Egyptian Police: Localized Violence in Global Perspective


The discovery of the body of the Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni on a roadside on the outskirts of Cairo in February 2016 brought the question of police violence in Egypt to international attention. The wounds that covered his corpse — including cigarette burns, broken bones, smashed teeth and shapes carved into his hand, back and forehead — have been widely read as examples of the bloody language that is routinely inscribed on the bodies of Egyptians by the police who are ostensibly employed to protect them. Egyptian and Italian prosecutors have since confirmed that Regeni had been investigated by the police in the days running up to his disappearance. Reuters reported anonymous Egyptian “security sources” as saying that Regeni’s status as an outsider gathering information on political developments in Egypt would have made him a natural object of suspicion. This assessment of the circumstances surrounding Regeni’s death ties it to claims on the part of the Egyptian police to be engaged in defending the country from foreign plots, thereby situating the violence enacted upon him primarily within the space of the sovereign nation state.