One of Egypt’s leading opposition figures has told Al Jazeera that the country is ruled by an “oppressive military regime”, which has killed off any chance of political pluralism.
Former presidential candidate and leader of the Ghad al-Thawra (Tomorrow’s Revolution) party, Ayman Nour, said Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was presiding over a failing government that was harming Egyptian citizens and the wider region.
Nour stood against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2005, was jailed shortly after, and was an outspoken opponent of Mubarak’s rule until the president was deposed during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
Following Mubarak’s downfall, Egypt was briefly ruled by the military.
Later after its first freely contested presidential election, the Muslim Brotherhood aligned former President Mohamed Morsi took power, but was himself overthrown and imprisoned after a military coup led by Sisi.
“We’re facing an oppressive and tyrannical regime that uses tools of the last century to deal with today’s political reality,” Nour said of the government, which has ruled Egypt since the coup.
“This has led to the killing of any chances of political pluralism, and a chance of any alternative to this oppressive military regime which has hijacked the Egyptian revolution…and turned Egypt into a swamp of tyranny.”
Nour described Sisi’s rule as one characterised by “deviousness, lies, and lack of clarity” and accused the Egyptian ruler of acting “deviously” on the domestic and international levels.
Following the 2013 coup, Nour left Egypt, moving first to Lebanon and then to Turkey, and has not returned home since.
In April 2017, an Egyptian court sentenced him in absentia to five years in prison for spreading false news, and authorities have threatened to strip the opposition figure of his citizenship.
Together with an expired passport that Egyptian consular officials are refusing to renew, Nour is effectively exiled from returning.
In the years since the military coup, Sisi has reneged on his promise to allow political freedom in the country and Egypt has jailed tens of thousands of dissidents.
Thousands of others, like Nour, have found refuge outside of the country, chiefly in Europe, the US, and in Turkey.
Nour said that peaceful opposition inside Egypt had become impossible under the current political climate.
“There is no opposition without a parliament. There is no opposition without freedom of the press. There is no opposition without freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” he said, adding: “Egypt’s opposition is currently frozen due to these abnormal circumstances.
While the Egyptian government’s crackdown on dissent has included activists from many political ideologies, its chief target has been the Muslim Brotherhood.
(Sisi) is closing the doors of peaceful change, but is also opening the doors of revolutionary change
According to Nour, despite the dismantling of its support networks and the imprisonment of its membership, the group would endure the current crackdown.
“There are primary movements in Egyptian society, whether it’s the century-old liberal movement or the country’s Islamic movement which the Muslim Brotherhood lies at the heart of….these movements are irreversible.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has made a lot of mistakes and sins, but in the end, it has a lot of positives as a significant and influential organisation…it should be able to participate in a bigger way under a wider national umbrella.”
By dealing with opponents in the way he had, Nour explained, Sisi was making another uprising, similar to the one that brought Mubarak down, inevitable.
” (Sisi) is closing the doors of peaceful change, but is also opening the doors of revolutionary change.”
Nour also lashed out at Western governments for backing Sisi’s government, which he said was down to their fear of political Islam and their Islamophobia.
“The hatred present within several Western countries towards Islamic movements has been used as an excuse by some governments to turn a blind eye to crimes committed by Sisi.”
Elections are expected in the spring of next year and Sisi has promised not to stay in power beyond a second term.