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Egypt: even the selection of new teachers is based on loyalty to Al-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on August 28, 2021 [LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on August 28, 2021 [LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

In Egypt, civil service jobs are supposed to be "a right for citizens based on competence and merit." Such jobs "are entrusted to those who hold them to serve the people, and the state guarantees their rights, protection and performance of their duties in the care of the people's interests." As such, "it is prohibited to discriminate between employees based on religion, sex or any other reason." That's the law.

However, the Ministry of Education and the Egyptian security services disregard not only the law, but also the provisions of the constitution and charters prohibiting discrimination on religious, sexual or political grounds. Last week the government announced that security investigations will be conducted into applicants for teaching positions to determine their religious and political backgrounds. Those who belong to religious or political trends that have differences with the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will be excluded from employment in the teaching profession.

According to Dr Reda Hegazy, Deputy Minister of Education and Technical Education, a security inquiry will be conducted for applicants for teaching jobs before they are appointed. This step, she said, is different from the criminal status sheet.

Another official in the ministry said that the inquiry will be "security and ideological" to show the extent to which applicants for vacant jobs are linked to ideological groups that the government considers "extremist". New teachers, insist the government, should have "normal behaviour and not be extremist… nor be hostile towards the state." This is, it is claimed, to protect students.

This means that the security services will be in control of appointing new teachers. The new procedure strengthens the regime's iron grip on the people and opens the door to corruption due to the absence of any real oversight over the work of the Egyptian security services. Furthermore, it places the criterion of "system security" above competence and merit.

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The education sector was preceded by other sectors for which political and intellectual loyalty to the regime is a prerequisite. Apart from the security sectors such as the Ministry of the Interior and the Armed Forces, judicial appointments in Egypt are largely subject controlled by the security services in order to measure applicants' loyalty to the state and their religious, political and sexual tendencies.

Military Intelligence officials also vet companies that tender for projects undertaken by the army and excludes those who have not proven their loyalty and affiliation with the regime. That's why retired army officers establish companies and run businesses worth billions of pounds in partnership with the army in the absence of competency and merit criteria.

This is an extension of the measures taken by Sisi's regime to ensure the exclusion of anyone suspected of opposing it. The latest of these was legislation last August allowing the dismissal of employees working in state administration if suspected of links to "terrorists", the catch-all term for members of the opposition. This law allows the dismissal of an employee working within the state apparatus if he or she is on the list of "terrorists" prepared by the security services. Anyone opposed to the regime, whether from the Muslim Brotherhood, liberals, jurists, independent unionists or even footballers such as Mohamed Aboutrika, for example, can be on this list.

This is how the grip of the security forces on the people is strengthened, and yet it comes at a time when the regime itself has called for a "national dialogue" to solve the nation's differences and resolve the political and economic crises. This confirms that regime rhetoric points in one direction while its repressive tools head in a completely different direction. Actions speak louder than words, no more so than in Egypt under Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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