"Most of the regimes in the Arab world are what I call mukhabarat regimes*. 'Mukhabarat' is the Arabic term for intelligence services, but it is the generic term for the entire apparatus of internal security services. So a mukhabarat regime is a regime run by the internal security forces, largely in its own interests. It does not matter whether the ruler is called a king or a president (who may be elected by 99% of the population); the regime is still a mukhabarat regime, concerned mostly with staying in power." (The Wrong War, Avishai Margalit, nybooks.com, 13/3/03)
"In the words of a Tunisian academic the country is akin to 'un commissariat' (a police station), quintessentially a mukhabarat state. This 'commissariat' has been justified by the exaggerated paranoia and fear of a 'fundamentalist threat'. Bin Ali has used the Islamist threat to justify excessive policing." (The search for citizenship in Bin Ali's Tunisia: Democracy versus unity, Larbi Sadiki, Political Studies: 2002 Vol 50, p 506)
"I noticed on several videos that unlike the poor and hungry masses, the Mukhabarat (state security) men appeared well-fed and portly." (Comment on Ahmed Moor reporting from Cairo: 'I was tired, but no more tired than the people who have waited 30 years for the opportunity to breathe', mondoweiss.net, 27/1/11)
Break out the champagne! This is surely a first in the Arab world: the scrapping of a nation's mukhabarat. The Tunisian intifada rocks!:
"Tunisia's interior ministry has announced it is dissolving the country's secret police service. The agency has been widely accused of committing human rights abuses during the rule of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted on January 14. Interim Prime Minister Caid Essebsi has also announced a new government, which includes no members of the old regime. The interim government is running Tunisia until elections scheduled to take place on 24 July. The interior ministry announced online that it was disbanding the State Security Department, under which the secret police operated, and would respect 'civic freedoms and rights'. The move was a 'definitive break with any form of organisation resembling the political police at the level of structure, mission or practice', it said. 'These practical measures are in harmony with the values of the revolution, in the wish to respect the law, in word and deed, and in consecrating the climate of confidence and transparency in the relationship between the security services and the citizen', the ministry said in a statement. The secret police had played a key role in suppressing the opposition in the country. Human Rights Watch said members of the agency 'hounded dissidents, tortured Islamists, and shook down their compatriots'. The BBC's regional analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says dismantling the agency had been a key demand of the opposition, so the move will be seen as the ultimate victory over the Ben Ali regime." (Tunisia interim leaders dissolve secret police agency, bbc.co.uk, 7/3/11)
How sweet it is.
[* For Israel as a mukhabarat state, see my 28/11/09 post Just Another Middle Eastern Autocracy]