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
, 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