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  • Author: Abdülrahman Ayyash
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 28 January 2011 – as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated on the day dubbed the “Friday of Anger” – Muslim Brotherhood member, Sameh, was demonstrating with several thousand others in Mansoura in the Nile Delta (120 km north of Cairo). As demonstrators began to throw stones at the State Security Investigations building, Sameh stood in front of them shouting “peaceful”. He was hit in the chest by a stone meant to hit the building in one of the city's most prestigious neighbourhoods. Two years later, Sameh was arrested on an array of charges, including joining the Brotherhood and committing acts of violence against the state. A few months later, he told a friend waiting on death row that he considered the Muslim Brotherhood to be apostates and that he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (Daesh) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Sameh's case is not unique. According to several detainees – including current prisoners spoken to over the phone – there are ongoing changes among detainees who have spent most of their lives as Muslim Brotherhood members. Egyptian prisons host tens of thousands of political detainees – perhaps more than 60,000 according to Human Rights Watch.2 Arrests have mainly targeted members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. However, with increased armed attacks against the army and police, arrests have also targeted alleged supporters of Daesh, al-Qa’ida, and Islamists affiliated with smaller organizations. The Egyptian National Council for Human Rights documented prison overcrowding at a rate of at least 160%,3 forcing the authorities to build 20 new prisons since the military coup in the summer of 2013.4 Importantly, this has led to an increased exchange of influences and ideologies among detainees from diverse backgrounds. Detainees – those held after referral to the judiciary or sentencing – are often relocated during their detention, including frequent transfers to temporary detention centres during court hearings, or when brought before the Public Prosecution or for medical treatment. This further facilitates communication with different prison populations and discussion and exchange of ideas between detainees. This paper does not dwell upon traditional classifications imposed on Islamic movements in terms of moderate and extremist trends. Nor does it go into detail regarding the mechanisms of individual radicalization, though it does encourage further study. Instead, we focus on the developmental dynamics of Muslim Brotherhood youth and sympathizers in Egypt, especially those who were arrested during the breakup of sit-ins supporting former President Mohamed Morsi. Developmental dynamics refer to the conditions and contexts which Brotherhood members and sympathizers experience in prison. These inform broader understandings of issues including state and society relations, and social mobility through jihad as opposed to social mobility through the Brotherhood. This paper also discusses the ways in which the Muslim Brotherhood manages its members inside prison, and its attempts to maintain the Brotherhood's administrative and intellectual organization. It is based primarily on information collected during 10 rare phone interviews with current prisoners. It is also based on additional phone and face-to-face interviews with former prisoners inside and outside Egypt. The interviewees come from five different cities and have been in at least seven prisons, including Tora, Wadi al-Natroun, Mansoura and Gamasa; for security and technical reasons, it was not possible to expand the research cohort. The paper is also based on reviews of articles written by detainees, press reports, opinion pieces, and research papers dealing with the complex social phenomenon of the Muslim Brotherhood from different angles.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Prisons/Penal Systems, Arab Spring, Protests, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Mediterranean
  • Author: Amr Hamzawy
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Brown Journal of World Affairs
  • Abstract: The current Egyptian political scene reveals an important paradox: since its ascendancy to power in 2013, the military-led authoritarian government has not faced significant challenges from civil society despite systematic hu- man rights abuses and continuous societal crises. Apart from limited protests by labor activists, student movements, and members of syndicates, Egyptians have mostly refrained from protesting, instead hoping that the government will improve their living conditions despite a rising poverty rate of 33 percent, an inflation rate between 11 and 12 percent, and unemployment at eight percent. This popular reluctance to challenge the authoritarian government has continued to shape Egypt’s reality since the collapse of the short-lived democratization process from 2011–2013.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Rule of Law, Protests, Dictatorship
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: David E. Kiwuwa
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Brown Journal of World Affairs
  • Abstract: The People Power Movement (PPM) in Uganda has its roots in the growing politics of discontent in Africa and across the world. On the continent, the growth of popular movements has been evident in countries like Zimbabwe, Sudan, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Tunisia to mention but a few. These public protests have increased notably in number with their most significant recent manifestation being the Arab Spring. An important aspect of these pro- tests is the central role played by youth movements such as Y’en Maarre (Fed Up) in Senegal, Balai Citoyen (The Civic Broom) in Burkina Faso, and La Lucha (The Struggle) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. With twenty-five new nonviolent mass movements, Africa has experienced almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with sixteen. What is common to all these movements is not only the active and public expression of discontent but also the existence of a long entrenched and increasingly indifferent ancien regime whose priority is political survival. In some ways, one could argue that emerging protests are largely a continuation of incomplete democratic struggles in authoritarian or semi-democratic regimes.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Democracy, Domestic politics, Protests
  • Political Geography: Uganda, Africa
  • Author: Hatem Chakroun
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper seeks to describe and analyse in a contextual way how the relationship between human rights organizations and the State in Tunisia has evolved since independence. The establishment and consolidation of national State institutions after independence was the main obsession of the ruling political network in Tunisia. This dictated its antagonistic position and measures against pluralism and inclusion of various political groups, all of which had been once unified in the anticolonial struggle. After independence, this common objective disappeared and differences materialized regarding which political system and policies to adopt in order to building a modern nation-state in Tunisia. The consolidated regime of President Habib Bourguiba succeeded in imposing an authoritarian single-party political system, whose “legitimacy” rested on the anticolonial struggle, that controlled the state, to which all had to show loyalty. The autocratic political system continued after 1987 with the reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who presented a retooled authoritarian political vision. The human rights community represented by the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights came under pressure as the State attempted to coerce it into adopting a tailored vision of human rights compatible with the logic of a dictatorship. Ben Ali regime had also set up a façade of commitment to human rights as expressed in various laws, about which he boasted on all occasions and political events with total disregard for systematic violations by repressive state bodies. After the fall of Ben Ali following a popular uprising that rejected repression and authoritarianism and expressed a popular longing for freedom and dignity, a new vision began to form of the relationship between the State and the human rights community in Tunisia. The starting point was very positive with long time human rights activists playing a central role in the process of establishing a vision for the new republic based on respect for the principles of human rights. However, the political contention among various political factions and higher state echelons, fuelled by varying ideologies and interests, has affected this relationship, which oscillated between harmony and dissonance.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Protests, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia