Promoting Inclusive Dialogue and Democracy in Egypt

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Media Contact:
Name: Dr. William Lawrence
Title: Director of MENA Programs at CSID
Phone: 202-772-3370
Email address:


CSID Statement on:

Promoting Inclusive Dialogue and Democracy in Egypt


The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) condemns in the strongest possible terms Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s re-establishment of military control of the state and its terrible repercussions on society. The Sisi regime perpetrates extreme levels of violence against nearly all civilian opponents. The regime is guilty of flagrant human rights abuses unprecedented in modern Egyptian history. Growing Western and international support for Sisi is predicated on the false hope that state violence can effectively address radicalism. This not only offends basic human values, but defies logic since it is state-sponsored oppression that leads to radicalism in the first place. Support for Sisi is thus a serious strategic error that will have devastating long-term impact on regional and global security.

CSID calls on the United States, European governments, and the international community to hold President Sisi accountable for hundreds of deaths of peaceful protesters killed by security forces, for hundreds of death sentences against political opponents, for mass detentions in the tens of thousands, for the closure of hundreds of NGO’s and of hundreds of businesses, and for the forced removal of thousands of families from their homes in the Sinai. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, Sisi governs by decree without a parliament and has criminalized independent political activity. Over 170 elected parliamentarians still languish in jail, and 3 have died there. Authorities have detained over 41,000 people-contrary to the 16,000 that the regime acknowledges. The number of regime opponents who remain in pre-trial detention for opposing Sisi’s July 2013 coup has reached 7349. Conditions of incarceration are life threatening; the semi-official National Council for Human Rights says that prisons are at 160% capacity and police stations at 300%; and 124 detainees have died in jail. There have been over 1500 death sentences, and 27 people have already been executed. Not one member of the security forces has been held accountable for the killing of over 1000 civilians in a single day, according to the U.S. government. As the U.S. administration’s May report to Congress asserted, Sisi’s crackdown on basic freedoms “does not comport with international standards . . . [and e]xcept in rare instances, police and security forces have not been held accountable for . . . human rights violations.”

Sisi promised security, but his policies have caused greater insecurity. The so-called “Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS)” is increasing its presence in eastern and southern Egypt and, because of Sisi’s policies, is gaining support. Former defenders of democracy have lost hope and crossed over to ISIS and to violent confrontation with the Sisi state. To counter these trends, CSID calls for a return to the democratic path in Egypt, including the formation of an inclusive national unity government, respect for human rights and international law, and protection of civilians. Only a return to democracy can counter the rise of extremism. Therefore, the U.S. should help accelerate the return to democracy in Egypt by re-suspending military assistance to the Sisi regime, by ending the sale of arms and technology that can be used against Egyptian civilians, and by holding Sisi and Egyptian security officials personally accountable for human rights violations. The U.S. should publicly call on Sisi to reverse hundreds of death sentences and to end the detentions of tens of thousands. If there are no reversals with regards to human rights, the U.S. should also consider trade sanctions against the military leaders who control the Egyptian economy.

CSID also decries the U.S. government’s lack of interest in meeting with diverse representatives of Egypt’s democratic opposition, including with leaders of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the main opposition party in Egypt. The U.S. appears to be abandoning the promotion of democracy, human rights, and good governance. The signals must be clear; only inclusive democracy coupled with full respect for human rights offers a path forward for Egypt and for the region. Democracy and respect for human rights should not be sacrificed in the name of counter-terrorism activities that increase terrorism. Long-term stability can only be achieved through sustainable human development and empowerment of all citizens.