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World

Protests And Crackdowns In Egypt

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Authorities are once more clamping down on protesters in Egypt. Crowds haven't been as large as the ones that brought the Arab Spring to Egypt in 2011, but they are significant enough to cause President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to order the arrest of protesters and activists.

Mohamed Zaree is the Egypt country director for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and he joins us from Cairo. Mr. Zaree, thanks so much for being with us.

MOHAMED ZAREE: I'm glad to join you.

SIMON: There have been protests the past couple of Fridays. What have they been like?

ZAREE: Well, it was very somehow limited and not big protests, but it was significant. This is the first time that Egyptians, under the strong fist of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, take the street and express their anger for his policies, what after 20th of September will be much different than before. So there is a turning point here.

SIMON: Help us to understand the policies that people are protesting.

ZAREE: I will say that it has been the economic situation. Although, it looks good on paper, and it looks good theoretically. But the poverty is very high. We have seen that he has been closing all the public spaces and shut down any kind of politics. He has been arrested over than 80,000 Egyptians since 2013 to now. Dozens, hundreds of mass death sentence have been issued by his courts. Dozens have been executed every year. So there is unprecedented crackdown and unprecedented repressions that not even existed during the Mubarak era, which some people could say that Mubarak's era was a liberal era for Egypt if it's compared to what we have - we are living under now. Egypt is very fragile and far away from being stable.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIMON: We're hearing the call to prayer, of course, behind you. Did I hear you say that you might look back on the Mubarak era as a liberal, enlightened, progressive era for Egypt?

ZAREE: I would say that the significant differences between Mubarak and Sissi - Mubarak was a dictator. Let's agree on this. But there is a level of repression that actually will not cripple the state to function. And that was the situation under Mubarak. So the level of repression right now under Sissi really cripples the state of functioning.

SIMON: Mr. Zaree, does - near as you can tell, does President Sissi still have the support of the military who helped him gain power?

ZAREE: Well, maybe before 20 September, yes, but maybe after 20 September, there might be some people from the military that think that, well, he has went too far. Actually after Trump support and blind support to Sissi, the number of people who has been arrested have been increased dramatically. So I would say that endorsing and supporting Sissi publicly by Trump give him a green light to continue and to continue crackdown on peaceful dissent.

SIMON: I'm told, Mr. Zaree, that you're on the travel ban list. Are you worried about your own safety?

ZAREE: I'm always worried about my own safety. And I am worried about the safety of my family. But at the same time, I can't just see what's happening and remain silent.

SIMON: Mohamed Zaree is with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. Thank you, sir.

ZAREE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.