Egyptian writer caught in government crackdown


The only reason Khadeega Gaafar knows that authorities extended her husband’s stay in prison is because he hasn’t come back home, The Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham writes:

Gaafar’s husband, Egyptian writer and academic Ismail Iskandarani, was detained on Dec. 1 on charges of publishing false news and belonging to a “banned group.” He was scheduled to appear in court last week so that a judge could decide whether he should remain in custody while prosecutors pursued their investigation. But his lawyers have been unable to find out more.

Iskandarani is one of scores of Egyptians who have been rounded up in an expanded crackdown on artists, activists and intellectuals in recent months. Police raided thousands of homes and closed down art galleries, publishing houses and media companies in the weeks ahead of the fifth anniversary of Egypt’s uprising on Jan. 25, activists and officials say.

Human rights groups are calling on Egyptian authorities to release Iskandarani, a researcher and journalist who has reported on Islamist movements and developments in the Sinai Peninsula:

Al-Iskandrani has contributed to several publications at universities, including Leiden University in the Netherlands and the Netherlands-Flemish Institute. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, in 2015, and a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy in 2012-2013. He has contributed to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir, and Al-Modon and Masr Al-Arabiya, two independent news websites, as well as other Egyptian and Arabic newspapers.

“This is just part of the state’s continuing repression of the opposition — the arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances,” said Mounir Moneeb, a human rights lawyer at the Association for Free Thought and Expression in Cairo. …“This is the policy of the state,” Moneeb said. “And I don’t think it will stop.”

But there are signs its iron grip may be starting to slip, analysts say.

“A lot of analysts have said, ‘Oh well, the revolution failed, and people don’t care. Things have gone back to the way they were.’ But it’s not true,” said Hisham Kassem, a Cairo-based political analyst.

“The arrests and crackdowns are becoming less and less acceptable,” he said. “And the revolution [in 2011] didn’t occur only because of police brutality, but also because of poor economic conditions.”

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