How Sisi is destabilising Egypt
Egypt's new authoritarianism has exacerbated societal divisions by systematically propagating alternative facts.
Since 2013, Egypt's new authoritarian government has systematically widened its repression of the opposition to targets beyond the Islamist spectrum.
Voices of dissent have been targeted, including businessmen whose refusal to provide financial support to the government's mega construction projects has led to the confiscation of their assets.
And journalists like Ismail al-Iskandarani, whose independent reporting has resulted in accusations of terrorist affiliations and mock trials.
Student protests on university campuses and labour protests in industrial facilities have been met with excessive force, while public demonstrations have been subjected to various kinds of state-sponsored violence, including long provisional detention, dismissal from universities, and hefty prison sentences. In the case of labour activists, these include military trials along with disciplinary sanctions.
In order to disguise its human rights abuses as justifiable actions against "enemies of the nation", the government has systematically propagated alternative facts.
A number of human rights organisations as well as pro-democracy civil society groups have been defamed as forces of instability and chaos. Employing its tight grip over the media landscape, the government has accused centres such as the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights of constituting a so-called "fifth column", attempting to threaten national security and destroy the military establishment and security services through the "dissemination of false claims" regarding human rights abuses, and conspiring in favour of foreign actors.
To round off its alternative facts, the government has used public and private media to deny any involvement in official violence or human rights abuses.
Immersing itself in the propagation of alternative facts, the government claimed that these centres have been conspiring to carry out what have been termed "Muslim Brotherhood schemes", receiving foreign funds to spread chaos and fragment the country, and exhausting state and society through continuous internal conflicts.
Lashing out at groups of young citizens who spearheaded the 2011 revolution, stood against the 2013 coup, and have continued peacefully to protest against repressive policies, the authoritarian government has made them a prime target of its alternative facts.
They, too, have been defamed as "enemies of the nation" engaged in a grand and foreign funded conspiracy to turn Egypt into a failed state similar to Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.
In order to silence them, the government has consciously conflated the peaceful culture of protest of young Egyptians weary of human rights abuses and undemocratic policies with the violent agendas of radical and extremist groups.
One of the clearest signs of this conflation is the government-sponsored ban of the April 6 Movement as a terrorist organisation.
|The authoritarian government has made young activists a prime target of its alternative facts campaign [Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper/Reuters]
To round off its alternative facts, the government has used public and private media to deny any involvement in official violence or human rights abuses. For these media outlets, local and international reports documenting human rights abuses and narrating the personal tragedies of victims are outright lies.
The extrajudicial killings of hundreds of Egyptians are, according to the government narrative, acts of lawful elimination of terrorists and violent extremists, torture crimes in places of custody are individual mistakes committed by some members of the security services.
According to this narrative, statements decrying police brutality and violations of basic rights and freedoms become mere propaganda materials disseminated by "traitors" of the military establishment that has saved Egypt from slipping into chaos and destruction.
And when abuses and violations are documented and impossible to deny, public and private media outlets have justified them by promoting hate speech unequivocally towards the victims and towards the government's opponents in general.
Victims of state-sponsored violence are labelled collectively as "terrorists" and their indiscriminate killing is justified as the legitimate right of the government.