In less than two weeks, the Egyptian parliament suggested, debated and approved “constitutional amendments” that would allow President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to stay in office until 2034, make him head of the judiciary and subjugate the political system to a military “guardianship.” These extraordinary amendments will be subject to a referendum after a 30-day “public debate” (in a country where a tweet could land you a five-year sentence). Article 226, which defines the constitutional amendment process, explicitly prohibits the amendment of presidential term limits or the provisions related to freedoms “unless the amendment offered more guarantees” to these freedoms. In other words, Sissi’s proposed amendments are unconstitutional.… Seguir leyendo »
It is telling that, only shortly after President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi sat down with the U.S. broadcaster CBS, the Egyptian government tried to prevent the interview’s release. Enticed to take part in a “60 Minutes” interview through an appeal to his vanity, Sissi quickly realized that the questions — and his answers — were not the ones he wanted the world to see. It was embarrassing to watch. He was clearly not prepared for the interview, and that his team tried to prevent its release simply made it into an even bigger story.
His claims were astonishing. Throughout the interview, he made assertions widely known to be untrue.… Seguir leyendo »
Eight years ago, the Arab Spring uprisings led to the overthrow of longtime dictators Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Many have attributed these unexpectedly quick ousters to the countries’ militaries defecting from the regime and siding with the opposition. But these depictions are not only inaccurate, they also have serious implications for theory and policy.
In a recent article, we argue that such interpretation of these events represent “Myths of Military Defection.” These myths have led scholars to inaccurately compare two very different armed forces and equate defection from the regime with support of the opposition.… Seguir leyendo »
I’ll never forget the words I read scribbled on the wall when I was first put into a cage in a Cairo courtroom, on Feb. 26, 2012: “If defending justice is a crime, then long live criminality.”
That was the first day of my trial, Case No. 173/2011. (In Egyptian courtrooms, defendants are kept in cages.) Along with 42 other defendants, 17 of them Americans, who worked for international nongovernmental organizations in Egypt, I was charged with operating an organization without a license (not true) and receiving illegal foreign funds (also not true). All of us worked for organizations promoting the rule of law, transparency and democracy.… Seguir leyendo »
To write in Egypt and about Egypt has long meant being under the scrutiny of an authoritarian state — starting in the 1950s with President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who nationalized the press, and extending to the present. If you didn’t approve of the government’s activities, your only option, you quickly learned, was to be noncommittal.
My first encounter with the red lines of authority was in the early 2000s, as a young writer at a weekly paper in Cairo. One day my editor, a well-respected journalist who stood apart from his submissive state-appointed colleagues for his outspokenness and professional rigor, called me into his office after an editorial meeting.… Seguir leyendo »
The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, is attempting to lead reforms that would redefine his church’s relations with other Christian denominations. But he now faces internal opposition that is not just doctrinal, but political, focused on the contrasting approaches of Pope Tawadros and his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, towards the Egyptian state.
For over four decades and until his passing in 2012, Pope Shenouda acted as the political representative of the Coptic community. He perceived the relation between church and state, and by extension between political leaders and himself, as that of equals.
Pope Shenouda gave his relationship with the state a political slant by both applying and releasing pressure and exchanging political support from the church for religious benefits for the Coptic community.… Seguir leyendo »
May’s municipal elections in Tunisia had many commentators speculating about the future of the country’s ongoing democratic transition. The results were roughly in line with expectations, with the “Islamist” Ennahda taking 27.5 percent of the vote, the “secular” Nidaa Tounes taking 22.5 percent and independent candidates taking 28 percent. At the same time, voter turnout, at 35.5 percent of registered voters, was disappointingly low.
Nonetheless, most observers agree the prospects for democratic transition in Tunisia are much better than they are for Egypt or Libya. Indeed, some have come to see the contrasting trajectories among post-Arab uprising countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as inevitable.… Seguir leyendo »
Soon after my family moved from Egypt to London, when I was seven years old and my brother was three, my mother sat us down for a talk: we are Egyptian and Muslim, she told us, remember that.
My father did not have to sit us down for a talk. But we learned every Saturday night, as we sat by his side watching “Match of the Day” broadcast one of that day’s English Division One football games, that we were also football fans (ever since, my dad and brother have supported Liverpool, while I’ve been a fan of Manchester United). And we remembered that.… Seguir leyendo »
Welcome to the first week of the 2018 African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular. We begin the series with “Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Engagement and Activism during the 2011 Arab Uprisings,” by Rutgers University-Newark assistant professor of political science Nermin Allam.
Allam’s book examines the 2011 Egyptian uprising. She draws from 118 interviews, most conducted with female protesters and activists. In addition to the interview data, Allam analyzes reporting (both news and commentary) on women’s activism during the 2011 uprising published in two of Egypt’s leading daily newspapers (Al-Ahram and Al-Wafd) and in the New York Times.
I found it most helpful in Allam’s book that she situated women’s activism in contemporary Egypt in a broader historical context.… Seguir leyendo »
The Egyptian presidential election has shown that the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi still enjoys support among the same constituencies that opposed the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2013. However, there has been a noticeable transformation within the regime’s support circles. Part of it has shifted from an active and unreserved support in 2014 towards a passive and conditional one in 2018.
Where supporters of the regime once showed their support by taking to the streets in 2013 and readily casting their votes in the 2014 election, many did not turn out this time. While around 25.5 million votes were cast in favour of Sisi in 2014, he received only 24.3 million this time, despite the total number of citizens with the right to vote increasing from 53.9 million in 2014 to 59.1 million in 2018.… Seguir leyendo »
As Abdel Fatah al-Sissi cruised toward reelection as president of Egypt, the state-controlled media launched an unprecedented wave of incitement against members of the Nubian minority — and my research on the topic. Descendants of an ancient African civilization, Nubians are indigenous to both Egypt and Sudan. At least 10 articles appeared on the same day with the same content — most likely under instructions from intelligence agencies. The articles featured the photographs and full names of human rights defenders who were described in derogatory language as “Nubian elements,” although they are Egyptian citizens. They stand accused of trying to “internationalize” the Nubian issue and thereby tarnish Sissi’s reputation.… Seguir leyendo »
During the last week of March, Egyptians headed to the polls to award incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi a second term. The event was an election in name only — and many Egyptians intentionally invalidated their ballots to register their protest.
Successive candidates from the military, civil society and the Islamist movement were pressured out of the race before campaigning even began. Sisi eventually faced off against a handpicked candidate, Musa Mustapha Musa, an uninspiring Ghad party official, who has been described as “an obscure toady gleaned from the scrap heap of fourth-rate politicians.” In the lead-up to the election, the Sisi regime observed “few boundaries on its untamed repression of all forms of dissent,’’ jailing, deporting or otherwise silencing any semblance of opposition.… Seguir leyendo »
Earlier this month, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi won reelection with a sweeping 97 percent of the vote, in what was widely considered a sham election. Overall participation was only 41 percent of registered voters, falling short of the 47 percent four years ago. The low turnout was effectively a gauge of the faltering popular support for the nationalist policies of Sissi, whose campaign centered on his ability to safeguard security and stability.
In the Egyptian context, nationalism is often understood as a tool wielded by the state to co-opt and redirect street pressure for reform into support for a strong state.… Seguir leyendo »
The only legitimately elected president Egypt ever had has now been in jail for almost five years. My father, Mohamed Morsi, won with 52 percent of the vote in 2012, when we experienced the first and last truly democratic election in our country’s history. He was imprisoned following a bloody military coup in 2013. The so-called presidential election that is about to take place on March 26-28, by contrast, is a farce.
Of the seven opposition candidates in Egypt, only one has been allowed to run against Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. His name is Moussa Mostafa Moussa, and he is the leader of the Ghad Party.… Seguir leyendo »
A pesar de una evidente caída de su cuota de popularidad, el presidente Abdelfatá Al Sisi detenta aún un férreo control sobre Egipto y sus instituciones. Tanto el duro programa de ajuste económico aplicado por el Gobierno como los cíclicos zarpazos de los grupos yihadistas han suscitado un amplio malestar entre los egipcios. En lugar de ofrecer concesiones a la oposición, la respuesta del régimen ha sido intensificar la represión de toda forma visible de disidencia para evitar cualquier conato de protesta en las calles. La preparación de las elecciones presidenciales, cuya primera vuelta se desarrollará entre el 26 y 28 de marzo y en las que Al Sisi buscará la reelección, ha puesto de manifiesto el endurecimiento de la dictadura.… Seguir leyendo »
Egypt is approaching a critical moment. Since last fall, the popularity of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has steadily diminished not only among the public and many of Egypt’s secular and Islamist intellectuals but also among key supporters of his regime. He’s still going to win the sham presidential election scheduled for March 26 to 28. But there are many signs that his second term might not last for as long as he hopes.
Sissi has unleashed a crackdown on dissent that has no parallel in the country’s modern history. Yet this campaign is falling short of its intended objectives. Now discontent is brewing among the ruling elite, including the military.… Seguir leyendo »
Two women with little in common have detonated their way out of the fortress of taboo that surrounds sexual violence in Egypt, where victimized women are routinely forced to accept shame and blame, not justice. In fighting back and speaking out, these two have forced the beginnings of a reckoning onto men whom countless excuses have absolved of their mistreatment of women.
In February, a court sentenced a man in southern Egypt to three years in prison for groping one of the women. In Cairo, a onetime presidential candidate, Khaled Ali — whom some had considered an avatar of the ideals of Egypt’s 2011 revolution — resigned as head of the Bread and Freedom Party and as a lawyer with the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights after being accused of sexual misconduct.… Seguir leyendo »
Later this month, Egyptians will go to the polls to reelect Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to his second term as president. An all too familiar scenario is playing out: Sissi is the only viable candidate. His sole challenger, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, is the head of a party that had endorsed Sissi before entering its own candidate at the last minute. Other potential challengers were threatened, intimidated or arrested into withdrawing.
The regime’s harassment and deterrence of potential opposition candidates do not always lead to calls for boycotting. This time, however, 150 opposition figures and seven political parties came together to denounce the elections as a farce and call for a boycott of the upcoming polls.… Seguir leyendo »
As Egypt approaches its upcoming presidential election this month, its allies and critics have largely reconciled themselves to the inevitable re-election of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. The regime has aggressively culled the field of potential competitors through intimidation, harassment, prosecution and detention.
The real struggle for Egypt’s fate will come after the election, when the regime will seek to amend the constitution to extend presidential terms and abolish term limits.
This could present an important opportunity for Egyptian political actors and civil society to focus attention, build alliances and begin the longer-term process of laying the groundwork to restore civilian-led politics.… Seguir leyendo »
The UK and US authorities have recently listed two Egyptian groups, Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra, as terrorist organizations.
Hassm, an abbreviation for ‘The Arms of Egypt Movement’ (established in July 2016), and Lewaa al-Thawra, which translates as ‘The Banner of the Revolution’ (formed in August 2016), have claimed responsibility for several operations targeting Egyptian security and religious figures. These operations include the assassination of Brigadier General Adel Ragaie, a senior officer in the armed forces, in October 2016 by Lewaa al-Thawra, and the attempt by Hassm to assassinate former Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa in August 2016.
Although some of the members of these two groups were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the two groups reject any organizational ties to the Brotherhood.… Seguir leyendo »