Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told journalists during a press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris that, "It is never appropriate for us to be described by you as a tyrant." He is wrong; it is entirely appropriate. Nevertheless, Sisi appeared to be angry at the journalists' questions about the horrific human rights situation in Egypt and the arrest of officials from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
The three members of the EIPR were released after international pressure. Sisi told Le Figaro that they had been arrested for not having a licence to work in Egypt. However, he did not answer our questions about the charges of terrorism, withholding funds and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian Attorney General made against them during the investigations.
Shortly after Sisi tried to deny that he is a tyrant, we saw even more tyranny by the Egyptian regime when it conspired to ensure that Ahmed Tantawi MP was not re-elected in order to ensure that he could no longer ask awkward questions in parliament. He has always adopted honourable positions, such as his refusal to concede the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia and rejection of the recent constitutional amendments.
Taking down Tantawi through fraudulent means by switching his results with those of another candidate reminded us of the Mubarak regime rigging the elections. This happened with Mostafa El-Feki and Gamal Heshmat in 2005. Is there anything more tyrannical than rigging parliamentary elections to distort the will of the people, and controlling the legislative authority?
In the same country ruled by Sisi the tyrant, pre-trial detention was renewed for more than 700 political detainees in one session and in less than ten minutes, including detainees with serious health problems. Hoda Abdel Moneim, for example, whose kidneys have stopped working completely, had her detention renewed for another 45 days despite her condition; as did Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, who has life-threatening health conditions. Their calls for clemency fell on deaf ears.
Another form of tyranny was demonstrated in the photos and videos that the Sisi regime issued showing Dr Mahmoud Ezzat, the Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, in his first appearance in court after his arrest nearly two months ago. Ezzat appeared to be very weak, ill and both physically and mentally exhausted. These images were a message from Sisi that this is the fate of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and those affiliated with them, in an attempt to score a victory over his opponents at home and abroad.
This week we have seen Italian prosecutors issuing a detailed statement in which they name four senior officers of the Egyptian National Security Service and the Interior Ministry who are accused of the torture and murder of researcher Giulio Regeni in 2016. This crime is yet more evidence that Sisi's regime does not take international laws and human rights agreements seriously. The Egyptian regime will reject these accusations and will not hand over its officers, because this is just the tip of the iceberg, as Sisi knows all too well; he could be named next.
Sisi the tyrant's cruelty knows no bounds. He even prevented the family of a senior Muslim Brotherhood official from travelling to see their father in exile for many years. Ayman Abdel-Ghani died in Istanbul, alone, after contracting Covid-19.
What was also noticeable this week was that Sisi's media mouthpieces, such as Ahmed Musa and Nashat Al-Dehi, continued to praise and flatter the Egyptian president, describing his visit to France as historic. Amr Adeeb of Saudi Arabia's MBC, meanwhile, expressed his deep concern over what the days ahead have in store for Sisi's regime. Adeeb believes that the world is changing and will continue to do so, and that demands and interests will also change. Sisi and his tyrannical regime must keep pace with this change and deal with the files that the West wants him to in a different way.
The very fact that Sisi has demanded that his prime minister should turn Egypt into a modern civil democratic state, suggests that even he understands that it is anything but that at the moment. I would suggest that it is still is a dictatorial military state, and will remain so as long as Sisi the tyrant is at the helm.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 12 December 2020.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.