Human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Masry is one of hundreds who have been arrested in recent days, as part of an escalating crackdown in response to protests in a number of Egyptian cities demanding the resignation of Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi. According to reports from a friend who was speaking to her on the telephone during her arrest, and several eyewitness, Mahienour was bundled into a microbus by plain-clothed officers on the afternoon of 22 September after attending the prosecutor’s office to follow up on arrests of alleged protesters.
Hundreds demonstrated in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Mahalla, Suez and several other cities across Egypt on Friday 20 September in a rare show of public defiance against Sisi’s authoritarian regime. Videos circulated on social media showing crowds chanting against the regime. In Suez, where clashes erupted with police for a second night on Saturday 21 September, crowds could be heard chanting “There is no God but God, and Sisi is the enemy of God.” Protesters who gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the epicentre of the 2011 revolution, could be heard using the familiar slogan: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”
The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights said on Sunday more than 350 people have been arrested in the wake of the protests. In addition to people suspected of being involved in the demonstrations, the regime has also targeted political activists and well-known opposition figures. In addition to Mahienour el-Masry, a leading figure in the opposition Karama (Dignity) Party, Abdel Aziz el-Husseini, was also reported to have been arrested on Sunday. In Assyut, Mamdouh Makram of the Bread and Freedom Party was taken from his house by police on Saturday.
The trigger for the protests was a series of videos by whistleblower Mohamed Ali, a former military contractor, now living in Spain. In a series of videos released since the beginning of September, Ali accused Sisi, his son, and other senior figures in the regime of corruption by diverting public funds into their own pockets, building luxurious palaces and villas while ordinary Egyptians struggle to feed their families. Inequality and poverty has soared in Egypt in recent years. According to government statistics, one third of the population live below the poverty line.
Dissent is normally ruthlessly crushed and there are almost no legal means to voice even mild criticism of the regime. Tens of thousands of political prisoners have passed through Sisi’s jails since 2013, with hundreds of cases of forced disappearances and torture each year.
The theme of Sisi as a thief or a gangster has been taken up in many social media posts, and by activists in Paris and Berlin who organised protests in solidarity with demonstrations in Egypt.
What you can do
- Send a letter of protest to the Egyptian embassy demanding the immediate release of Mahienour el-Masry, Abdel Aziz el-Husseini, Mamdouh Makram and all other political prisoners in Egypt.
- Follow and share updates from the Free Mahienour Facebook page here