your boo-boo and it will soon go away.

The official spokesperson for the Army proved just as lame. He attributed the mess to a feud between an Arab and a Nubian tribe over some banal everyday harassment, then mentioned that the exacerbation was caused by Brotherhood elements fueling the socio-ethnic strife.

As disruptive as its elements may be, the Brotherhood theory does not always fly well in the face of humanly acceptable logic.

I realize that some readers may view sexual harassment, even in its mildest forms as a grave infringement on human rights and gross violation of common decency, but such is the commonality of the practice in this part of the world that it is far from enough to cause the introduction of automatic weapons.

I am therefore disinclined to believe the harassment theory either as a sole cause for the outbreak.

The explanation put forward by a certain Nubian lawyer makes much more sense.

The harassment may have been a spark, but the real story is one of division between Bani Helal, still thought of as new settlers in the region, and other Nubian families, specifically in this case Al-Daboudeya.

Differences of this kind are common, and societies almost always devise consuetudinary means of settling disputes. State interference however complicates this natural course when one faction is favoured over the other, and is turned into an extended arm of extra-legal law enforcement in exchange for implicit permission to break the law; a quid pro quo common in weak states, failed states, crony states … and Egypt.

In return for their help in repressing sedition, or for a cut in their profits, State security forces will turn a blind eye to the malicious activities of certain groups.

It is an old, tried form of state-control and kleptocracy, in which law enforcement agencies become the main provocateurs for, and guardians of, racketeering.

What happened in Aswan is telling about the way the state is likely to address the issue of terrorism. As it fails to eliminate subversive elements, it will eventually resort to its allies in organized familial crime rinks, or what might be appropriately called the Ezzat Hanafy approach to counter-terrorism.


The incidents in Aswan are another example of how this approach can easily backfire.
The extremities of an ailing patient are the most vulnerable. Aswan, Sinai, and the western borders are shouldering the worst of weakening central control and failed security. They are also the most areas where the state is likely to resort to security by proxy, thereby instigating a vicious cycle of unrest, lax control, and unabated violence.

One thought on “Aswan mourns

  1. The official statement by the prosecutor’s office was devoid of any reference to the Brotherhood or “external/hidden phalanges”. The last sentence of the statement, where the prosecutor’s office stresses that the law will be applied “nondiscriminatorily”, is most probably meant to alleviate the perception of police bias.

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