Since seizing power by means of a military coup d’état on July 3, 2013, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has seen the installation of a repressive junta in Egypt. According to Human Rights Watch,
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government continues to oversee Egypt’s worst human rights crisis in decades and has escalated the use of counterterrorism laws to prosecute peaceful dissidents. The government… arrested scores of al-Sisi’s critics, including potential presidential candidates, ahead of the 2018 presidential elections that was held in an unfair and unfree environment. Police and the National Security Agency have systematically used torture and enforced disappearances. The government has sent thousands of civilians to military courts, undermined the judiciary’s independence, and executed dozens of people following flawed trials. The government continues to ban most forms of independent organization and peaceful assembly.
It is within this context that protests over corruption and austerity broke out on September 20, 2019, with more and more calls for President el-Sisi to step down. They protests were triggered by viral videos showing deeply entrenched corrupt practices by the el-Sisi regime. Since then “Egyptian authorities… arrested nearly 2,000 people in a sweeping nationwide crackdown. Authorities acknowledged only 1,000 arrests.”
According to Human Rights Watch,
The authorities have blocked news and political websites and interrupted other internet services that protesters relied on to communicate and document government abuses. The authorities should pledge to respect the right to peaceful assembly by allowing protests, applying nonviolent means to respond before resorting to the use of force, and taking measures to prevent violence between opposing protesters. The government should release all those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights and should stop interfering with news sites and internet services.
“The government’s mass arrests and internet restrictions seem intended to scare Egyptians away from protesting and to leave them in the dark about what’s happening in the country,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The nationwide crackdown on protests suggests that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is terrified of Egyptians’ criticisms.”
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