There is no solace for Alaa Abdel Fattah, an activist, blogger and intellectual symbol of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and one of the victims of the wave of repression unleashed by the regime after the September 20 protests.
On Sunday morning, just like every day, he was supposed to leave the Doqqi police station, where he had been forced to spend his nights for the past six months, according to the rules of the special regime of supervision to which he was subjected.
His mother came to wait for him outside, and she became suspicious when she found the whole area cordoned off. She soon discovered that Alaa had been arrested. So far, it has been impossible for his family members to find out where Alaa is being detained, and in what conditions.
“He was trying to rebuild his life, which was completely destroyed. He had to start over with everything: work, personal life and his role as a father,” his sister, Mona Seif, who is also an activist, wrote on Twitter. The son of a historian and militant left-winger, Alaa was imprisoned for the first time in 2006, during the era of Mubarak; then, after the Revolution, he was again jailed several times, both by the military and by the Muslim Brotherhood, ending up sentenced to five years by the al-Sisi regime, a sentence which he had just finished serving a few months ago.
After his latest release, Alaa had begun to publish a number of essays, without, however, returning to active politics.
His interrogation featured an absurd scene, as Alaa’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Baqer, who arrived to give him legal assistance was himself arrested on Sunday night, to the shock of the other lawyers present, and now finds himself under investigation in the same case as his client, both indicted for supposedly spreading false news and belonging to an illegal organization.
For now, they will have to serve 15 days in preventive detention. A few days ago, Mahienour El Massry, a 33-year-old communist activist and lawyer, suffered the same fate, forcefully abducted by the men of the security forces shortly after leaving the public prosecutor’s office, where she had provided legal assistance to some of the people detained in connection with the protests.
These days, many lawyers have been refused access to the courts and denied meetings with their clients under investigation, while the number of persons arrested has recently risen to more than 2,300 people since last Friday, beating the previous shameful records set by the al-Sisi regime. Even foreigners are being targeted, including a young Dutchman whose disappearance has been denounced by his family.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed “deep concern” about the ongoing crackdown. In recent days, several members of the opposition have ended up behind bars, including the Nasserists of the Karama (“Dignity”) Party and other left-wing militants, members of the Socialist Popular Alliance and the Bread and Freedom party. The regime is hoping that if they keep arresting intellectuals, the protests will stop.
However, this time—unlike in 2011—it wasn’t the pro-democracy organizations who have called for people to take to the streets. Most of the demonstrators have been non-political citizens, frustrated by the economic failures of the regime, the deterioration of living conditions and the continuing impunity of the security forces.
As a result, landing blows against the political forces of the opposition might not have any effect on the protests—although, of course, it will make it harder for them to develop a political and organizational framework. The risk remains that the popular anger, left without an outlet, will express itself in more and more extreme forms, which could lead to a bloodbath in the streets, or even a new coup.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.