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memri
October 16, 2019 No.
8316

Prominent Egyptian Oppositionist: The Regime Imprisons Young Activists Instead Of Benefiting From Their Talents


Hamdeen Sabahi (Source: English.ahram.org.eg)

In a September 10 article in the independent weekly Al-Mashhad, Hamdeen Sabahi, a prominent leader of the Egyptian opposition who ran in the 2012 and 2014 presidential elections, castigated the Al-Sisi regime for its systematic arrest of political activists. The article was published following the arrest of Hossam Moaness, Sabahi's associate and former campaign manager, along with a series of other secularist oppositionists.

Moaness and other activists – including former MP and Social Democratic Party leader Ziad Al-'Alimi, journalist Hisham Fouad, and labor rights activist Hassan Al-Barbari – sought to form a group of parties called the Coalition of Hope, to run in the 2020 parliamentary elections.[1] The regime, apparently perceiving them as a threat, accused them of conspiring against it with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).[2]

In his article Sabahi noted that the detainees, members of the civil democratic current, aspire to bring change to Egypt through peaceful and legal methods and have nothing to do with the MB but in fact firmly oppose it. But the regime persecutes these "honorable and noble knights" and other dissidents because they are critical of its policies, and concocts false charges against them, such as supporting terror and spreading false news.

A Nasserist in his views, Sabahi highlighted the difference between Egypt under Nasser and Egypt under Al-Sisi, who purports to follow in Nasser's footsteps. In Nasser's period, he claimed, young people were encouraged to contribute to their country and to act in the public arena, whereas the current regime persecutes promising young people and throws them in jail. 

Sabahi's article itself apparently enraged the regime, since on the day of its publication in the Al-Mashhad weekly, the security forces raided the house of the weekly's editor, Magdi Shandi, and failing to find him at home, arrested his son instead, with the aim of prompting Shandi to surrender himself.[3] In the weeks since, the regime has continued clamping down on its critics and opponents, especially following the anti-regime protests that broke out on September 20, and has arrested over 1,000 people, among them academics and human rights activists.[4]

The following are excerpts from Al-Sabahi's article:[5]

"On June 25, [2019], just before dawn, a gang of cruel masked men burst into Hossam [Moaness]'s quiet apartment in Al-Manial neighborhood [in Cairo]. They broke down the door, overturned the furniture, scared [his children], Fairouza and Majd, and their mother, arrested their father, took him away, blindfolded, in an armored car and cast him into a dungeon. At the same time… some chefs of limited talent quickly prepared one of their poisoned dishes… whose stink fills the nostrils, and began serving it up via their media… 

"The dish [of false charges] consists of terror, financing a nameless organization and helping it realize its goals, and spreading false news. All these ingredients -- which are past their expiry date, and are stored, improperly packaged, in the airless warehouses of the Interior Ministry – are intended for the quick preparation of lies whenever the security strongmen can employ their preferred policy of morally assassinating anyone with a [independent] opinion.

"Anyone who knows the three knights like I do – Hossam Moaness, Ziad Al-'Alimi and Hisham Fouad – knows beyond a doubt that the 'dish' served up in the Interior Ministry's announcements about the Coalition of Hope is nothing but a lie and a cheap and despicable distortion. The most loathsome and provocative charge that has been brought against these knights is that of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, when the truth is that they [and the MB] are opponents and have nothing in common.

"If all this is true regarding the three prisoners of hope, with whom I am personally acquainted, it must also be true regarding the other [detainees], whom I do not know, such as labor rights activist Hassan Al-Barbari, Ahmad Tammam and others, as well as the associates of the MP of Hope, Ahmad Tantawi,[6] and members of his office.

"Had [the regime] really wanted, Egypt could have been spared all this sorrow, oppression and waste. But the security strongmen are not interested in the truth. They know it and deny it. They prefer to concoct lies and quickly serve them up to the people, not knowing – or perhaps knowing – that our people will no longer swallow these claims, now that it has tasted them and grown sick of them. Such concoctions of lies have been used to imprison some of Egypt's most respectable and noble sons, to deprive them of freedom and to prevent them from helping their country at a time when their constructive contribution – which they are more than willing to provide out of their love and generosity – is more crucial than ever.

"The list is long: Yahya Hussein ‘Abd Al-Hadi, Muhammad Mounib, Ahmad Al-Douma, Haitham Mohamedeen, 'Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futouh, Shadi Al-Ghazali Harb, Muhammad Al-Qasas, Walid Shawqi, Hisham Genina, Muhammad Ramadan, Ahmad Sabri Abu 'Alam, Shadi Abu Zeid, Rami Sha'th, Gamal 'Abd Al-Hakim, Khaled Sa'id.[7] [Also arrested],shortly before [the Coalition of Hope members,] were Ma'soum Marzouq, Raed Salama, Yahya Al-Qazzaz, 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Fadli, Gamal 'Abd Al-Fattah, Hassan Hussein and Khaled Al-Bassiouni.[8] The list of honor is long and the steadfastness of these honorable [activists] is noble.

"Had this country been based on justice, none of these people would have been charged, and none of them would have spent even an hour in a dark prison cell. Had this country followed its constitution – and reality shows that it doesn't – the officers who cooked up the [false] interrogation transcripts in the [Coalition of] Hope affair and in other [affairs] would have been investigated, along with their superiors and the minister in charge of them, for bringing false charges and misleading the court.

"Had the judiciary system been determined and able to dispense justice, it would have met the request submitted by the heads of the legitimate parties to the prosecutor general, to hear their testimony regarding the Coalition of Hope. For all these [activists], and myself among them, are party to a serious debate within the boundaries of the constitution and the law, aimed at forming a coalition for the purpose of [running in multi-]party elections. We are public figures and representatives of the people, members of the civil democratic current, who aspire to bring change by peaceful and legal means. We renew our request to let us testify and exonerate Hossam, Ziad and their fellows, out of respect for the truth.

"Had we been a country governed through honest political activity, and not by the security strongmen, we would have striven for the truth and saved our people much of the cost of the oppression, hate and recurring mistakes. But [the regime] dislikes the truth and prefers the cooked-up [charges], and the most ironic fact is that they are not very good cooks…

"On July 7, Hossam [Moaness] marked his 37th birthday in his detention cell. When [his grandfather], Fathi Al-Maghrabi, was his age, he headed the political and parliamentary activity in the Dakahlia Governorate.[9] This paradox exposes the difference between [the situation of] the grandfather and [that of] his grandson. This leads us to compare [Nasser's] First Republic, which sought out young people in order to give them [roles of] responsibility and leadership, and the Second Republic [the post-Nasser period], which continues to seek out young people, but in order to imprison them…

"Some volunteer to spread the propaganda that the [present] regime, which has discarded [Nasserism], is the direct continuation of the [1952] revolution regime, and their most oft-repeated claim is that both [Nasser and Al-Sisi] wear the same military uniform. But can their camouflage suits, however effective, conceal the difference between [Nasser's] liberation of the nation and [Al-Sisi's] dependence [on the superpowers]? Between social justice and [free-]market capitalism? Between independent development and surrender to the [International] Monetary Fund? Between leading the Arab nation and joining some of its axes? Between fighting the Zionist entity and promoting a warm peace [with it]? Between the construction of the [Aswan] dam and the construction of the Al-Nahda dam?[10] Between the victory of the poor and the victory over the poor?...

"I look into the future and see [my grandson], Yousuf, become a promising young friend of Hossam's, his helper and partner – not in the fight against the collapsing Second Republic but in the construction of the young Third Republic, the Republic of Justice and Love."


Sabahi’s article, with photos of some of the Coalition of Hope detainees (Source: Al-Mashhad, Egypt, September 10, 2019)

 

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 25, 2019.

[2] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 9.

[3] Arabi21.com, September 10, 2019.

[4] Among those arrested are Hassan Nafi'a and Hazem Hosni of Cairo University; former Al-Dustour Party chairman Khaled Daoud; attorney and human rights activist Mahinour Al-Masri, and 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Husseini, deputy chairman of Sabahi's own Al-Karama party (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, September 25, 2019; raialyoum.com, September 22, 2019).

[5] Al-Mashhad (Egypt), September 10, 2019.

[6] Tantawi belongs to a group of MPs called the "25-30 Alliance," which frequently criticizes the government.

[7] A partial list of political activists arrested by the Egyptian regime in the recent years, all of them opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. See also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1412, As He Begins His Second Term, Egyptian President El-Sisi Escalates Repression Of Critics, August 16, 2018.

[8] These activists were arrested during Eid Al-Adha last year (August 2018) for criticizing the regime (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, August 23, 2018), and charged with spreading rumors and collaborating with the MB (Al-Ahram, Egypt, August 26, 2018). They were released nine months later (Al-Ahram, Egypt, May 21, 2019).

[9] Hamdeen Sabahi devotes much of his article to the activity of Fathi Al-Maghrabi, Moaness's grandfather, who was a devoted supporter of Egyptian president Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser and an official of his regime in the Dakahlia Governorate.

[10] The Al-Nahda dam (or Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam), on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, has been under construction since 2011. Egypt fears its possible impact on the flow of water in its part of the Nile.