In the run-up to a trip of German members of the Bundestag to Egypt, the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) appeals to them not only to consult the Egyptian government, but above all to pay attention to the victims. The dictatorship of the former field marshal and head of the secret service Al-Sisi is now harsher and more cruel than that of all his predecessors, including the Muslim brother Mohammed Mursi. Systematic torture and thousands of arbitrary arrests serve exclusively to keep the de facto ruling military in power, criticises ISHR spokesman Martin Lessenthin. Attacks against Christians and other religious minorities and systematic discrimination against women, however, are largely ignored by the Egyptian government. It is therefore not a partner for development cooperation.
Under the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the human rights situation in Egypt has been increasingly deteriorating for years.
The ISHR is convinced that the reason for the precarious situation of the native Christians and women is the ever growing Islamic fundamentalism, which is even further strengthened by the state school and university system. The “security apparatus” of the Al-Sisi government is directed exclusively against immediate threats of the ruling military elite and its clientele, which also controls large parts of the Egyptian economy. The victims of arbitrary imprisonment and torture are therefore both actual terrorists and the Muslim Brotherhood striving for political power. Meanwhile, however, they are also trade unionists and the now largely crushed democracy- and human-rights-movement – and thus the Islamists’ most important societal antagonists.
Radical and even extremist Islamists, some of whom are supported by Saudi Arabia but are not direct competitors for power, are left completely undisturbed by the Al-Sisi government. They successfully spread their fundamentalist and anti-human-rights world view. They sow hatred against people of other faiths and spread their misogynist world view undisturbed, the ISHR explains. Even in schools and state institutions such as the world-famous Al-Azhar University, agitators propagate unhindered human rights violations against people of other faiths and against women. In this way, new cohorts of young people and young Muslim clergymen are indoctrinated.
No safety for minorities
On October 11th, an Egyptian military court sentenced 17 people to death and others to life imprisonment for their involvement as members of the “Islamic State in Egypt” in three attacks against Coptic churches. The ISHR does not see this as a positive sign for the protection of Egyptian Christians. Martin Lessenthin, spokesman of the ISHR’s executive board, explains:
“Both the death penalty itself and the systematic use of torture and trials in military courts show that the issue is not the rule of law, but only the combat against a rival for power. In other cases those responsible for attacks and even pogroms against minorities have not been held accountable at all.”
In the opinion of the ISHR, the recent verdics on attacks on Christians showed that the government by arbitrary mass arrests and torture drives even completely uninvolved persons into the arms of the Islamists. One of the assassins was Mahmoud Shafiq, a student who had – even according to the Egyptian State Security – previously been completely uninvolved. Arbitrarily arrested, arbitrarily imprisoned and repeatedly tortured, he became an Islamist fanatic who killed himself and 29 other people in an attack in a church in Cairo.
Dictatorships create the basis for the refugee tragedies of tomorrow
The ISHR points out that “deals” with dictatorships cannot permanently solve the refugee problem. The “Arab Spring” had shown that the Arab states were only ostensibly stable.
“Countries like Egypt are no guarantee of stability. Instead of tackling the problems of their country, the Al-Sisi government is trying, by way of arbitrariness and violence, to stifle any open discussion about solutions. In this Al-Sisi is no different from the Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad. Corruption, political failure, coupled with arbitrariness and torture, prepare the ground for the next outbreak of violence”, criticises the ISHR.
Egypt is more repressive than ever – more cruel than the Mubarak system. Only by respecting human rights do countries like Egypt have a perspective for stability and development.
Even a European tortured to death
Since the military seizure of power on July 3rd, 2013, thousands of Egyptians have been arrested and tortured in a completely arbitrary manner. Among the victims, according to the ISHR, are by far not only actual terrorists, but also many representatives of the Egyptian civil society, completely innocent people and mere sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As a particularly striking example, the ISHR refers to the murder of the Italian student Giulio Regeni. He had worked in Egypt for his doctoral thesis on trade unions and labour law. This is a sensitive issue in Egypt, as the de facto ruling military is Egypt’s largest employer through an extensive network of companies. After his arrest, there was initially no trace of him anywhere for days. On February 3rd, 2016, his half-undressed and mutilated body was found. Among other things, his toe- and fingernails had been torn out. The Egyptian police spoke of a “traffic accident”.