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Despite Outside Pressure Egypt Sees Little Change

US Urges Egypt to Ease Civil Society Restrictions 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict and ISIL. The discussion quickly turned to Egyptian civil society. Protests are still illegal under the protest law and numerous critics and many members of the Muslim Brotherhood remain behind bars. If Egypt wants full restoration of U.S. aid it has to repeal the protest law but so far al-Sisi hasn’t made any real progress in doing so. Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch says that the U.S. should push more for civil reforms despite Egypt’s importance in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the struggle against IS militants.

Crackdown on Student Protesters 

At least 91 students have been arrested at the start of the school term to suppress potential student protests similar to the ones in Summer 2013 that resulted in 14 deaths and 900 students still remain in prison. Many of the students were arrested in early morning raids and were members of organizations that opposed the coup. Al-Sisi has replaced many administrators in universities and the country’s education minister has vowed to expel any students who take part in protests.

Despite Outside Pressure Egypt Sees Little Change

So far international pressure on al-Sisi’s regime has been light at best. Although he released a few high profile political prisoners, hundreds remain behind bars and in recent late night raids dozens of students were seized from their homes for being part of university organizations that opposed military rule. Al-Sisi is determined to leave his mark before he leaves office.. He is doing good work by fighting extremists and expanding the Suez canal but at the same time he is ensuring a military influence by forcefully replacing educational officials in universities with personal appointees. How his hardliner stance will play out is yet to be seen but I imagine many Egyptians are reminded of the decades under Mubarak where people were also taken in the dead of night and locked up without trial. So far the U.S. and Europe have not pressured Egypt to change very much. Most likely they are afraid that Egypt will descend into revolution again or that they will alienate a valuable ally. Either way al-Sisi’s motives are out of his stance as a political realist or his own self-interest. At this point only time will tell if al-Sisi will relinquish power and if Egypt will gain a real democracy.

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