Sisi dubs Egypt 'oasis of stability' amid crackdown ahead of January 25 revolution anniversary

Sisi dubs Egypt 'oasis of stability' amid crackdown ahead of January 25 revolution anniversary
Calls for protests on the Egyptian revolution's ninth anniversary have spread on social media.
4 min read
24 January, 2020
Activists say Egyptian authorities fear a repeat of the 2011 revolution [Getty]
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed on Thursday his country has become "an oasis of security and stability" under his rule, despite reports of a fresh crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the ninth anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

Sisi - who seized power from Egypt's first democratically elected president in a 2013 coup - spoke at an annual ceremony celebrating Police Day, which falls on January 25.

That is the same date that thousands of Egyptians took to the streets beginning a revolt that soon forced longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Activists have complained that Egyptian authorities are randomly stopping people in downtown Cairo, the epicenter of the 2011 revolution, for fear that similar demonstrations could erupt on Saturday.  

"The whole world has seen how Egypt has turned into an oasis of security and stability in only a few years," Sisi told a large audience of government officials, commanders in the country's security apparatus and religious leaders in the lavish auditorium of Egypt's police academy in the capital.

"I will always value and take pride in the fact that you and your fellows in the armed forces are facing a fierce battle against dark terrorism," he said.

In 2013, Sisi, then defence minister, led the military's overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, an elected but divisive president who hailed from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. The nation's oldest and largest Islamist organization was outlawed and branded a terrorist group the same year.

Read more: Sisi's brutal crackdown continues, aided by western accomplices

Since then, Sisi's government has presided over a fierce crackdown on dissent. It has also battled an extremist insurgency, mainly in the northern Sinai peninsula, where the armed forces have been accused of war crimes.

As Egypt approaches the ninth anniversary of its historic pro-democracy uprising, many wonder whether demonstrators will again return to the streets despite a pervasive atmosphere of fear.

Last September, thousands were arrested, including prominent academics, journalists and politicians following rare protests that erupted following corruption allegations leveled against the president and military by a self-exiled former military contractor.

On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry issued a statement alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood was plotting to "spread chaos" and "undermine the country's stability" by using social media to call for protests and rioting on January 25. The statement said authorities had arrested members of the Muslim Brotherhood and discovered several weapon caches.

Plotters were coordinating their efforts with fugitive militants who reside in Turkey, the statement claimed.

In recent weeks, there have been calls on social media to take to the streets on Saturday to protest Sisi's rule. More than the usual number of police vehicles have been been seen in and near downtown Cairo since last week.

"Downtown Cairo has turned into a military barrack. It is full of secret police who would stop anyone," said Mohamed Zaree, a human rights activist with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He said police were checking the smart phones of those arrested for any possible incendiary political content.

"What is going on definitely has to do with the upcoming anniversary of the January 25 revolution," Zaree said. "The regime is always scared that the January 25 scenario might get repeated."

Since Sisi seized power, state officials and state-controlled media have spread the narrative that the 2011 uprising was the outcome of a conspiracy by the Brotherhood and its regional allies, namely Turkey and Qatar.

His government even renamed the January 25 national holiday as Police Day instead of The Revolution Day, in a move widely seen by the regime's critics as an attempt to erase the memory of that day. 

However, in his Thursday speech, Sisi hailed the anniversary of the 2011 pro-democracy rallies as "a precious occasion".

"Today coincides with the anniversary of the January 25 revolution with its noble demands that the Egyptian citizen would lead a dignified life," he said.

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