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This week, for many, the coronavirus pandemic that has left much of the world paralyzed is hitting closer to home than ever. But for some of us, the scare is not just about our health or even the availability of essential food and hygiene products in our local stores. It is the crippling fear for our loved ones unjustly imprisoned halfway across the world.

On Tuesday, I woke up to news of the first covid-19 case in Wadi el-Natrun prison, where my father has been held as a political prisoner in Egypt since 2013. Ever since, I have struggled to imagine how Egypt’s prisoners, packed like sardines in unventilated underground dungeons, feel about the impending doom metastasizing in their midst.…  Seguir leyendo »

El historiador romano Salustio observó que la manera en que se crean los estados determina cómo son gobernados. Esta máxima se puede aplicar también a los propios gobernantes. Es más, en muchos casos, la manera en que termina el poder de un gobernante determina cómo será recordado su régimen.

Éste parece ser el caso del ex presidente egipcio Hosni Mubarak, que fue depuesto luego de un masivo levantamiento popular contra su régimen, que se caracterizó por ser autoritario, opresivo, corrupto y nepotista.

Sin duda, Mubarak fue un gobernante autocrático, en cuyo gobierno la oposición radical –especialmente islámica- no era tolerada. Las elecciones eran una farsa, una forma jerárquica de gobierno controlaba a la población a través de una plétora de servicios secretos (“el estado Mukhabarat”) y el sistema con que se lo identificaba era cualquier cosa menos libre.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak died Tuesday, nearly a decade after he was toppled in a chaotic coup that broke his iron rule but didn’t provide Egypt with a dynamic, post-Mubarak identity.

Mubarak has been a forgotten man in recent years, but his death evokes the paradox and pain of the Middle East. He governed Egypt for nearly 30 years, a modernizing despot who kept peace with Israel and liberalized the economy but balked at dismantling the military dictatorship and police-state tactics that had spawned him.

The revolt against Mubarak in early 2011 was the apogee of the “Arab Spring” movement; an idealistic President Barack Obama helped push him out the door, a move that Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab states never forgave.…  Seguir leyendo »

The death on Tuesday morning of Hosni Mubarak is a reminder of where Egypt’s authoritarian regime stands. The man whose figure overshadowed Egypt for 30 years, whose death has been the subject of speculation for nearly 20 of them, has passed away quietly, years after he lost relevance.

I am from the generation that was in high school when Anwar Sadat was president. Sadat was hailed internationally as a modernizer, a courageous Arab leader who brought peace. But for the people of Egypt, he was an egocentric tyrant who imprisoned his opponents, presided over a corrupt regime that enriched the privileged and was more interested in impressing foreign audiences with fake signs of modernity while the country reeled in decay.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘If there is no reaction to Shady Zalat’s arrest, they will come for someone else, then another, and another.’ Mada Masr editor Zalat has been arrested by the Egyptian regime and his whereabouts are unknown. Photograph: AP

Editor’s note: as this piece was published, news broke of a raid on Mada Masr’s offices. Security forces left after over three hours, having detained at least three staff members including the editor-in-chief, Lina Attalah. Shady Zalat, the subject of this article, was released from detention on an outlying Cairo road an hour after the raid ended.

In the early hours of Saturday morning there was a loud banging on Shady Zalat’s door. He will have known they had come for him.

Zalat is an editor at Mada Masr, the last independent news outlet operating under the military regime that came to power with General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s coup d’etat in 2013.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir take part in a tripartite summit regarding a dam on the Nile River, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 10 February 2019. AFP/ANADOLU AGENCY/Handout /Presidency of Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are set to meet on the margins of an ongoing two-day Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in an effort to ease tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia is building the dam on the main tributary of the Nile, and Egypt fears that the project will imperil its water supply.

Experts from those two nations and Sudan, the third country directly involved, had neared a technical consensus last year on how fast Ethiopia would fill the dam’s reservoir. But the past few months have seen Addis Ababa and Cairo move further apart amid feisty exchanges of rhetoric.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pro-democracy protesters rally in Cairo in February 2011. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

After eight months of protest, Sudan’s ongoing transition to civilian democratic rule will reach a milestone this week when the country’s transitional government is announced. Meanwhile in Algeria, protesters continue to gather weekly to demand fundamental changes to the political system five months after the removal of the country’s president.

In the face of ruthless security apparatuses, how can protesters in Sudan and Algeria avoid the fate of Egypt, where the old regime was able to engineer a comeback only two years after the ouster of the country’s erstwhile dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

What makes a revolution successful?

Many factors determine whether a revolution is successful in installing a stable democracy, from international intervention to a country’s economic conditions.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week marks the sixth anniversary of one of the most significant events in the Middle East — one that reversed the trajectory of the Arab Spring. On July 3, 2013, the Egyptian military launched a coup against President Mohamed Morsi’s government, resulting in the massacre of thousands, the fleeing and exile of thousands more, and the demise of hopes that the country was on the verge of democratic rule.

Egypt’s military hijacked popular protests that were triggered in June 2013 to express discontent with the reign of Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president. Morsi was subsequently arrested, tried in politicized courts and reportedly mistreated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi fainted and died during an appearance in a Cairo court last month, part of an ongoing and likely politically motivated espionage case stemming from his escape from jail during the 2011 uprisings. The country’s first democratically elected president was unceremoniously buried the next morning in a public cemetery located in the capital, after Egyptian authorities refused his family’s request to bury him in the family plot in his hometown.

This was the most recent blow dealt against the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian government. Morsi’s forcible removal from office through a coup six years ago next month immediately initiated a wave of repression against the Brotherhood.…  Seguir leyendo »

Unas semanas antes del sexto aniversario del golpe de Estado ejecutado por el entonces ministro de Defensa de Egipto en 2013, Abdelfattah Al Sisi, la suerte de los líderes de los Hermanos Musulmanes en los tribunales y cárceles egipcias había dejado de interesar a la prensa mundial. La implacable represión contra el movimiento islamista se había normalizado completamente. Ya no era noticia. Sin embargo, la muerte del expresidente Mohamed Morsi, por haberse producido en unas extrañas y dramáticas circunstancias, parece haber despertado algunas adormiladas conciencias. Los focos de la actualidad se han vuelto a posar sobre las durísimas condiciones penitenciarias a las que estaba sometido el líder islamista.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mohamed Morsi was buried in a closed funeral on Tuesday, almost exactly seven years after making history as Egypt’s first president elected in free and democratic elections. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that his was an assassination in everything but name.

Morsi was held in terrible and inhumane conditions since the Egyptian military overthrew his government close to six years ago. There had been many warnings about his deteriorating health, including from a British parliamentary delegation that visited Egypt last year. They concluded that, “If Morsi is not provided with adequate medical care soon, the consequences could be his premature death”.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Tuesday, Egypt plunged into constitutional crisis. The government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi claimed victory in a referendum on constitutional changes despite clear signs of election tampering. Human rights groups were quick to condemn the result as a sham. The European Union issued a statement reminding Egypt of its commitments to the rule of law, judicial independence, and free speech and assembly.

And yet, before the dust had settled on this seismic political event, Sissi addressed the nation from the presidential palace in Cairo. He said he would renew the nationwide state of emergency for three more months.

To Egyptians, there was something depressingly familiar about this turn of events.…  Seguir leyendo »

This has been a grim month for Egyptians who seek a better life and believe in dignity and freedom.

First, on April 9, there was President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s visit to the White House, where he received a warm welcome from his U.S. counterpart. President Trump uttered only a few hollow compliments about the situation in Egypt; he made no mention of Sissi’s dismal human rights record. Then, on April 16, the tame parliament in Cairo approved amendments to the constitution that could allow Sissi to remain in office until 2030.

According to statements by two senior judicial officials, the amendments would give Sissi complete authority over the judiciary and institutionalize the military’s dominance over political life.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alaa Abd El Fattah speaking at a conference in Cairo in 2015. The Egyptian blogger was freed last week after five years in prison. Credit Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press

We woke to the news last Friday: The 37-year-old software-developer and pro-democracy activist Alaa Abd El Fattah had finally been released from prison, after completing a five-year sentence for having called for street protests in defiance of the law. “Alaa is out. Yes, I swear,” tweeted his sister, Mona Seif, in Arabic. Not long after, she shared a blurry photo of him, sitting on a rattan chair at their family home, playing with their dog. Next came a photo of Alaa sitting with his now seven-year-old-son and holding the boy’s little feet.

It wasn’t Alaa’s first arrest, but his seventh, and longest, under four governments.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Egyptian Parliament debating proposed constitutional amendments that would increase presidential term limits, in Cairo, in February. Credit Mohamed Mostafa/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

It’s been eight years since we took to the streets in the protests that led to the ouster of our longest-ruling president, Hosni Mubarak, a.k.a. “the pharaoh”, after his 30-year rule. Since then, we have gone from being first-time voters to seasoned ones, heading to the polls nine times to cast ballots for Parliaments, presidents or the Constitution. Our current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was re-elected in April to serve another four-year term — his second and, under the 2014 Constitution, his last. Or so we thought.

Earlier this month, Egypt’s Parliament speed-presented, -debated and -approved a package of amendments to the Constitution.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

A Cairo intersection with a poster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The heads of state change in Egypt, but the repressive structures stay the same, Nancy Okail writes. Credit Sima Diab/Bloomberg

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 »

How Egypt Crowdsources Censorship

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 »