Egypt Table of Contents
The level of violence in Egypt as a result of political or criminal activity has been below that of many countries of the Middle East. Periodic outbreaks of unrest have occurred as manifestations of popular discontent with economic conditions. These protests have mainly been localized or regional in scope and have been brought under control by the military when the forces of public order proved unable to deal with them. Rarely have political disturbances occurred on a national scale sufficient to threaten the existing political structure.
Although opposition to Nasser and Sadat was often widespread, security forces usually managed to contain the discontent. Riots and mass demonstrations plagued the Sadat administration. Students and intellectuals demonstrated against the protracted negotiations over the return of Sinai, Egypt's cooperation with the United States, and what they regarded as an unduly moderate stance regarding Arab-Israeli issues. Economic discontent led to violence on several occasions. For example, the 1977 food riots broke out when the government proposed to eliminate subsidies, thus raising the price of many common food items. The violence posed a serious challenge to the regime, forcing Sadat to restore the subsidies. Mubarak attempted to relieve some of the tension that had been building up in Egypt by permitting increased political expression, at least through officially sanctioned channels. He also sought to relieve social unrest through the retention of food subsidies. In 1986, however, riots by the Central Security Forces threatened to break down public order. Loyal units of the armed forces successfully contained the unrest (see Police , this ch.).
Religiously inspired activism was the source of much of the internal violence that occurred during the 1980s. Muslim extremists had a wide following, but only a few of them were actually involved in assaults against governmental institutions. In general, Egypt's security forces demonstrated a capacity to suppress widespread violence among Muslim extremists. As of early 1990, most observers believed that the majority of the population had rejected these radical but factionalized fringe groups and that these groups presented no immediate threat to the political system.
Data as of December 1990