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New film puts spotlight on Egypt's state-hired thugs

Documentary unveils previously-unknown details of how Egypt's deep state utilised 'baltagiya' following 2011 uprising
An image grab from Al-Mondas documentary, produced by Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr channel (YouTube)

By Marwa Gamal

CAIRO – The television screening of Al-Mondas (The Infiltrator), a documentary which has shed a new light on the political upheaval that followed Egypt's 2011 uprising has sparked uproar in the Arab world's most populous country.

Produced by the Doha-funded Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr news channel, the 54-minute documentary follows activist Mohannad Galal as he recounts how he closely followed the alleged role of state-hired thugs (baltagiya) in fomenting much of the turmoil since the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Documenting his experience with hidden cameras, Galal unveiled previously-unknown details on the obscure process of recruiting and directing thugs by the "deep state" - a term used in Egypt to refer to government officials loyal to the Mubarak regime.

Thousands of comments flooded social media in Egypt as soon as the documentary's ending credits came on Saturday. The film's Facebook page reached over 28,000 members in less than 24 hours, while Galal's Twitter followers doubled.

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Many comments illustrated the continued state of polarization in Egypt since last summer's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the military.

Supporters of the military-backed government on the Twitter hashtag created for the film mainly described the documentary as a mere media fabrication aimed at undermining state institutions.

Morsi supporters, however, considered the footage to be evidence on what they consider as a pre-planned military coup masterminded by the deep state against the democratically elected president.

However, many of those who oppose both Morsi and the military-installed government blamed them both for the status quo which once again features a military man – former army chief Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi - as president in the country which has been ruled by military leaders for over six decades with the exception of Morsi.

"The film brought mere facts before our naked eyes," activist Mohamed Abbas, who played an active role during the 2011 uprising, said on Twitter.

"It exposed the cooperation between Mubarak's feloul (regime remnants) and thugs as well as [Morsi's] failure to resist them," he added.

During the multi-candidate 2012 elections - the first democratic presidential polls in Egypt's history - Morsi won with a narrow majority against Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister.

Morsi's single-year tenure featured several rounds of violence which left scores killed.

Some 'revolutionaries' aided Mubarak's old guard

In the run up to his overthrow, the Morsi administration referred many times to a plot by Mubarak's influential old guard in the state's high-profile institutions to abolish the achievements of the 2011 uprising.

However, his repeated claims did little to change the minds of increasingly stern opponents who accuse him and his Muslim Brotherhood group of pursuing the Mubarak regime's same repressive manifesto.

"The film also showed how some so-called revolutionaries joined hands with the feloul in bringing Morsi down," Abbas said.

After more than one delay, the documentary was broadcast just a few days after Sisi – who led the army to depose Morsi – won a resounding victory in Egypt's presidential election against leftist Hamdeen Sabahi – another supporter of Morsi's ouster.

"I was stunned at the responses to the film but they exposed many people's true colours," Galal said on Facebook Saturday night.

"The message of the film is directed to revolutionaries, who ignored our warnings that they would be aiding Mubarak regime's remnants while some of Morsi supporters continued to blindly justify his naivety," he added.

Although he is now idolized by supporters, Sisi had kept a low public profile until he announced the ouster of Morsi - who had himself promoted Sisi from military intelligence chief to defence minister in August 2012.

Yet while he is hailed as a national hero by his supporters, critics hold Sisi responsible for an unprecedented crackdown on dissent which has left hundreds dead since Morsi's ouster.

"Let's take a moment to stop and think of this disaster ahead of us. We have all been fooled," Galal said.

"It is useless to keep bickering and gloating while we are all standing on the edge of the same cliff," Galal said.

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