Egypt’s ‘carousel of repression’ claims democracy advocate


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cancelled a trip to South Africa because he feared being arrested for his role in the Rabaa massacre, a former minister has said. The revelation was made by Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, a former minister of trade and industry, in an explosive interview on news website Zat Masr. The interview, since deleted, has been shared by social media accounts run by Egyptian dissidents abroad.

Just days after Egypt’s authoritarian president pardoned Ahmed Douma, a blogger and protest leader of the 2011 Arab Spring, the authorities arrested Hisham Kassem, a prominent democracy activist and former publisher who was organizing opposition to the president. So goes the carousel of repression in Egypt, holding thousands of political prisoners for months and years without trial, freeing a handful — and then taking in more. the Washington Post reports:

Project on Middle East Democracy

The arrest of Mr. Kassem is particularly disturbing. He is former chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and was previously publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent newspaper. In 2007, he was honored by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) with its Democracy Award (below, second left). He has been a strong advocate for independent journalism in Egypt and highly critical of Mr. Sisi’s military rule at a time when Egypt is in a deep economic crisis.

Kassem and others recently launched the four-party al-Tayar al-Hurr, or Free Current, a political coalition planning to oppose Sisi in next year’s elections. Fellow al-Tayar al-Hurr organiser Gameela Ismail said the coalition intends to offer or support a candidate for the election, and that the government had been pressuring members since its formation, Reuters adds.

“The change that needs to happen is not just about Sisi no longer being in power, but a restructuring of the Egyptian economy that cannot happen with the military in power,” he said in a BBC interview in July.

Egyptian human rights and civil society groups insist that recent arbitrary practices show no intent to improve the country’s human rights or to release political prisonersPEN America reports that civil society organizations, independent media outlets, and individuals, joined together to stand in solidarity with Egyptian fact-checking and independent media platform Matsadaash, following its recent targeting by Egyptian security services.

A group of 11 House members, including Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to withhold the full $320 million until Egypt’s record improves, the Post adds.

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