Socialist Worker

General Sisi—Egypt's butcher president at large

Egypt’s dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is trying to hide his bloody record with a major diplomatic tour—and David Cameron is rolling out the red carpet to help him. But el-Sisi is a killer who must be exposed, writes Judith Orr

Issue No. 2478

David Cameron meets Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the UN in 2014

David Cameron meets Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the UN in 2014 (Pic: Number 10 on Flickr)


A murderer is on the loose and is travelling the world. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s military backed president, wants to hide his bloody record. And David Cameron is helping by giving him the red carpet treatment.

Britain is just the former top general’s latest stop. He was welcomed in Germany in June and Italy and France in November 2014.

He met Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in April and has also been courted in Russia.

The US renewed its £841 million in military aid to Egypt earlier this year.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade estimates that British arms exports to Egypt have gone up by over 3,000 percent this year. The value of export licenses since August 2013 is £56 million.

“It’s appalling,” Sameh Safi from the Stop Sisi campaign in Britain told Socialist Worker.

“Sisi has jailed over 40,000 people, torture is rife and 3,400 people have been killed since his regime came to power. It was Sisi who designed the so-called ‘virginity tests’ of women protesters.”

Sisi is the personification of Egypt’s counter-revolution.

He presides over a regime of repression even more brutal than the last years of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.

A mass popular revolution toppled the Western-backed Mubarak in 2011. Since then the state and ruling class has fought to reassert its power.

Western powers have been forced to adapt to the revolts from below in a region they want to control.

They declare their commitment to democracy but ally themselves with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain despite their crushing of political opposition.

The West supported the tyrant Mubarak until the last moment.

David Cameron then claimed the activists who had fought in Cairo’s Tahrir Square “genuinely inspired” him. Now he is welcoming their butcher.

The Gulf regimes are bankrolling Sisi’s counter-revolution, and he is giving them value for money.

A leading member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists (RS) told Socialist Worker, “Sisi is offering a strong army and stability.

“He is being feted in Europe because he is saying that without him Egypt could become another Syria, except with a much larger population. He’s arguing that if his regime collapsed there would be an even greater surge of refugees into Europe.

“European politicians are buying this.”

Sisi’s most bloody crime was the mass murder of around 1,000 mainly Muslim Brotherhood protesters at Raba’a al-Adawiyya and al-Nahda Squares in Cairo (see right).

No one in the government or security forces has been held to account.

The Muslim Brotherhood has faced the harshest repression.

The military want to portray themselves as the saviours of the revolution that the Brotherhood was destroying.

Imprisoned

Sisi has banned the Brotherhood, imprisoned thousands of its members and sentenced hundreds to death, including former president Mohamed Mursi.

Sisi has whipped up fear that the Brotherhood is just like Isis and so has to be smashed. The vast majority of liberal and left forces in Egypt accept this.

The Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt have stood out against the repression of the Brotherhood, while maintaining their criticism of Mursi’s time in office.

The relentless propaganda means that today many of the minority Coptic Christians see Sisi as their protector against the threat of the Brotherhood. Yet Coptic Christians were a central part of the revolution in a unity forged in ferocious battles with the military.

The security forces killed 28 people, mostly Copts, at the Maspero television station in October 2011. This provoked an outpouring of solidarity from across the revolutionary movement, which bridged sectarian divides.

But large sections of Egyptian society still feel that they’ve no stake in the current regime. Parliamentary elections last month saw the lowest turnout of any since the 2011 revolution—26 percent across 14 governorates, compared to 59 percent in the 2011 elections.

Sisi brought in 175 new repressive laws during the time he ruled without a parliament. This truth about Sisi’s record needs to be exposed.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell was among many politicians and activists who signed a letter saying Sisi had “instituted a regime of terror” and demanding the government’s invite be withdrawn.

In August of this year Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the invite to Sisi saying, “I would not have invited Sisi to the UK because of my concerns over the use of the death penalty in Egypt and the treatment of people who were part of the former government of Mursi, which was elected, and the continued imprisonment of President Mursi.”

Sameh told Socialist Worker, “MPs were not even told details of his visit in advance. Sisi is a head of state on his first visit to Britain. The fact that the details have been so secretive is itself an admission of guilt.

“Would they be hiding the details if Angela Merkel was coming?”

News of the planned anti-Sisi protests is having an impact in Egypt. The Revolutionary Socialist told Socialist Worker, “It’s very important that there are protests against Sisi in Britain.

“The fact that left and Labour MPs have spoken out against it resonated immediately in Egypt. Here people are told that the only opposition to Sisi is the Brotherhood.

“It has never been more important to show solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution, because it has never before been this hard.”


‘There was blood everywhere—on the dead, the dying and the injured’

Student Mahmoud Bondok was in Cairo’s Raba’a Square when el-Sisi’s forces kiled 200 protesters. He gave Socialist Worker an eywitness account

Horrific scenes in the protesters’ field hospital at Rabaa Square

Horrific scenes in the protesters’ field hospital at Raba'a Square (Pic: Mahmoud Bondok)


"I was in the sit-in at Raba’a Square in Cairo protesting against the military coup in the summer of 2013.

On 27 July security forces attacked one part of the site. I was woken up in my tent at 3am by shouts for help.

My friends and I rushed to the field hospital to get supplies for those treating the injured. There was blood everywhere, and it filled with the dead, dying and seriously injured.

That day I saw more than 200 protesters killed by the security forces. Then on 14 August was the worst massacre Egypt has experienced. Up to 1,000 were killed.

I was woken up at 6am by a military truck driving into the site and firing tear gas. We fled to find a hiding place under a staircase. We could see snipers on top of the roofs.

The security services roamed around in black masks with guns.

We were trapped with nowhere to go, except further into the square as the security forces came in closer.

We headed for the field hospital. A guy beside us was shot in the neck and fell to the floor. We tried to help him but the bullet had taken a piece out of his neck. Protesters helped take him away. I don’t know if he survived.

We were coughing blood from the tear gas.

The different sorts of gunfire made it sound like a video game or a movie. But this was real. One of my friends, a teaching assistant at the AUC university, was helping in the hospital. He was shot dead.

Some people in a building on the side of the square opened a door and shouted at us to come in. Inside we found refuge with 40 to 50 others. Many were injured and bleeding.

We stayed there until the next night. When we came out onto the square the camp had been wrecked. We had survived, but we were in shock.

The idea that David Cameron has invited the person responsible for these massacres is morally disgusting.”


Palestine’s jailer

The issue of Palestine was central to Egypt’s Revolution. A new campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has been launched in Cairo in the face of Sisi’s propaganda.

He claims the Palestinians are terrorists and are behind recent bombings.

Even basic campaigning risks imprisonment. Socialist Haitham Mohamedain, who is part of the BDS campaign, described the difficulties.

He said, “The security services have told printers to inform them of anyone attempting to print political materials. Activists face arrest if they distribute leaflets.”

Students have tried to demonstrate solidarity on campuses. But Haitham described the latest assaults on acivtists in Cairo University.

He said, “A display of posters was torn down.

“Men and women students were beaten up on the orders of the university president.”


Textile workers on strike in Mahalla

Textile workers on strike in Mahalla (Pic: Haitham Mohamadain)


Workers are still fighting

Over 14,000 workers are on strike at two of Egypt’s biggest textile factories, Kafr al-Dawwar Textile Company and the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra. They are demanding bonuses promised by Sisi.

Mahalla has been the site of mass strikes, most importantly in 2006 and 2008.

These were one of the ingredients of the resistance to Mubarak that finally exploded in the January 2011 revolution.

Revolutionary Socialist Mostafa Bassiouny spoke to Socialist Worker about the latest action. “The Mahalla workers’ action could revive the workers’ movement,” he said. “If their demand is met it will affect many other workers.

“That’s why workers in other factories, such as Kafr al-Dawwar and the Suez Canal Engineering Company, are joining the strike and raising the same demand for the 10 percent bonus.

“The extremely low turnout of the recent election is a sign that the regime’s ability to convince people about the need to rally behind it is failing.

“While workers are mobilising themselves for a strike to win better wages, they can’t be bothered to go and vote.”

“The current situation is putting pressure on workers and the poor to act.

“The pressure on working class people’s living standards is unbearable, but the regime doesn’t have any solutions.

“I think it is possible the Mahalla workers could win.

“The fact that they are still on strike and the fact that the action has spread are themselves both a kind of victory.

“However, the government is very frightened of the consequences of giving into the strike’s demands and igniting the workers’ movement again.

“But what is certain is that this is the beginning of a movement and not the end.”


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