Mubarak's Thugs/Baltagiya (Egypt)

Country: Egypt
Details of Formation: The word “Baltagi” is Turkish origin but today it means “thugs” in Arabic. As it is a general word, it is used in various contexts. In this case, it describes thugs, hired and paid by the Mubarak regime and its party. The group’s structure was rather loose and it was used by the government from time to time when it needed them. Evidence suggests that these hired thugs were first used in the 1990s against Islamist groups. Later, there are reports where baltagiya are used against demonstrators, especially during elections. During the Arab Spring and the uprising against Mubarak in early 2011, the group was very active, trying to prevent the regime’s overthrow.
Details of Termination: Date of termination = Mubarak ousted from office; While there are still reports of baltagiya afterwards, it is unclear if members of the same group are meant. This PGM refers to hired thugs used by the Mubarak regime.
Purpose: The militia was created by Mubarak’s government to outsource accountability for the use of violence against protesters and regime critics.
Organisation: The militia cooperated with the police during its operations. Sources report that the militia became more organized during the anti-government protests in 2011, but there is no information on the specific internal structures.
Weapons and Training: Baltagiyya’s carried a “singa” which is a long knife which the militia is closely associated with. In addition, they carried other types of swords and firearms.
Size: The group had between 100,000 and 1,500,000 members. However, many of these members worked as informants and did not carry out attacks.
Reason for Membership: Baltagiyya’s were described as selfish and focused on personal enrichment, instead of ideological commitment or loyalty to the community. (Ghannam 2012, 34).
Treatment of Civilians: The militia used violence against protesters and regime critics. This behavior escalated in the final stages of Mubarak’s regime when the PGM used excessive force to suppress anti-government protests. Due to the widespread rejection of the group among the population, anti-government resentments increased and eventually led to the fall of Mubarak’s regime in 2011. (Ghannam 2012, 33-35)
Other Information: According to sources, the group might have up to 1.5 million members. It is unclear how many of these are actually armed.
References: Ghannam, Farha. 2012. "Meanings and feelings: Local interpretations of the use of violence in the Egyptian revolution." American Ethnologist 39(1): 32-36.

Wikipedia. “Baltagiya”.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.