To identify a dictatorship, take a look at Egypt.
How easy is it to catch a dictator? It's probably impossible. But to identify one is child's play. All you have to do is look. If that's too cumbersome, you can also listen. That works too.
Dictatorship is often ascribed to one person: the head of state, the king, the president. But if we look at the whole picture, at the institutions and the system as a whole, it becomes apparent that dictatorship is not a person. Hell, dictatorship is not even a government.
Dictatorship is an idea. An idea that is not only put forward by the government or the “deep state” or the so-called independent institutions. Dictatorship is an idea in society itself.
When society is built, generation after generation, on the basis of the superiority of a group or an individual, dictatorship sets in. When children are taught in school that some man is far more superior, that his needs are far more important, that his insights are truer, that's when dictatorship becomes an idea.
But what happens when this dictatorship becomes part of the day-to-day? It takes over every form of life and freedom. It becomes the norm that cannot be changed.
How to Identify a Dictator
Let's take Egypt, which is probably the best example there is to give about dictatorship, democracy, and endless political conflict. Overthrown by al-Sisi, Egypt's first rightfully president-elect Muhammad Morsi was undermined, jailed, and oppressed. But most importantly, the idea that Morsi stood behind was tainted.
With new leadership, Egypt has taken a serious approach toward the Muslim Brotherhood. All MB politicians, leaders, revolution icons, and supporters were imprisoned. The state-affiliated media issued full-fledged attacks on the group, with or without justification. They accused them of treason, of incompetence, of conspiring with foreign powers, of being funded and supported by Qatar.
Some people agreed. It made sense that they would receive some kind of support from foreign powers. Would that make Egypt a puppet regime? To Qatar? It amazes me, almost every time that I hear it when Egyptian media accuses the anti-government people—whether national or foreign—of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Abdulfattah al-Sisi's trial period had begun as soon as he had set foot into the office. The Egyptian people, who had been—and now sadly are—eager to get rid of the tight grip of the army rule had been forcibly pushed into a new authoritarian rule, this time by al-Sisi. The man who was never a "politician." He was a military man who knew nothing but violence and authoritarianism—discipline by force. And now he is conducting the same methods on his people; civilians who just want to live life like human beings.
In Egypt's case, it is evident that al-Sisi was to become a dictator. When amendments to the Constitution were proposed, that was the biggest red flag in history. It means al-Sisi could stay in power until 2030!
In the "election" of 2018, he won 97.08% of the votes. If that's not a dictatorship, I don't know what is. Regardless, al-Sisi's "reforms" and the utter dismantlement of the Muslim Brotherhood were supposed to make Egypt rise. Al-Sisi had promised economic recovery numerous times, over and over again, to crippling businesses and starving citizens who did not even sign up for his takeover.
To force yourself upon other people and declare yourself Head of State is a bold move. Numerous people have done it in history—it isn't unprecedented. It is, I must say, an insolent step toward authoritarianism; toward a stringent rule under which the state will face dire economic distress, a repressive judicial and parliamentary system, and—most importantly—robocops who cannot wait to apply the rule.
Authoritarianism breeds everlasting problems.
HERE TO STAY:
If you were given 100% of a company's shares, whose economic potential and strategic role are ever so mighty, and suddenly became the sole shareholder, would you give it up?
The answer is no. Hell no. That's the case with every authoritarian—even before they become one. This has been evidently the case with Donald Trump since the second quarter of 2020, with the election closing in, and an inevitable loss is at wait for the sack of oranges. This has been the case with al-Sisi since his very first power move in the coup d'état against Muhammad Morsi.
People like Trump do not want to leave the White House. Not arbitrarily did Trump describe al-Sisi as his favorite dictator. It's true—he aspires to be "that much" in control. To be able to call shots (albeit debatable) and control a nation of 98 million people like herds.
For weeks, Trump has been frequently and determinedly attacking mail-in ballots and the Postal Office in an attempt to misconstrue the inefficacy of mail-in voting. After being asked if he would accept the results of the election if he lost, his answer was we'll see.
Exactly. But Trump is an idiot. I like judging people by their Tweets, and Trump doesn't disappoint to portray anything less than an ignorant duck with no sensical philosophy. A leader shouldn't rant 24/7 on Twitter, and that's what Trump is doing since he took office.
Egypt isn't the same as the United States. There are unamendable laws. Trump can barely do anything about it, and the American public is politically aware and awake—generally speaking. However, Egypt (and other Arab states) are dictatorship hellholes.
Sadly, dictators in the Middle East have devised an efficient way to tackle social revolutions since the early 2010s, with the Arab Spring spreading like an infectious virus among nations of oppressed, held-back, and economically depressant nations of hundreds of millions. With unabashed and unnecessary force—security institutions arresting and killing people with bald faces; people who are part of their communities, their friends, their neighbors, their family members...
With the worst prison systems in the world, the most incompetent, biased, and unfair judicial branch advocating pro-government in cases of national security, treason, and ideology. Muslim Brotherhood members were presented to the court of law but were never given a fair trial.
It doesn't matter if you agree with the approach, the ideology, or simply hate the opposing political group. Nothing can justify taking out your political opponents uncontrollably.
That's how Egypt moved rather quickly from democracy to authoritarianism, with the endorsement of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who have been determined to tackle the attempts of coups, revolutions, and any other sort of uprising against their respective governments.
For the UAE, it's as simple as cutting ties with states with high coronavirus infections. That's how uprisings are viewed as—a dangerous virus that they do not want anywhere near them. Astonishingly, the UAE was just formed in 1971, and the Emirati dictatorship—Netanyahu wrongly called it a democracy—is one of the most stringent in the world. This might explain the increase of prisoners of conscience in Emirati prisons and respectively the unanimous consensus on the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.
People in dictatorships live in fear. That's the most basic signs of all—when you advocate, endorse, and defend a "leader" whose sole purpose is to rid you of the essence of life, manipulated by the hegemonic regimes of the West, it's a sign that you're pathetic.
I can understand why people living under a dictatorship cannot call against the government, and that's because they will simply be imprisoned, tortured, and possibly eliminated. It's what's Saudi Arabia did with Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, what Egypt has done to Morsi, and is doing to other Muslim Brotherhood members.
Dissidents are met with dire consequences, and that is not a venture anyone is ready to take. They cannot risk their lives by calling against the continuity of dictatorship. And once that's set in as a societal norm—meaning that members of society adapt to this rule—dictatorship sets in indefinitely.
In an article (2014) about social revolutions, Gizachew Tiruneh argues:
The fact that not all autocratic and authoritarian regimes have faced revolution suggests that it is not regime type per se that would lead to the onset of revolution. Autocratic or authoritarian states that are quite ineffective may have a higher chance of facing revolutions. 🔗
What this tells us is that effective authoritarian regimes with an efficient police system and a tightknit national security strategy can overcome revolutions. The UAE and Saudi Arabia can easily hinder social revolutions because of encompassing effective policing, which probably pertains to economic abundance. States like Russia and China are not afraid of social revolutions—they're simply farfetched.
But states like Egypt are a ripe setting for social revolutions. Political schisms, religious disparities, and ideological disagreements, combined with a feeble and decrepit security system that is dependent on external support, all lead to an uprising when sh*t hits the fan.
If dictatorship is an idea, then it can be applied in every governmental institution, regardless of how much influence the government (theoretically) has on it, and regardless of the institution's political alignment.
In Egypt, for example, the judiciary institution is pro-government. Former President Mubarak was tried but acquitted by the court, dismissing charges of conspiracy to kill demonstrators, fraud, and abuse of influence.
Judge Mahmoud el-Rashidy said he dropped charges against Mubarak because Cairo Criminal Court didn't have the jurisdiction to try him for the protesters' deaths.🔗
But if we look at Muhammad Morsi's—and other MB members— trials, it becomes evident that the Egyptian court system is corrupt. Morsi was indicted with similar charges to those of Mubarak, but the outcome was very different.
Here's a brief review and comparison:
This is why I argue that dictatorship is an idea. It's not just al-Sisi, it's the whole system, starting from external influence to the deep-state, to the string-puppet Head of State, to the institutional branches of the government, and finally, to the powerless people.