July 21, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9458

'Al-Ahram' Former Editor Arrested For Harshly Criticizing The Egyptian President's And Regime's Handling Of Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Crisis

July 21, 2021
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 9458

'Abd Al-Nasser Salama, the former editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, has been arrested for publishing an article harshly critical of the Egyptian regime and its head, President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, and has been charged with joining a terrorist ogranization and publishing fake news.[1]  Salama's article, published July 11, 2021 on hs Facebook page[2] and on other Egyptian websites,[3] came against the backdrop of the crisis over the Grand Ethiopian Renaisance Dam (GERD), an hydroelectric dam constructed by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile, which has sparked considerable concern in Egypt due to the possible reduction of Egypt's water supply. Salama called on President Al-Sissi to resign and present himslef for trial for his mishandling of this crisis, which he described as a "bitter defeat to Ethiopia," leading to the loss of "Egypt's historic right" to the waters of the Nile. 

It should be noted that Salama was appointed editor of Al-Ahram in 2012, during the Muslim Brotherhood rule, and was dismissed from his post in 2014, after Al-Sissi's rise to power. He is known for writing against the Al-Sisi regime, and this is not the first time the regime has acted to silence him. In early April 2018 the authorities stopped him from publishing in the Al-Yawm daily, as part of its general persectuion of this paper. [4] On July 24, 2018, Salama published a Facebook post presenting ten harsh questions to Al-Sisi, and warning him that he is bound to meet the same fate as dictators who were violently deposed by their people, such as Qadhafi of Libya and 'Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Among the questions he posed were, "Why do you not try to listen to the opinion of others?", "why do you consider yourself to be a prophet?", "why do you consider yourself to be an all-knowing physician or philosopher?" and "why don't you admit that you are afflicted with paranoia and chauvinism and seek treatment?"[5]

'Abd Al-Nasser Salama (Source:

The following are translated excerpts from Salama's recent article.

"Why doesn't President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi have the moral courage to announce his direct responsibility for the bitter defeat to Ethiopia and for Egypt's losing its historic right to the Nile? It is he who granted legitimacy to the dam at the heart of the crisis [i.e., the Renaissance Dam] by signing the unfortunate agreement of 2015[6]  – whose implications he surely understands – and then did so again by appealing to the Security Council without properly preparing [for this move]. Prior to this, he ignored it when [Ethiopia] first began constructing [the dam], and then was unable to decide on a military move to correct the behavior of the dictatorial Ethiopian government and also failed to gain international support [for Egypt's] just cause, although [Egypt] spends millions of dollars purchasing arms and other [goods] from influential countries.   

The article on Salama's Facebook page

"Honesty and courage compel the president to address the people and announce his resignation, and present himself [to the court], to be fairly prosecuted for everything he has done, including: relinquishing the two Red Sea islands,[7] the two Mediterranean oil fields[8] and the waters of the Nile; squandering Egypt's resources on completely unnecessary arms and saddling it with enormous debt it will never be able to pay; spreading terror and alarm among the Egyptians by threatening to deploy the army [throughout Egypt] within six hours;[9]  dividing society by creating unprecedented polarization and by arresting and incarcerating tens of thousands with or without an excuse; turning Sinai into a graveyard for our soldiers and officers [fighting against ISIS] by heinously mismanaging a crisis that should have never happened [in the first place] – and dozens of other [crimes] that will be exposed in due course.

"I hope, Mr. President, that you will not take too long to recognize the painful reality that the Security Council session revealed, namely that you do not have a supporter in the world – a situation unprecedented in the history of Egypt… and you are well aware of the reasons [for this].

"If you are truly an Egyptian, Mr. President, go ahead and resign in order to save Egypt. This will be the one good deed that the entire public will remember, and people will forget that you are guilty of perpetrating the [2013] coup, [guilt] which keeps you awake at night and is the reason for all the external concessions [you have made].  Do this and free the armed forces to act before it becomes too late. This will allow them to gain the unprecedented support of all parts of the [Egyptian] people, assuming that they do the right thing, and  given that whoever fails to defend the waters of the Nile can never gain legitimacy.  

"It is enough that the Egyptian nation – and the entire world – saw the president of Egypt enjoying a bicycle ride through the new city of Al-Alamein [a new urban center in north-western Egypt] while the Security Council was discussing an existential issue for Egypt [i.e., the Ethiopian dam].[9] This was a grave display of contempt for the people, who were watching the events live on TV, filled with anger and sorrow that their sons may be destined to deal with sewage in their food and in [the water] they drink and use to purify themselves before prayer.  

"Mr. President, [in drafting the indictment against you], we mean to reject any possibility [of accusing you] of a conspiracy, treason or espionage, and all the other [allegations] mentioned in the streets today. We hope that you will be able to demonstrate that it was no more than a mistake and misjudgment [on your part]… and then you will be spared the maximum punishment, even though I personally doubt this.   

"Do it, Mr. President. Resign immediately, without further delay. If not for Egypt, then for your own sake. I repeat, for your own sake, because acts of disappearing [people] and deceiving [them] have never continued [indefinitely], in any of the world's dictatorships. They are destined to gradually erode, even if they continue for a long time, by means of [military] brigades, ineffective social media bots and control over the wretched media."


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 19, 2021.

[2], July 11, 2021.

[3], 180news, July 11, 2021.

[4] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), April 11, 2018.

[5], July 24, 2018. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1412, As He Begins His Second Term, Egyptian President El-Sisi Escalates Repression Of Critics, August 16, 2018.

[6] The reference is to a declaration of principles signed by the presidents of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in Khartoum in December 2015, which allowed Ethiopia to complete the construction of the dam but did not define the rights of Egypt and Sudan in the Nile.

[7] The reference is to the two islands Tiran and Sanafir, which were officially ceded by Egypt to Saudi Arabia in 2017. 

[8] The reference is to agreements between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus delineating the maritime border between them in response to the agreements signed between Turkey and Libya.

[9] In a September 2016 speech Al-Sisi said that a plan had been formulated for deploying the armed forces throughout the country within six hours in case of a threat to its security. See Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), September 26, 2016.

[10] In a July 8, 2021 session on the Renaissance Dam, the Security Council called on Egypt , Sudan and Ethiopia to hold negotiations under African Union and UN sponsorship. The same day, videos were circulated on social media of Al-Sisi and his bodyguards riding bicycles in Al-Alamein (See Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, July 9, 2021). 


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