Despite Worsening Human Rights Record, Biden Administration Contemplates Lifting Block on $300 Million in Military Aid Conditioned on Reforms
(Washington D.C., August 11, 2021) – After coming to power, President al-Sisi promised civilian rule, a robust economy, an end to the armed conflict in Sinai, and an Egyptian society based on the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Eight years later, these broken promises underscore Sisi's authoritarian rule and the repressive state that his government has created.
Democracy in the Arab World Now's (DAWN) new analysis examines eight egregious broken promises from the Sisi government and how they perpetuate state repression, poor socioeconomic conditions, and an unaccountable military that benefits from corrupt dealings at the expense of the Egyptian people.
"A close look at Egypt eight years on shows a dark reality of broken promises, with Egyptians living under near total military control of their government and economy, seemingly endless war and destruction in the Sinai, and unprecedented crackdowns on personal freedoms and civil society," said John Hursh, Program Director of DAWN. "That the Biden administration is even considering lifting the human rights block on $300 million of Egypt's $1.3 billion aid package despite the country's appalling human rights record is an outrage to every Egyptian who has been terrorized by Sisi's reign."
"A close look at Egypt eight years on shows a dark reality of broken promises, with Egyptians living under near total military control of their government and economy, seemingly endless war and destruction in the Sinai, and unprecedented crackdowns on personal freedoms and civil society."
- John Hursh, Program Director of DAWN
Egyptians now face a deeply repressive state and little economic opportunity. And despite promises to ensure civilian rule and end military interference in the country's economy, Sisi's regime has done just the opposite. Military control permeates nearly all aspects of Egypt's government and economy, including a seemingly endless war in the Sinai and unprecedented crackdowns on civil society, journalists, and human rights defenders. Gender inequality and sexual harassment remain rampant and academic researchers face serious repercussions for even mild criticism of the government.
Rather than conducting business as usual, the Biden administration should consider the broken promises that the Sisi government has made to the Egyptian people and al-Sisi's deplorable human rights record:
Al-Sisi has scaled back hard-won academic freedoms and dramatically expanded the government's control over universities, faculty members, and students.
- Unprecedented Military Control over Government, No Civilian Oversight
Al-Sisi promised civilian rule, but the Egyptian military now exercises unprecedented control of the government with virtually no meaningful civilian oversight.
- Expanded Military Control over Egypt's Economy, with Vast Ownership of Businesses throughout the Country
Al-Sisi expanded the military's economic control by allowing the military to manage and administer massive state-run entities and reap profits that should flow to all Egyptians.
- The Egyptian People Remain Impoverished
Al-Sisi promised to strengthen Egypt's economy and improve the economic conditions for all Egyptians, but military elites have benefited while many Egyptians remain impoverished, with about one in three Egyptians (32.5%) living beneath the national poverty line.
- Al-Sisi Promised Enhanced Freedoms, But Expanded Restrictions on Civil Society
Despite a stated commitment to strengthening civil and political rights, al-Sisi now presides over the most repressive government in modern Egyptian history. NGOs and human rights defenders continue to face arbitrary travel bans and asset freezes from the government's relentless attack on civil society.
- Al-Sisi Promised Greater Protection for Women, but the Repression and Abuse of Women Has Increased
Al-Sisi's has failed to ensure women greater protection, and gender inequality, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence have increased under his government.
- Al-Sisi Promised to Defeat Armed Groups in the Sinai, but his Secret War Rages On
Leveraging his military background, al-Sisi promised a swift and decisive victory over armed groups fighting in the Sinai; however, this secret war marked by international humanitarian law violations and serious human rights abuses drags on indefinitely. Continued violence in Sinai underscores the destruction and cost of the conflict, as Egyptian media sources reported 89 casualties on August 1 after a recent military operation.
- No Access to Information, with al-Sisi as the Gatekeeper
Al-Sisi promised a more open Egyptian society, but access to and freedom of information have sharply declined as part of the government's relentless attack on journalists and the press.
- Expanded Control Over Universities, Curtailed Academic Freedom
Al-Sisi has scaled back hard-won academic freedoms and dramatically expanded the government's control over universities, faculty members, and students. Egypt's repressive security apparatus, including the intelligence services and Supreme State Security Prosecution, target Egyptian researchers at home and abroad. These abusive tactics have forced several researchers to choose between exile or arrest, though even those able to leave Egypt find their families targeted and harassed by the Sisi government.