Democracy and rights
The Egyptian people revolted in 2011 against a dictator who relied on military power. But after several dramatic trips, with democratic elections that the military leadership has not accepted and with recurrent bloodshed, the country is once again suffering from dictatorship. Egypt is ruled by a military-backed president, the independence of the judiciary has diminished and opponents of the regime are treated with hard gloves.
Admittedly, elections are held and elected institutions exist, but they again appear, as was the situation before the Arab Spring of 2011, as shop windows that hide a store with bad goods.
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The parliament, which is dominated by supporters of the president, voted in 2019 to change the constitution. It gave the president more power over both political decisions and the judiciary, and the military’s influence – which was already great – has been strengthened. The incumbent president now also has the opportunity to remain for many years. The changes have been implemented by Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, who, sprung from the military leadership, in 2013 had the resignation of a democratically elected president, Muhammad Mursi. New presidential elections have been held ever since, but counter-candidates to Sisi have been kept away by arrests, or the challengers have withdrawn.
Civic attempts to stop constitutional changes with the help of name-gathering have been averted by government intervention against Internet sites. The regime’s opponents, both secular and liberal as well as Islamists, are thwarted. Bloggers and twitters are arrested. The law prohibits public gatherings – and thus demonstrations – without permission.
Generals sit on key posts and the Defense Forces handle large infrastructure projects. Military-owned companies operate in all industries, and police and defense personnel can start their own security companies. The result is that legal gray zones are created and the sometimes large contracts that are handled increase the risk of money falling into the wrong pockets. In the 2019 corruption index compiled by the organization Transparency International, Egypt was ranked 106th out of 180 countries, see list here.
Abbreviated as EGY by Abbreviationfinder, Egypt is a traditional society, where phenomena such as genital mutilation persist even though they are prohibited by law and not defended by the highest religious authorities (see Social Conditions).
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the Constitution, but in practice it is limited. State power silences critical voices. The situation has worsened in recent years and Egypt has become one of the countries where most journalists are in prison. Egypt ranked 166th out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders rankings of press freedom in the world countries by 2020, see list here. The investment deteriorated compared to the previous year.
After the 2011 revolution, a period of relatively great freedom of expression followed, but the freedom was short-lived. Every regime since then has circumvented it. Already the military council that took over when the dictator Hosni Mubarak had overthrown was accused of trying to control the media through threats and censorship. When then-elected Islamist Muhammad Mursi took office as president, the restrictions gained new sign: state media editors were replaced so that the media was controlled by people loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood (see Religion and Political System). Prosecution was brought against media representatives who were believed to have offended Mursi and spread false rumors. Mursi was overthrown by the military in 2013 – and then the authorities shut down Islamist-oriented media instead.
According to press freedom organizations, censorship and control of the media is now harder under the Mubarakeran. Journalists are subjected to violence, threats and arbitrary arrests. Contempt, rioting, and blasphemy are vaguely worded “crimes” that can give prison. Journalists have been charged with terrorism – usually after reporting on protests or talking to members of the now-stamped Brotherhood – and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ahead of the 2018 presidential election, the government explicitly warned media to spread “fake news” or challenge moral values. The President announced that reporting perceived as slander by military or police should be considered treason. A TV presenter was sentenced in 2019 to one year of penal work after interviewing a gay man, which was interpreted as saying that the presenter wanted to encourage an undesirable behavior by the community.
The Internet and social media played a crucial role during the Arab Spring and new magazines were launched in 2011, at the same time as previously regime-loyal newspapers went on to support the revolution. But now the media has largely come up around the military-supported leadership. While social media continues to have some impact both as a discussion forum and as a news broker, widespread illiteracy makes TV the most important information medium.
Among the newspapers, the semi-official al-Ahram (founded in 1875) has long been regarded as the largest and most influential. Several other major newspapers are owned by the state.
The Coptic Church was allowed in 2005 to start the first Christian TV station, Aghapy Television.
Judicial system and legal security
Islamic law, sharia, officially forms the basis of Egypt’s legislation, but the system is strongly influenced by French legal tradition. According to the Constitution, the judiciary should be independent, but it has only partially worked. The constitutional amendments in 2019 strengthen the president’s control over the judiciary, for example through appointments of judges. Furthermore, complex rules mean that litigation is often extended.
Thousands of civilians have been brought before military courts since 2011. Military and special courts have violated the rights of the accused and have been extensively used in charges of terrorism or crime against the security of the nation. Since a military-backed government regained power in 2013, according to international human rights organizations, Egypt has become a prominent police state.
From 2014, mass trials have been held, sometimes with hundreds of defendants, mainly against members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The trials are carried out at a rapid pace and often result in long prison sentences or the death penalty. Many of those convicted have succeeded in having their sentences reviewed, but at the same time a drastic increase in the number of executed death sentences was reported in 2019. A total of 26 death sentences had been enforced since the mass trials began, according to information provided by the AFP news agency.
Not only Egyptian citizens can suffer badly. In 2016, an Italian student was found dead with injuries suggesting he had been tortured. He was in Egypt to research unionism, which is a delicate subject. Egyptian authorities have denied that security personnel are responsible for his death, but have provided little credible explanations as to how he would have otherwise met the death.
Grants against NGOs
Authorities are carrying out a raid and seizing materials, closing offices and accusing employees of illegal activities. Several major international human rights organizations are affected.
New violence at Tahrir Square
Again, violence erupts when military intervenes against protesters in Cairo.
Parliamentary elections begin
The election begins November 28-29, when Cairo and Alexandria, among others, vote in a first round of elections. The election to the lower house, the People’s Assembly, will be carried out on a total of six different occasions during one and a half months.
New Prime Minister
Kamal Ganzouri is appointed to the post, which he also held from 1996 to 1999.
The government resigns after new violence
More than 40 people are killed in new protests against the ruling military council, in which both Islamists and secular activists participate. As a result, the Provisional Government resigns.
Bloody clash with cups
A demonstration with mainly Christian Copts degenerates into a massacre that requires about 25 people’s lives, most of them Copts. Several hundred injured. The military is accused of mowing down people with army vehicles. Accusations are being made that the military regime is trying to split between Christians and Muslims.
Israeli embassy attacks
Protesters who have protested outside the Cairo embassy for several weeks are breaking into the building. Embassy staff are evacuated by Egyptian soldiers. Several hundred are reported to have been injured in the riot.
Police shot dead at Israel border
Israeli military shoots five Egyptian police at border with Gaza Strip in connection with chasing armed men following an attack on Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of adherents to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups demand that Islamic law remain the basis of all legislation, even under a new constitution.
The parliamentary elections foreseen in September have been postponed.
The government announces that up to 700 police officers have been fired because of the shooting deaths during the revolution.
Tens of thousands continue to demonstrate against the military council. Dissatisfaction is rife, especially among young people, that the political changes are slow.
Mubarak convicted, murder charges pending
A first verdict against Mubarak comes when a district court orders him to pay multimillion dollars for causing damage to the country’s economy by shutting down the internet and telephone systems at the start of the revolution. It has also been announced that murder charges are pending.
The border to the Gaza Strip opens
The border crossing has been closed for four years.
Church burning announces violence
Violent clashes between Muslims and Copts in Cairo erupt after three Coptic churches were set on fire, after accusations that a Christian woman would have been barred from converting to Islam. Fifteen people are killed in the violence and over 200 injured.
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is formed
According to the representatives, the FJP, which is the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, should be an open and democratic party, and not a prominent Islamist party.
846 dead during the revolution
The death toll is set in an official investigation into the violence during the barely three weeks that led to Mubarak’s departure. The security forces are accused of using force. Over 6,400 were injured in the unrest.
NDP is dissolved
The Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt orders that the assets of the former ruling party be transferred to the new government.
Mubarak and his sons are arrested
The president and his two sons Gamal and Ala are suspected of corruption and abuse of power.
Yes to constitutional amendments
In a referendum, 77 percent voted in favor, among other things, that the president’s term of office be shortened to four years, and that no one may hold office for more than two periods. The turnout is just over 41 percent.
New Prime Minister
Ahmed Shafiq resigns after only a month, due to criticism that old Mubarak employees remain in the government. New Prime Minister becomes Essam Sharaf, a former minister who, unlike Shafiq, joined the opposition during the protests.
Mubarak gets an outlaw ban
The prosecutor freezes Mubarak’s assets and bans both him and his family from leaving the country.
Islamist Party approved
A court approves for the first time an Islamist party, al-Wasat. The party was formed in 1996 by defectors from the Muslim Brotherhood, but has not been able to register.
Elections in six months
The Military Council says it plans to sit in power for six months, until “parliamentary and presidential elections are conducted”.
The President hands over to a military council headed by Field Marshal Muhammed Hussein Tantawi. The military leadership has acted as a guarantor for the promised democratization to be carried out and free elections held.
Continued protests and strikes
Protests are now taking place in many parts of the country, strikes are taking place in workplaces. Mubarak claims he will remain until September, but will hand over power to the vice president.
Opponents and supporters of the regime are loosening each other. Some of the “supporters” are suspected of being civilian-clad police posted by the regime. Several foreign journalists are being abused and the UN is launching an evacuation of its employees. The blockade of Internet traffic in Egypt is lifted.
At least one million people gather around Tahrir Square. Mubarak promises reforms and says he will not run in the presidential election scheduled for September.
New government is appointed
Mubarak dissolves the government and appoints former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq as new Prime Minister. Despite the curfew in Cairo, protests are growing. The police stay away but now the military is deployed instead. Looting and destruction is reported in several parts of the country.
After the Friday prayer, large crowds gather at Tahrir Square. Clashes occur and hundreds are reported to have been seized by the security service.
The regime is trying to create a blackout
The regime is trying to shut down Internet and mobile phone traffic in the country, but is not completely successful.
Tens of thousands in protest on National Day
Following calls on social media, on National Police Day, people gather for a demonstration at the Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) in Cairo, and elsewhere in the country. Inspiration comes from Tunisia, where the longtime dictator Ben Ali has just been forced away. Police are trying to stop protesters with tear gas and the regime bans all forms of protests.
Over 20 dead in terror against church
The suicide attack against the Coptic Church in Alexandria is followed by several days of riots in Alexandria and Cairo, as Copts demand better protection and clash with police.