State repression and the U.S. role in Sissi’s Egypt

On November 3rd, I testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on human rights in Egypt, state repression, and U.S. policy options. I argued that the level of repression under President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi surpasses that of President Hosni Mubarak and even President Gamal Abdel Nasser in terms of the number of Egyptians killed, wounded, and detained. As autocratic as Mubarak was, he never attempted to eradicate the opposition. In contrast, repression under Sissi has been both more ambitious and totalizing, culminating in what

Human Rights Watch calls “the worst mass killings in Egypt’s modern history.”  

We do business with authoritarian regimes all the time. But this is not your run-of-the-mill authoritarianism, so we shouldn’t treat it as such.

I also discussed out that Sissi’s heavy-handed approach to Sinai security has fueled the extremist insurgency there, which calls into question Egypt’s role as a reliable counterterrorism partner. With this in mind, I provided the commission with a set of recommendations for the United States in the short, medium, and long term and argued for a rethinking of some of the core elements of the bilateral relationship.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in studying the Middle East, it’s that certain, key events—a coup or a massacre, for instance—can have devastating long-term effects. If it’s bad, it can always get worse. Instead of waiting for the country to further destabilize, it is time to be proactive and fundamentally rethink our policy toward Egypt. 

Watch the testimony:

Read my prepared testimony in full here.