An Egyptian activist spoke out about the country’s repressive government and human rights violations on Jan. 25, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the revolutionary uprisings that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
Hossam Bahgat, an investigative reporter and human rights activist who was recently detained by Egyptian authorities, explained that since the uprisings that toppled Mubarak in 2011, a crackdown by security forces has led to widespread repression.
“The level of repression now is significantly higher than it was under the Mubarak regime, and people from older generations say it is worse than even the worst periods of the 1950s and 1960s [under the rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser],” Bahgat told The Guardian.
Under Mubarak’s rule, torture, random arrests and forced disappearances were common. After his ouster, Egypt held its first-ever democratic elections, which brought former President Mohammed Morsi to power in 2012. Morsi and his Islamist political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, were toppled in a military takeover in 2013, after which Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi took over the presidency.
Since then, according to Bahgat, human rights violations and levels of repression have worsened. Egypt’s military regime has imposed restrictions on media outlets, jailed numerous political prisoners and carried out forced disappearances and alleged extrajudicial killings, reports The Associated Press. One of its biggest targets has been the Muslim Brotherhood, the now-outlawed political party of former president Morsi.
Repression has also increased ahead of Revolutionary Day, the country’s commemoration of the 2011 popular uprisings. The Egyptian military, claiming a desire to fight terrorism, has raided thousands of homes in Cairo, investigated cultural institutions and book publishers and outlawed protests of any kind.
Bahgat, the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was detained by military authorities in 2014 because of an article he wrote for independent news outlet Mada Masr, which investigated a failed attempt to overthrow the president. An international outcry, including a response from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, led to his release, reports The Guardian.
Egypt under el-Sissi has jailed more journalists than any country other than China, a fact Bahgat describes as a sign of the government’s fear of losing control.
“Two years ago this regime thought it was invincible,” Bahgat said. “Right now we’re in a position where clear cracks are starting to appear within the ruling circles, and there’s a level of criticism of government conduct and corruption that simply did not exist before.”