Egypt's #WeNeedToTalk campaign backfires as thousands condemn Sisi's countless human rights violations

Egypt's #WeNeedToTalk campaign backfires as thousands condemn Sisi's countless human rights violations
Under the hashtag #WeNeedToTalk designed to promote an upcoming conference in Cairo, thousands of Egyptians used the platform to highlight repressions of the Sisi government.

3 min read
31 Oct, 2017
Egyptian President Sisi has been widely accused of silencing thousands of critics at home [Twitter]
Thousands of Egyptians took over a World Youth Forum hashtag designed to promote an upcoming conference in Cairo to instead highlight repressions of the Egyptian government.

The forum, "a platform that sends a message of peace, prosperity, harmony and progress to the entire world," is due to take place in November and is being hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"The forum is a chance for you to engage with top policymakers, network with promising youth from the region and the world that are determined to create real change in the world we live in today," the website reads. 

The #WeNeedToTalk hashtag was created to help promote the forum, with a video calling on young social activists keen on making a change to the world to “talk” at the upcoming November 4 event.

“If there are streets you can’t cross or clothes you can’t wear, we need to talk,” the video begins.

“If your ideas could change the world, or develop a country, we need to talk,” it adds, inviting young leaders to join the event.

But soon after the video went viral, the hashtag morphed into a platform for young Egyptians to vent about the many issues they face under Sisi’s suppressive reign.

What we really need to talk about... 

Some used the hashtag to highlight the plight of thousands of young leaders detained for mere social and political activism, while others focused on the names of those killed by security forces for no apparent reason.

Others took the opportunity to create what they believe to be a more accurate campaign for the forum, one of which showed an image of a young Egyptian man running away from a group of armed security forces, accompanied with the caption ‘We Need To Talk’.

For many, the hashtag provided an opportunity to look back on the 2014 Rabaa Massacre that left nearly 1,000 protesters dead after Egyptian forces raided a peaceful reform demonstration.

Meanwhile, some just ridiculed the idea of Sisi sponsoring an event which calls for dialogue, while repressing critics at home.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused former army chief and now President Sisi of repressive policies that stifle dissent in the media and politics, as well as the use of torture by security forces.

Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds more, and sent more than 15,000 civilians to military courts.