Members of Al-Sisi’s own regime have joined Egypt’s opposition and the president is afraid, Director of the Egypt-based Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Bahey eldin Hassan has told an audience in London.
This has come into sharp focus through the president’s response to the Alliance of Hope, a coalition of politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and businessmen who were arrested in dawn raids at the end of June.
Among them was former parliamentarian Ziad Al-Alimi, reporter and member of the journalists’ union Hisham Fouad and the Hossam Moanis, campaign coordinator for the former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.
Included in the sweeping arrests was the office director of Ahmed Tantawi, the MP who urged people to say no to the constitutional amendments in April which have enabled Al-Sisi to stay in power until 2013. After the arrest of his office director, authorities sought to waive Tantawi’s parliamentary immunity and arrest him also.
Tantawi is part of the 25-30 Alliance, a coalition which supported the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak, and the 3 July 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi.
The coalition has been charged with aiming to overthrow the government, spreading false news and colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated a terror organisation under the current regime.
“The hope coalition is a very unique development in Egypt,” Hassan told delegates at an Amnesty International conference to mark six years since the military coup. It not only illustrates growing human rights abuses and the erasure of democratic values, but also shines a light on the division within the ranks of Al-Sisi’s regime:
For the first time some components of the Al-Sisi regime are joining other opposition forces and trying to work together to establish a new political platform ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. This is a very important development within the Al-Sisi government. This explains why the Al-Sisi regime was very, very worried about such a coalition.
The authority’s intolerance for political competition is ongoing. In the lead up to the 2018 presidential elections former army chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested after announcing his candidacy, as was political science professor Hazem Hosny, Anan’s future vice president.
Former Egyptian ambassador Masoum Marzouk was arrested in August 2018 after demanding a referendum on the current authority and opposing the transfer of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia.
Despite the shrinking space for political debate, and increasing repression, Hassan has hope for the future of Egypt: “There is a new moment now we are observing in Egypt. This doesn’t mean that change is coming tomorrow, or that it is easy, but this is a serious, qualitative development in the growing resistance.”