Mubarak’s emergency rule failed to protect Egypt from the worst terrorist attack in its history and sparked the 2011 uprising. Sisi should take heed
Middle East Eye
“The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune,” Alexis de Tocqueville said in his 1840 Democracy in America.
Tocqueville’s words clearly reflect Egypt’s harsh reality today. Five years after an uprising called for “bread, freedom and social justice”, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s repressive policies and bad governance are forcing a wave of Egyptians, mostly children and adolescents from disadvantaged rural areas, to flee a crumbling economy, impoverished conditions and a widespread sense of disempowerment.
Hours before President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi left for the UN General Assembly, an Egyptian court ruled that the assets of five prominent human rights activists and three NGOs would be frozen.
The justification for this ruling was that the groups had received foreign funding without state approval.
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.
February 2, 2016
Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrested dozens of activists and journalists in an extension of a broader crackdown begun when the military took over the country in 2013. Sisi’s repression has left civil society groups fragmented and weakened; dissidents no longer pose an immediate threat to his regime. But there is a big difference between a strong state and a weak state using violence on a large scale against civilians to cover up its panic.
Indeed, the Sisi regime and its counterparts across the region are entering a process of decay, which they will not survive. Simply put, in an increasingly connected and digital world, it is civil society that will thrive against less innovative and technically impaired dictatorships.