The violation of human rights is a tough price to pay to bring stability to a country, at least in the eyes of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. al-Sisi has been in office since 2014, after leading a military coup-d’etat against the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Thousands of nationwide protests against corruption, police brutality, civil liberties, and censorship led up to President Morsi’s removal. A few years beforehand, in 2011, youth groups organized protests that included hundreds of thousands of people that ultimately led Egypt’s fourth President, Hosni Mubarak, to resign. The Revolution of 2011 ended Mubarak’s reign and the vulnerable country was in the hands of its military now. The shortlived democratic experience was introduced by President Morsi, but only lasted from 2011 to 2012. al-Sisi then took this democracy and won in a sham election twice. His presidency was filled with human rights violations and various symptoms of authoritarian consolidation.
al-Sisi won his first election in a landslide, winning 97% of the vote, and promised Egyptians a higher quality of life. His feat was only achievable after he detained one of his major rivals, Sami Anan, stating that he ran for President without precedent. However, by his second term, most Egyptians were living worse than before, suffering to make ends meet and still experiencing a lack of civil liberties. Though his second term victory was a sham, 485 out of 596 lawmakers on the Egyptian parliament voted on a new amendment to allow al-Sisi to extend his term limits for an additional twelve more years and pushing for a stronger military role in the government. This gives al-Sisi the power to appoint his own judges and the potential to serve in office until 2034, an authoritarian rule masked by “democracy”.
The Sinai Peninsula conflicts showed Egyptian military/police forces abusing the people of Sinai in their effort to punish members of ISIS affiliate groups. The residents of Sinai experience brutal torture, with thousands wounded and killed, their lives becoming a living hell since 2013. According to the Human Rights Watch, over 12,000 residents have been arrested by the Egyptian military and police forces. They also demolished thousands of homes and evicted almost 100,000 residents out of North Sinai. By 2017, al-Sisi put Egypt in a state of emergency, stating it is necessary to fight terrorism. However, this new policy allows for authorities to have unlimited power with little regard to rules. With their powers unchecked, a spike in disappearances, tortures, and death sentences (even against a child, but was later stated as a “mistake”) resulted in 2019.
As more and more of al-Sisi’s citizens protested against him, authorities prepared to retaliate. al-Sisi gave warnings against the rising protests as the police force/military detained almost 4,400 people in 2019. Another 160 activists in the Hope Coalition case were arrested and had their homes searched as they were accused of aiding a “terrorist” organization. The Hope Coalition was allegedly planning to form a new coalition against the 2020 election and the government banned 83 members from traveling along with freezing their assets. In light of this case, Egypt passed the NGO Law, which restricts NGOs from carrying out field research/ surveys or work with any international organizations without the approval of the government. Any violation of this law could result in fines of up to one million Egyptian pounds along with other fines for violating other parts of the law. Though the Egyptian court acquitted a few handfuls of defendants after stating that the charges don’t represent the country’s democratic values well. Nevertheless, the government still froze their assets and banned them from travel.
Egypt continues to wear the mask of a country that believes in its democratic values, but time and time again, it further exposes its authoritative traits. Basic civil liberties of freedom of expression, speech, and assembly are essential for citizens to influence their governments, and silencing the people is detrimental to democracy according to political scientist Robert Dahl. Democratic backsliding grows more evident the more the government censors its people. The Egyptian government has blocked hundreds of political/human rights websites along with social media apps and oversees all other media justified by a law passed in 2018. Just recently, two girls in their early twenties almost faced up to two years in prison for promoting their social media pages; luckily, they were acquitted. Thousands of others faced a different fate, being placed in detention centers for “spreading false news” or “misusing social media”. The political turmoil in Egypt has been supported internationally by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and former President Donald Trump of the United States. Both of whom emphasized the significant economic ties and celebrating the new “stability” in Egypt. Trump at the G7 meeting in France even went as far as asking “where’s my favorite dictator?” in search of al-Sisi. Neither Johnson nor Trump acknowledged the human rights violations to al-Sisi. The Egyptian government is going to lengths to silence its citizens in hopes of finding peace, but as censorship rages on, elections will not be fair and people will continue to be oppressed. In 2018, al-Sisi threatened the Egyptian people in regards to the 2011 Revolution, “be warned, what happened seven or eight years ago will not be repeated in Egypt… by God, the Prince of Egypt’s stability and security is my life and the life of the army”. President al-Sisi removed one corrupt leader just to take his place as another corrupt leader. Democratic erosion has been chipping away at Egypt for about a decade, and al-Sisi is enforcing an authoritarian regime by violating his people and silencing them. With no one to fight back, al-Sisi will continue to gaslight his people into thinking their elections are fair, and that he cannot be a dictator because he was “elected” by the Egyptian people.