A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for the Gaza Strip from Egypt waits to cross into Gaza on the main Ismailia desert road on Oct. 16. A banner covering one truck displays a portrait of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

In October 2013, at the age of 17, I was arrested during a demonstration in Cairo against the military coup that would bring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power. Along with 67 other protesters, I was charged with unlawful assembly, subjected to a mass trial, and handed a 15-year sentence in a maximum-security prison. After six years and three months as a political prisoner, an appeal from my family to the Egyptian public prosecutor’s office led to an unexpected investigation into the circumstances of my trial and my release in January 2020.

Those six years in prison represent a significant portion of my life.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, October 2023. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

As Israel readies for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, much attention has shifted to how Egypt will respond in the coming days and weeks. The Egyptian government, after all, has been party to the 16-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza, enforcing tight controls on what comes in and out of the enclave through the border crossing at Rafah. That crossing now offers the only escape route for people trying to flee Gaza and the only point of access for much-needed humanitarian aid for the besieged territory’s 2.2 million residents. A UN-brokered deal has allowed some trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt—not enough, given the magnitude of the crisis and the number of displaced people.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why Egypt Can’t Solve Gaza’s Problems

In this period of intense Israeli military preparation following Hamas’s horrific terror attack on Oct. 7, and equally intense diplomatic activities surrounding the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, a crucial question has centered on Egypt’s role.

Why has Egypt appeared hesitant to relieve the humanitarian distress affecting Palestinian civilians on the other side of its eight -mile border with Gaza, especially since there really is no alternative to Cairo helping deal with the crisis?

Finding an answer lies in Egypt’s own challenges, and whether a nation with its own serious security problems and economic problems can be enough of a safe haven for others.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman cleans tombs in Cairo’s City of the Dead cemetery. Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

My mother, who died suddenly when I was a teenager, is buried alongside her ancestors in a historic mausoleum in the area of Cairo known as the City of the Dead. It’s the oldest continuously used Muslim cemetery in the world, and its history traces back to the seventh century. My ancestors chose this burial place in order to be near Imam al-Shafi’i, a ninth-century holy man who rests in a magnificent shrine there. My family has five mausolea in the vicinity; the oldest is from the 1790s. From the outside they resemble the courtyarded houses of medieval Cairo. Inside there are gardens, carved marble cenotaphs and ornately decorated rooms, hung with dusty chandeliers, where grievers used to hold all-night vigils on holidays and death anniversaries.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi takes part in a meeting on the second day of a European Union-African Union summit at the European Council Building in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022. Johanna Geron/AFP via Getty Images

According to Nashat al-Daihi, the host of an Egyptian television program called “With Pen and Paper”, I am in the pay of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was not the only Egyptian outraged over my last column, which was about how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ruined Egypt. Sisi’s online supporters poured forth an endless amount of whataboutism and personal insults on my Twitter—er, X—timeline for what seemed like days, revealing once again that all hope for thoughtful debate on social media was lost long ago.

The claim is absurd on its face. There is simply no way that the Muslim Brotherhood would pay me for anything based on who I am and what I have written about them.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Great Pyramid of Khufu, right, and the pyramid of Khafre appear behind buildings in the outskirts of Cairo on March 2. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Cairo, a city of 22 million, is one of the most densely populated metropolises on the planet. Stacked side by side and almost atop one another, buildings swallow the city’s skyline, which itself is shrouded with sand blown in from the surrounding deserts. Public gardens offer an oasis in this parched expanse — where young people can picnic, walk or enjoy respite from cramped home life. Lovers find refuge and privacy. For many people, old and young, the gardens are the only place away from the city’s lung-scratching pollution to take in nature, relax, stretch and breathe deeply. The gardens are also places for conversation and debate in a country where such acts can be viewed as seditious.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Most Eloquent Speaker at the Climate Summit Is Alaa Abd El Fattah

On Sunday, the first day of COP27, the U.N. climate change conference in Egypt, Alaa Abd El Fattah, a British-Egyptian pro-democracy activist and writer whose seven-month hunger strike began as an effort to force the Egyptian authorities to permit British consular access to him in prison, escalated his protest by refusing water and all liquids.

Alaa, who has been in prison for most of the past nine years, was a popular, independent voice during the 2011 revolution, known for his fierce commitments to human rights and, above all, to bodily integrity. He insists that freedom from physical threat, violence and precarity must belong to everybody, be they a marginalized group, a political opponent or a prisoner, and that otherwise we are all in danger.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ecopostureo para ocultar la tiranía en la COP27

El presidente egipcio Abdel Fattah el‑Sisi está tratando de usar la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP27), que comenzó esta semana en Sharm El‑Sheij, para posicionar a Egipto como líder mundial en sostenibilidad, presentando para ello una variedad de iniciativas medioambientales. Y para aprovechar la oportunidad al máximo, su régimen autocrático está explotando la reunión como una oportunidad para ecoposturear y lavar su deficiente historial en materia de derechos humanos y sus tácticas represivas.

El ministro egipcio de asuntos exteriores, Sameh Shoukry, que además es el presidente designado de la COP27, recalcó hace poco la importancia de la sociedad civil en lo referido a «proteger contra el ecoblanqueo, asegurar una transición justa [a las fuentes de energía renovables] y que compañías y gobiernos rindan cuentas».…  Seguir leyendo »

I Wish I Could Ask Alaa Abd el-Fattah What He Thinks About the World Now

In early 2011, after huge protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade autocracy, many activists who had taken to the streets found themselves in high demand. They were guests on “The Daily Show”. Hillary Clinton, then the U.S. secretary of state, visited the square, remarking it was “extraordinary” to be “where the revolution happened”, and met with some of the activists.

Alaa Abd el-Fattah, the Egyptian activist, intellectual and blogger described as “synonymous with Egypt’s 25 Jan. Revolution” knew the world’s attention would soon move on.

“They’ll soon forget about us”, he told me more than a decade ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sea turtle swims with scuba divers in the depth of Ras Mohammed protection area near Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Photo by TARIK TINAZAY/AFP via Getty Images.

As COP26 drew to a close in Glasgow, Egyptian officials announced their priorities for COP27, emphasizing climate finance and climate adaptation – a new approach given previous COPs mainly focused on mitigation, reducing emissions to limit climate damage.

This was followed by the COP27 presidency outlining its vision at MENA Climate Week 2022 to achieve ‘substantive and equal progress’ on all aspects of the negotiations, and Egypt emphasizing its intention to focus on implementing existing carbon reduction targets rather than pushing for further carbon cuts.

Egypt argues it is hosting COP27 on behalf of African nations and that, while it is promoting the interests of the developing world, it will be an impartial arbiter.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mourners, soldiers, and military police carry the coffin of Egyptian conscript Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed Ali, one of 11 soldiers killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, in Khanka, Egypt on May 8. -/AFP via Getty Images

In early May, the Islamic State-Sinai Province killed 11 Egyptian soldiers and damaged a natural gas pipeline. Far from demonstrating the Islamic State’s power in the strategic peninsula, the attack was the first major incident in almost a year, a far cry from the full-blown jihadi insurgency that had gripped Sinai only a few years ago. The Egyptian military finally appears to be making progress in rolling back the group. Not only have there been fewer attacks, but Cairo’s funneling of economic development funds to the peninsula has also generated some goodwill among the long-restive population. In March 2021, a coalition of Bedouin tribesmen, armed civilians, and Egyptian military killed the region’s Islamic State leader.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man holds a picture of Ibrahim Eissa during a protest in Cairo on Sept. 28, 2008. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

In February, Egypt’s attorney general decided to investigate the writer and talk show host Ibrahim Eissa over his questioning of Salafi narratives of Islam. The move was a glaring contradiction to President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s repeated calls for the reformation of Islamic discourse. That contrast highlights the dilemma faced by Arab authoritarian rulers: Having decimated secularists and discredited liberalism, they have nothing left to fight Salafi thought with, and end up conceding further.

Since he seized power, Sissi has adopted the aura of an Islamic reformer. He restored churches attacked by extremists and legalized hundreds more, took the unusual step of attending Christmas Mass regularly and, last month, nominated a Christian judge to head Egypt’s highest court for the first time ever.…  Seguir leyendo »

My Son Is Not Alone. Millions of Young People Commit His Crime

Standing outside the Tora prison complex, where my son is held, a mother asks me: What’s your son in for?

“Politics”, I say.

She looks surprised, not because you can be imprisoned for politics — there’s nothing strange about that in Egypt — but because most political prisoners are Islamists, and she doesn’t think I look like the mother of an Islamist. “He was one of shabab al-thawra, ” I add, the young people of the revolution.

No further explanation is needed.

Why is my son, Alaa Abd El Fattah, in prison? He is one of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against the then-ruling military council during a rally in support of then-member of Parliament Zyad El-Elaimy in Cairo in February 2012. (Amr Nabil/AP)

On Wednesday, after more than two years in detention without trial, Zyad El-Elaimy, Hossam Monis and four other young politicians and activists were rushed to a “State Security Emergency Court” and sentenced to three to five years in prison. They were not tried for their original “crime” — plotting to undermine state security by running for legislative elections in 2020. Instead, they were charged with “spreading false news, threatening national security and spreading fear”.

The evidence consisted of an article or social media post by each figure, in which they criticized Egypt’s human rights record and economic policies. The trial began just a day after the charges were laid.…  Seguir leyendo »

A picture taken on 25 November 25 2017, shows the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack. STR / AFP

In the sweep of events following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the low-level, intermittent jihadist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is understandably outside the spotlight. While posing a persistent threat to Egypt, Sinai militants have only occasionally attracted significant notice outside the country, usually following spectacular attacks on tourist or other civilian sites. To a degree, the scant attention is a function of isolation: the Egyptian state has made the northern Sinai, the primary theatre of violence, off limits to journalists and researchers.

Though lack of access has hindered understanding of Sinai events, Egypt’s experiences with Islamist militancy, the broad contours of which remain visible from a distance, can still offer insight into how the 9/11 attacks shaped U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein holds a joint press conference with his counterparts, Jordan's Ayman Safadi (L) and Egypt's Sameh Shoukry, at the ministry in the capital Baghdad, on 29 March 2021. Photo by SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty Images.

Alliances in the Middle East come and go, often shaped and determined by regional competition and international intervention. The past few years have seen the normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, the reconciliation between the GCC states following a four-year rift, and the once-strong Saudi-UAE partnership, built on close ties between crown princes Mohammed bin Zayed and Mohammed bin Salman, come under pressure.

An emerging regional alliance worth watching is that of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, which brings together the region's 'odd fellows'. Egypt has lost its place as the region's so-called centre of gravity, Jordan was sidelined during the Trump era and has since, arguably, lost its unique selling point as an interlocutor for peace to the UAE and Bahrain, while Iraq left the Arab fold long ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the Blue Nile near Dejen, Ethiopia, in September 2020. (Yonas Tadesse/FTWP)

Egypt and Ethiopia are inching, slowly but surely, toward conflict.

Negotiations over the construction and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile — which Egypt fears will cause droughts in the country downstream — have collapsed. On Tuesday, the Egyptian president warned that “no one can take a single drop of water from Egypt, and whoever wants to try it, let him try”. The following day, the Egyptian military revealed joint air force training with Sudan, which it is calling the “Nile Eagles”. (Sudan also depends heavily on Nile water from Ethiopia). Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government is moving forward with plans to fill the reservoir of the dam, which it wants to complete by 2023.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman holds a placard as she protests against Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in Paris on Dec. 8, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)

Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz published a little-known novella in 1974 called “Karnak Café”, in which a group of students discuss politics and fall in and out of love in 1960s Egypt. Though their involvement in politics is not ideological, but rather motivated by a general desire to better the country, they are targeted by state security. They’re detained, accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, tortured, then released with a halfhearted apology. Despite avoiding politics — and the cafe — they’re arrested twice more, accused of subversion, and raped and tortured. One of them dies under torture, and those who survive are broken.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptians celebrated the fall of President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011. (Ben Curtis/AP)

In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned as Egypt’s leader after more than 29 years in office — a resignation prompted by unprecedented mass uprisings. Across the region, millions of Arabs brought down dictators who had been in power for decades, such as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Moammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen. In Egypt, masses celebrated Mubarak’s resignation, chanting, “We have brought down the regime”.

Ten years later, a new military leader governs Egypt with an iron fist: President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. While economic grievances and political repression remain high, my research on the reasoning processes underlying decisions to join the Arab Spring suggests that masses will not soon pour onto the streets again.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mural in Cairo in 2012 depicted President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and former ministers after he was deposed in the Arab Spring. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Ten years ago, as masses of demonstrators filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, I made a modest bet with a friend that Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictator of nearly 30 years, would hold on to power. My thinking was that Mubarak controlled the army, and the army could see that the choice Egypt faced wasn’t between democracy and dictatorship. It was the choice among Islamism, chaos — and him.

I lost the bet, but I wasn’t entirely wrong.

Mubarak himself, of course, soon fell, raising broad hopes that decent, stable, representative democracy might yet establish itself not just in Egypt but throughout the Arabic-speaking world.…  Seguir leyendo »