Egyptian authorities in recent months have demonstrated almost zero tolerance for any form of dissent, arresting and prosecuting journalists, demonstrators, and academics for peacefully expressing their views, says Human Rights Watch:
Prosecutors on January 29, 2014, referred three Al Jazeera English journalists to trial on politicized charges such as disseminating “false information” and belonging to a “terrorist organization,” some of which carry prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years. At least 17 other journalists and opposition figures face similar charges in the same case, with the trial scheduled to begin on February 20. On January 19, prosecutors referred 25 people to trial on charges of “insulting the judiciary,” including Amr Hamzawy, an academic and former member of parliament….
In early January 2014 authorities charged another prominent academic, the Cairo University political science professor Emad Shahin, along with senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, with conspiring with foreign organizations to harm Egyptian national security. Both Shahin and Hamzawy had been vocal critics of President Mohamed Morsy’s government, but they had also criticized the bloody repression of the Brotherhood after the military removed Morsy from power.
The state-sponsored narrative portrays Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi as the national hero who saved Egypt from “the U.S.-backed” Muslim Brotherhood, says Shahin, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center:
Nativist chauvinism and anti-Americanism are on the rise. Mustafa Bakry, a well-known pro-Sissi journalist, has threatened to “massacre Americans in the streets” if Sissi is harmed. If Sissi is elected president this spring, he probably will try to consolidate more power. But as Egypt’s economy deteriorates, popular protests are likely to expand, especially among the young, and indiscriminate violence from radical elements may increase.
“Egypt is spiraling toward instability and radicalization. Since last summer’s coup, the military-backed regime has used brute force to try to restore peace and manage its form of ‘democratic transition’,” he
writes for the Washington Post. “But its repressive strategy to physically eliminate political opponents, restore stability and end society’s acute polarization is backfiring,” says Shahin, editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics:
Under U.S. law, to maintain aid to Egypt, Secretary of State John F. Kerry must soon certify to Congress that the pro-coup government is moving toward a democratic transition. Events in Egypt since last summer make clear that democracy and the rule of law are in serious retreat. Kerry should inform Egypt’s generals that the United States cannot fund a regime that kills peaceful protesters, tortures political detainees, arrests journalists, stifles dissent and reverts to a repressive military rule. More bloodshed and repression will not lead Egypt to stability and are likely to provoke counter-violence.
“The key to stability is upholding essential democratic values and restoring civilian control over the political process,” Shahin concludes.