From the September-October issue of News & Letters
With the pomp and circumstance of a Hollywood Pharaoh, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi presided over the Aug. 6 opening of the expanded Suez Canal. Aboard the luxury yacht Mahrousa—the first ship to pass through the Canal in 1869, and used by King Farouk before his overthrow by Colonel Nasser in 1952—were Sisi and guests. They watched as navy warships, helicopters, fighter jets and military transport aircraft passed in review. To top off the day there was a performance of Verdi’s opera Aida.
This stage setting can’t hide the facts of Sisi’s murderous, dictatorial rule. Since overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, he has surpassed former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
There are an estimated 41,000 political prisoners, far more than the number under Mubarak. These include activists Mahienour el-Masry, Mahienour El- Masry was provisionally released, Yara Sallam, Ahmed Maher, and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah. Women’s rights activist Hend al-Nafea and 229 others were sentenced to life in prison for protesting. The Interior Ministry announced in July that hundreds of high school students would take their final exams in prison this year.
Under the guise of attacking the Muslim Brotherhood—which he has done with rabid cruelty, massacring hundreds of unarmed protestors on Aug. 14, 2013—Sisi attacks all who challenge him, including most of the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square. He has expressed his support for Syria’s Assad. The military has seized even firmer control of the economy. Protests and reporting that contradicts the government line have been outlawed. Despite this, the U.S. has resumed military aid and the European Union has pledged their “continuous support.”
—Eugene Walker, Gerry Emmett