Sisi admits lack of 'communication, mutual trust' with youth

Sisi admits lack of 'communication, mutual trust' with youth
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has admitted a lack of communication and mutual trust with Egypt's youth, claiming he did not mind criticism, despite a growing crackdown on dissent.
3 min read
02 February, 2016
Sisi broke his silence in a phone interview with a local talk show [AFP]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has phoned a local talk show late on Monday to break his silence on two major youth issues that have engaged the public opinion in heated debate for the past two days.

The first issue concerned the Port Said stadium massacre that left 74 young football fans dead in February 2012, as thousands of ultra-fanatical supporters of the al-Ahly football club - known as Ultras Ahlawy - shouted anti-government chants on Monday, calling for the execution of former army chief Mohammad Hussein al-Tantawi who was Egypt's de facto ruler at the time of the massacre.

The second issue discussed by Sisi in the phone interview was the arrest of Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish on Sunday for allegedly moderating a Facebook page and news website without a permit, as well as "insulting the regime".

In response, Sisi claimed in the interview that he was not mad at the youth who criticise him, adding that he did not mind criticism by anyone.

"I am not mad at Gawish or anyone... No one can speak on my behalf and say that I get upset from criticism," he said in the interview.

The President then admitted failure to communicate with the youth and gain their trust.

"We [the state] are the ones who have failed to communicate with the youth," he said.

"I am putting a lot of effort into reaching mutual trust with them, but I know it will take time."

Crackdown on dissent

Many found Sisi's statements ironic, as scores of Islamist, liberal and secular activists have been jailed since he came to power in June 2014.

Activists like Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mahienour al-Masry are currently serving prison sentences in separate cases for violating the infamous anti-protest law that was issued by a presidential decree in 2013, shortly after the military - led by Sisi at the time - ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi following popular protests.

We [the state] are the ones who have failed to communicate with the youths.
- Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

The law, described by the Cairo Insitute for Human Rights Studies as "draconian," has received wide local and international criticism.

The most recent wave of arrests took place ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 25 January revolution that toppled Dictator Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.

Security forces raided thousands of apartments near the iconic Tahrir Square, confiscating laptops and arresting anyone linked to Facebook pages calling for anti-regime protests.

In addition, forced disappearances have been of particular concern in Egypt, as Cairo officials have been accused of causing hundreds of people to "vanish", according to local and international human rights organisations.