North Africa, West Asia

In Egypt, every voice is to be silenced

The battle in Egypt is now no longer about an ousted elected president or a counter-revolution taking place. As if this were not enough, it is about fundamental human rights being violated publically and systematically by a military regime.

Islam Abdel-Rahman
7 February 2014

Every day strange news keeps issuing from post-coup Egypt. From the imprisonment of a student for having a ruler with the Rabaa sign on it, to the accusation of a puppet for planning terror plots; the news has turned into some sort of dark comedy. However, one of these daily news items that stopped me in its tracks was the espionage charge against Dr Emad Shahin, a respected and internationally recognized Egyptian political scientist. After the revolution, I followed Dr Shahin’s publications and attended some of his public lectures. I also had the opportunity to meet him in person and travelled with him to attend a political forum organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Virginia, USA.

Anyone who has dealt with Dr Shahin knows that he is professional, non-ideological and objective. During that forum he criticized the Freedom and Justice Party on some issues. However, he also criticized the political opposition for some of their practices. While I did not agree with all of his points of view, I couldn’t deny that he had reasonable arguments. I respect him for steadily observing the political scene in Egypt from a different angle during these difficult times. He is one of those critics who force you to take his criticism seriously.

Dr Shahin is one of the people who disapproves of the military coup in Egypt and he has made this clear through his articles and posts about the violations and abuses that took place after last July’s coup. He was not standing with or against any political group or faction, but for core values and principles that any professional political scientist, let alone decent human being, would stand up for.

But apparently professionalism and objectivity have no place in Egypt after the military coup. You may laugh or cry on reading the charges brought against Dr Shahin. The current regime in Egypt is not tolerant of any voice of dissent irrespective of who voices it. Any criticism of the junta today is a sign of disloyalty and betrayal. If you are an Islamist, you will immediately be accused of terrorism and if you are not an Islamist, as in the case of Dr Shahin, you will have a long and convoluted list of charges brought against you. This applies to anyone who doesn’t pay homage to the junta, whether he is supportive of Morsi or an opponent like the liberal politician and academic, Amr Hamzawy.

To make the picture darker, even reporting on the voices of those critics can put you under the same umbrella. Despite the mild coverage of the Anti-Coup movement in Egypt, journalists - especially foreign ones – have become a target by the regime, just for reporting a critical point of view or holding a camera recording at an Anti-Coup rally. The Al Jazeera English team imprisoned is the most famous case, however the numbers keep on rising. The latest is the case of a Dutch journalist, Rena Netjes, who had to flee the country, with assistance from her embassy, after being accused of what can only be called ludicrous charges. This systematic targeting led Dr Shahin to flee the country, following the advice of his lawyers, because they themselves don’t feel secure in situations like this.

The battle in Egypt now is no longer merely about an ousted elected president or a counter-revolution taking place. It is about fundamental human rights being violated publically and systematically by a military regime that seems intent on taking the Middle East’s largest and most populous country back to the dark ages of repression and dictatorship. 

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