How Sisi’s Strongman Playbook Silenced Egyptian Protesters | NYT News

[protesters chanting]
In September, Egyptians did
something that no one really
saw coming:
They defied Egypt’s strongman,
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,
by going out
in public and calling
on him to step down.
But the bold outburst
was short-lived.
Police hit back with tear gas
and rubber bullets,
then random searches,
road closings,
and more than 2,000 arrests.
It was the largest sweep since
Sisi came to power in 2014.
The message was clear:
Dissent will not
be tolerated.
And to crush his
opposition, Sisi
called on what has become
his standard playbook.
While visiting with
President Trump at the U.N.,
Sisi blamed his favorite
boogeyman, the Islamists.
But the arrests back in
Egypt have been wide-ranging
and include pro-democracy
advocates, academics,
lawyers and journalists.
Human rights lawyer
Mahienour El-Massry
was arrested in front
of a courthouse.
Her sister said she was
forced into a vehicle
by plainclothes officers.
“The way she was arrested,
it was really, really shocking
because it was
almost a kidnap.”
Alaa Abdel Fattah,
a secular blogger,
was arrested while
he was in jail.
He was on probation for
a previous conviction.
“The regime years ago
decided to make symbols out
of specific people and
so charge at them whenever
they want to set an example
to other revolutionaries
or other opposition,
and so on.”
And in many cases,
those arrested
appear to have been plucked at
random, like this young man.
Witnesses said
Ahmed El Agroudy and two friends
were arrested while walking to
their car after a night out.
“I felt helpless.
We weren’t allowed to go
into the police station.
Please just let us see him.”
Now, many face arbitrary
charges like terrorism
and spreading fake news.
The protests appear to
have been instigated
by this man, Mohamed Ali.
Ali is a contractor, who
worked for the military,
and says he’s now living in
self-imposed exile in Spain.
He claims the
government robbed him.
And he’s used his
rants to try to appeal
to everyday Egyptians, people
struggling to make ends meet.
Ali accuses Sisi
and the military
of squandering the country’s
money on vanity projects.
Sisi’s response: so what?
Across Egypt, images
of the spreading unrest
were widely shared
over social media.
The police tried to block it.
This video appears to show
police officers shooting
at a woman who was
filming from her balcony.
And shortly after this man
live-streamed the clashes
unfolding in front of him,
he posted one final message
that day.
Within a week, Cairo,
normally loud and beyond busy,
was on
total lockdown — silenced.
Except for this, a
well-organized, pro-Sisi rally.
Sisi’s playbook seems
to be working, for now.

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