Egypt: Seven Years after the Revolution, Zero Tolerance for Criticism


Read in:  Arabic 

The following interview was made with Human Rights activist Mohammed on the current situation in Egypt. To find out more on the situation of human rights activists in Egypt, consult our campaign page here.

Picture of crowd in EgyptThe Egyptian Revolution in 2011 was the highest point of the Arab Spring. It could have been the opportunity for Egypt to move forward on Human Rights but unfortunately it looks like the result was exactly the opposite. What is your assessment of the situation on the ground?

You can’t expect any improvement of the situation of human rights when you are governed by military rule.

It’s a dark moment for human rights in Egypt. The government has zero tolerance for criticism, with over 460 media outlets and organisations currently blocked; tens of thousands are imprisoned because of their political activism; the judiciary is extremely politicized and instrumental; and the highest number of executions in Egypt’s history are currently being carried out. Religious and gender non-conformists are also being targeted and arrested. The expenditure on arming is increasing, while the country is drowning in debt and economic crisis.

The complicity of Western governments in this is shocking: they are not only welcoming the Egyptian president to their meetings, while turning a blind eye to these flagrant violations, but they also keep providing the Egyptian State with arms and spying technologies.

What happened to the Egyptian activists that took part to the demonstrations in 2011?

This is a difficult question; there were thousands of activists in the different squares with diverse political inclinations, and accordingly different destinies.

The islamist movements are the victims of the most oppressive and criminal measures of the current regime, with thousands of them imprisoned without access to their basic rights to decent treatment, visits, fair trials, etc.

Some of the leftist, liberal and human rights activists were also imprisoned, others left the country, some activists were banned from traveling, some also gave up activism altogether, but the majority are trying to fight the current oppression with the very little tools they have.

A few days ago, the Egyptian Government went through a reshuffle and six women were chosen as Ministers for the first time in Egypt’s history. Beyond this measure, would you say that the government is trying to improve the situation of women in the country?

Increasing the number of women ministers or parliamentarians is a good step, but it can’t function as the only parameter for women’s rights and this policy is also not separable from the other governmental policies. The government can’t be serious about improving women’s conditions with the current economic and social policies, as the increasing levels of poverty and unemployment impact women disproportionately. Moreover, the imprisonment of thousands of men over political cases leaves more women as the sole breadwinners of their families. After all, women’s rights can’t be guaranteed without a strong feminist movement, which is currently not achievable due to the shrinking public space and the utter lack of freedom of organization.

EuroMed Rights has been working on a campaign against arbitrary detention of activists and Human Rights Defenders. What are your expectations on the results?

It is very hard to draw a straight line of causality between specific campaigns and results, but all the efforts against human rights violations are useful even if the results are not swift or tangible. And because of the increased numbers of detainees and the long durations of arbitrary detention of activists, this cause specifically requires continuing concerted efforts and each campaign will incrementally lead to some change.

Do you feel secure in Egypt?

With the rise of right-wing governments worldwide, I doubt that anyone feels completely secure in any part of the world!

Living under a military dictatorship is of course difficult, but we are still surrounded by families and friends and even in these very dark moments we are fortunate enough to witness exceptional acts of bravery, solidarity and compassion.