The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

"Hi, This is State Security"

There is reportedly a bureau at State Security police called the "CounterCommunism and Civil Society Organizations Bureau." Its officers are assigned with monitoring and cracking down on Marxists and left-wing rights activists. Some of them have been involved in several torture cases of leftist activists, the most recent of which has been Mohamed el-Sharqawi.
There's hardly a civil society activist that hasn't received at least a "phone call" from them. Sometimes it's an "invitation for coffee," other times it's direct threats… Whether it's this or that, the aim obviously is intimidation.
I met today my friend Emad Mubarak, director of the recently launched Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, and the brother of the late legendary left wing lawyer Hisham Mubarak.
Emad was one of the main figures in the Egyptian leftist students scene in the 1990s, and was subject to several incidents of police brutality and detentions. Since his graduation from Ain Shams University's Faculty of Law, he's been working as a rights lawyer. Emad has been involved in defending Leftist and Muslim Brothers student activists, labor struggles, and campaigns for rights of detainees from all political tendencies.
Emad met me with a big smile, "I finally received the phone call."
What do you mean? I asked.
"State Security called me yesterday," he said.
"What did they want?" I asked.
"They wanted to say Mabrouk (Congrats)!" he said.
"What do you mean?! Are you joking?"
"No no, I swear."
Leftist human rights lawyer Emad Mubarak (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)

(Photo above: Emad Mubarak, Director of Association for Freedom of Thought & Expression)

Emad went on narrating the conversation he had with the State Security officer.
SS: "Who is on the phone?"
Emad: "Are you kidding? You are the one who called. Who is it?"
SS: "This is Ahmad S… from State Security."
Emad: "How Can I help you?"
SS: "We found your number on the internet, and it was mentioned as a contact number for the Association for the Freedom of Thought and Expression. We wanted to know who this number belonged to."
Emad: "You mean you have my number, but you can't get my name from the telephone directory?! Anyways, my name is Emad Mubarak."
SS: "Oooooh! Emad Mubarak? The brother of Hisham Mubarak? May God bless his soul. He was very respectable."
Emad: "Hisham was indeed respected by everybody, especially you!" (Hisham had lost one of his ears' hearing capability, due to brutal torture by SS in 1989.) "Anyways, what do you want?"
SS: "Nothing we just called in to say mabrouk for launching your association."
Emad: "Thanks, anything else?"
SS: "No, No. We just wanted to say mabrouk."
Emad: "So do you work at Lazoughli (State Security's HQ in Downtown Cairo) or Gaber Ibn Hayan (SS HQ in Giza)?"
SS: "Gaber Ibn Hayyan"
(Emad knew the officer was lying, as the number that appeared on his mobile started with a 76…., which meant the caller was making the call from downtown.
Emad: "So you must be ….'s student? (Emad dropped in the name of one of the notorious officers there.)
SS: "Oh, Ah, Yeah, I know him."
Emad: "Ok, anything else?"
SS: "No, we just wanted to say mabrouk!"
Emad: "ok, Bye!"

Emad then hung up.

"What a waste of my time and their time," he told me when I met him today. "They have nothing better else to do. I wonder when they'll invite me for coffee. I bet soon."