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Sisi: Please See Democracy


Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian journalist and presenter on Al-Jazeera with a weekly programme that attracts 14 million viewers worldwide, was arrested by the German Government and held without charges for three days. At a press conference following his release on Monday, Mansour said that he had still not been told why he had landed up on a German ‘most wanted’ list whilst trying to leave the country.

Apparently, the warrant for his arrest had come from Egyptian coup general Abdel-Fatah-al-Sisi. Al Sisi had just recently returned from a state visit to Germany. The fact that an €8bn deal with German Industrial group Siemens, to supply gas and wind power plants to Egypt, had just been signed was most probably a significant factor for Chancellor Angela Merkel. She decided her country would become the official armed thugs of the coup regime, already notorious for its multiple gross human rights violations.

Al-Sisi came to power following a military coup which overthrew the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood. This illicit regime has provided total impunity for security force abuses and issued a raft of laws that severely curtailed civil and political rights. This has effectively erased the human rights gains of the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. In its report released in May 2015, the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) stated that the “right to life witnessed horrible deterioration” in 2013 and 2014. It reported that violence had resulted in about 2,600 deaths in that period. The authorities had detained, charged, and sentenced at least 41,000 people in Egypt, the majority being supporters of the Muslim brotherhood. 547 death sentences have been meted out by a farcical judicial system.

The European Union (EU) has repeatedly pledged to place human rights at the core of its relations with other countries. However, when EU’, High Representative Federica Mogherini, attended an economic conference in Egypt, she reiterated that her visit was a signal of the EU’s “continuous support” of Sisi.

A mandated US State Department report on Egypt’s political situation submitted in May 2015 found that “a series of executive initiatives, new laws, and judicial actions severely restrict freedom of expression and the press, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process, and they undermine prospects for democratic governance.” Yet President Barack Obama resumed supplying military equipment to Egypt and announced that military aid would continue.

We saw Chancellor Merkel, President Obama and numerous other Western leaders linking arms in the streets of France recently. They vehemently advocated for a range of freedoms and human rights. However, the double standards that have been applied to non-Western countries for centuries reared its head once again. The West has retained its status quo which seems to be an indolent equation of autocracy with instability regarding the Middle East.

When naming countries guilty of double standards and human rights violations, one can hardly complete the thought without Egypt’s neighbour, Israel, coming to mind. The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict concluded that the operation was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population…  and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability”. Amongst the casualties were 551 Gazan children, murdered over 50 days, and so it should come as no surprise that Sisi and Netanyahu’s relationship bears no strain.  In October 2014, Egyptian armed forces began evicting thousands of families from their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip. These acts of forced evictions were a violation of international human rights laws. The intention was to widen the Buffer zone with Gaza and strengthen the siege that strangulates the region at the moment. Sisi is not only guilty of terrorizing his own population, but is complicit with Israel in terrorizing the Gazans.

Ahmed Mansour is not an isolated case, and while 70 journalists languish in Egyptian jails, Western democracies turn a blind eye to the countless freedoms being violated by Egypt it so desperately claims to champion. Once again, economic and political gains have trumped moral authority.

Written by: Dr Aayesha J Soni