I joked that the Egyptian might like to call it the “Submerged Pyramid” or the “Underground Pyramid.”
Last week’s football violence resulted in 74 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. I would urge the Egyptians to be extremely suspicious about the Egyptian Ergenekon or the Underground Pyramid. Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt was a police state. The reason that the Egyptian revolutionaries have more respect for the military than the police is that the military did not oppress the people on a daily basis, a dirty job that was conducted by the police. Police brutality, oppression and torture in the country were very widespread. As a matter of fact, the brutal death of Khaled Mohamed Said at the hands of two police officers as many people watched ignited the Jan. 25 revolution. A Facebook group called “We are all Khaled Said” that was formed and moderated by Wael Ghonim contributed to the discontent that paved the way for the revolution.
It is estimated that there were about 1.5 million police officers in the country and they are now treated with little respect. During the Jan. 25 revolution, the Mubarak regime pulled the police out of the street so that chaos and anarchy would prevail, resulting in justification for the state’s oppression and the failure of the revolution. Yet, the revolutionaries were well prepared and did not allow any chaos, and even protected museums, churches, mosques, etc. attacked by the mafioso baltagis. The Egyptian police must be licking its wounds now and planning a comeback, which may be with sophisticated manifestations rather than an abrupt and direct counter-attack. In this sense, the Turkish case has remarkable lessons that must be taken seriously.
Similar to the Turkish Ergenekon, the old elite of Egypt will not simply succumb to democracy and get on with the will of the people. They will do whatever they can to protect their privileges. For several decades they have consolidated their power in the civilian and security bureaucracy. They will try to make civilian governments look impotent, corrupt and weak.
They have an excellent command and knowledge of the fractures, deep seated divisions, fragilities and sensitivities in society. The regular attacks against mosques and churches are a case in point, reminding one of Ergenekon’s constant manipulation of the Alevi-Sunni tension in Turkey. Similarly, the rivalry and violence that can be traced back to hostilities between al-Ahly Ultras and rival factions of clubs like al-Masry and Zamalek could be taken advantage of by the Underground Pyramid, the Egyptian deep state. Quite justly, the Egyptians are now asking questions such as “Did fans instigate the clashes themselves?” “Was there a conspiracy to provoke?” “Was there deliberate negligence by police?” “Or was the whole thing just a case of badly trained police mishandling football crowd violence?”
It is difficult to understand why fans of al-Masry, which won the game, would attack the al-Ahly fans. Moreover, there is suspicion with regards to the security measures that were taken since the tension between the fans of these two teams is known. The police are accused of not taking the necessary precautions. The police are criticized for allowing weapons into the stadium, not doing more to intervene and not deploying sufficient numbers of police officers.
I agree with Essam el-Erian, a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure who said they believed “invisible planning” was behind “this unjustified massacre” and that “this tragedy is a result of intentional reluctance by the military and the police.” Given the fact that a segment of al-Ahly fans, known as the “ultras,” played a crucial role in the Jan. 25 revolution, the Egyptians have every right to be suspicious about the Underground Pyramid.