Two years after thousands of Egyptian protesters risked their lives to bring down the dictator Hosni Mubarak, the military-controlled government in Cairo is expanding a repressive system that may ultimately be worse than the one Mr. Mubarak built and managed.
On Thursday, with much of the world distracted by Syria, the Egyptian generals and the civilian officials they have appointed extended a countrywide state of emergency for two months. And after overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, two months ago and trying to crush his Muslim Brotherhood allies, security forces have also begun to round up other dissenters, a chilling warning that no Egyptians should feel safe if they dare to challenge authority.
That was not the kind of country that most Egyptians envisioned during the 2011 revolution when they sought democracy and freedom and demanded jobs and education. The repression and intolerance will ensure more instability and make it impossible for Egypt to revive its economy and play a constructive role in the region.
The 1950s-era state of emergency law, which removes the right to a trial and curbs on police abuses, was for decades a hated symbol of Mr. Mubarak’s excesses. Although the law stayed on the books, the state of emergency was suspended after Mr. Mubarak’s overthrow. The military leadership revived it last month and has extended it until November, citing the security problems that have only grown worse since Mr. Morsi’s ouster.
Just as troubling, the government has moved from singling out the Brotherhood and other Islamists to going after liberal and left-leaning activists and journalists. The April 6 group, which has been praised internationally for its role in the movement that brought down Mr. Mubarak, said Wednesday that police had raided a local office without a warrant and detained several activists for hours.
That same day, the government also filed charges in a military court against Ahmed Abu Deraa, a journalist covering Northern Sinai, where the military is facing growing violence by Islamist militants and has sought to bar news coverage there. Mr. Abu Deraa’s reporting has contradicted claims from the military about operations in Sinai.
There seems to be no end to the draconian controls as the military seeks to restrain the news media, manipulate the courts, misuse security services and restrict civil society groups. If it prevents the Muslim Brotherhood from operating at all, as many expect, it will go even farther than Mr. Mubarak. The process of revising the Constitution that was put in place by the government seems as flawed as the one implemented by Mr. Morsi. The results are almost certain to be regarded by many Egyptians as illegitimate.
All this comes on top of a crackdown on peaceful demonstrators after the coup that killed more than 1,000 people. The Obama administration has quietly suspended assistance to the Egyptian government and called off military exercises, but it will soon have to decide whether to allow the transfer of other aid to the military. Given the government’s insistence on repressing its people and pursuing a self-destructive course, that money should be withheld.