CAIRO — There is no denying that Egypt's revolution has turned more violent and grimmer since its ecstatic early days. For all its nobility of purpose, it has proved unequal to the enormous tasks history had placed on its shoulders. It was stalled and hijacked -- first by the military in uneasy collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood, and then by the Brotherhood in uneasy collaboration with the military.
What can look like mere chaos is actually the natural product of a revolution whose signature demands remain unfulfilled. And there's no wishing it away anymore: Hosni Mubarak's regime is alive and well, in all but name. The only difference is that its representatives sport the trim beard preferred by Brotherhood leaders, if not the grizzly, flowing beards of their Salafi allies.
Yet again, a single political party seeks to exercise uncontested hegemony over Egypt's state and society. Not only has it kept in place a legal code laden with repressive legislation, but it has maintained the structures of authoritarian rule erected by its predecessors.
Two years after the revolution against Mubarak's police state, not a single step has been taken to reform Egypt's hated police force, which ran riot during 30 years of uninterrupted state of emergency. Today, it continues to function as a lawless militia feeding on torture, murder, fabrication, and detentions without trial.
Egyptians received another reminder of this fact last Friday, Feb. 1, when a citizen captured on video a horrific scene of roughly a dozen police officers -- dressed in full anti-riot gear -- beating and stripping naked a middle-aged protester, Hamada Saber. Possibly more disturbing was the televised "confession" Saber was later made to give, in which the battered, clearly terrified man claimed that he'd been stripped and beaten by the protesters and that the police were actually helping him. Saber later reversed his initial account, admitting that the police were to blame and that his confession was coerced.
The "confession" was even more revealing than the incident itself: Two years after the revolution, Mubarak's police remain as willing to use threats and torture to fabricate evidence and extract the most ludicrous of testimonies -- and the Muslim Brotherhood remains unwilling to demand change.
The abuses of Egypt's police under President Mohamed Morsy's administration are increasingly attracting international attention. In the course of a single week of protests marking the second anniversary of the revolution, some 50 people were killed and hundreds more injured in street battles between the police and Egyptian citizens. In a statement on the violence, Amnesty International noted that eyewitness accounts "point to the unnecessary use of lethal force by security forces during a weekend of clashes with demonstrators."
And as for the new constitution drawn up exclusively by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafi-jihadi allies, it has proved to be potentially even more authoritarian than the 1971 constitution under which Mubarak consolidated his rule. Maintaining the previous constitution's bizarre penchant for rendering basic rights and civil liberties subject to the stipulations of a profoundly anti-democratic legal code, the new constitution subjects them as well to the unstated "principles of Islamic law," as elaborated by the collectivity of acknowledged Sunni jurists -- most of whom lived and delivered their rulings during the Middle Ages.
Two additional twists to the new, "democratic" constitution potentially establish an Iran-style, if Sunni, theocracy. Prominent Salafi leaders have interpreted the constitution as allowing judges to refer directly to Islamic law in passing sentences -- cutting the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers, and the like -- without having recourse to specific penalties stipulated by the legal code.