Foreign Affairs

Why Sisi Fears Egypt’s Liberals

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Behind the Recent Crackdown on Civil Society

In recent days, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has seemed less interested in his usual repression of Islamists and more determined to crack down on liberal groups and watchdogs, especially the pro-democracy forces that were involved in the Arab Spring and that continue to challenge him. He has even gone as far as to bar Western journalists from entering Egypt as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cairo this week.

It appears that Sisi now views liberals as more of a threat than Islamists. His strategy to weaken the liberal opposition began in 2013 when the government arrested and imprisoned a large number of prominent liberal activists who were protesting against his draconian restrictions on public speech. For instance, in December 2013, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, and Mohamed Adel, leading figures from a pro-democracy movement, were slammed with three-year sentences for participating in a rally against Sisi’s anti-protest law. Thousands of other activists were randomly arrested and jailed after facing unfair trials.

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