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After RepressionHow Polarization Derails Democratic Transition$
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Elizabeth R. Nugent

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691203058

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691203058.001.0001

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Repression and Polarization in Egypt, 1981–2011

Repression and Polarization in Egypt, 1981–2011

(p.160) 6 Repression and Polarization in Egypt, 1981–2011
After Repression

Elizabeth R. Nugent

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes how targeted repression in Egypt increased polarization within the opposition between 1981 and 2011. It begins by documenting the effects of a targeted repressive environment on the Egyptian opposition through psychological, social, and organizational mechanisms. Psychologically, a targeted repressive environment revealed to Muslim Brotherhood members that they were being uniquely victimized by the state, and that other groups were at best tacitly — and at worst explicitly — in support of this harsh treatment. In addition, targeted repression altered the social environment for opposition members; Islamists were imprisoned together, away from the few secular activists who were also detained, and thus discussed political ideas among themselves rather than with other groups that had different ideas about reform. Finally, targeted repression altered the Brotherhood's organizational structure by creating an increasingly secretive, exclusive, and isolated organization as it sought to survive regime repression. The targeted nature of repression against the Brotherhood primed in-group identification, as the group was uniquely treated in a brutal way and identified as the regime's main victim. As a result, the identity of the larger opposition became increasingly fractured between opposition groups that were co-opted, tolerated, or targeted by the regime. Consequently, negative perceptions of the out-group permeated the political system and levels of affective polarization increased.

Keywords:   targeted repression, Egypt, opposition polarization, Egyptian opposition groups, Muslim Brotherhood, in-group identification

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