What Sisi said in Germany and what he didn’t say

When he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed Egypt’s recent progress towards democracy.

He commenced his speech by thanking the entourage of Egyptians who are accompanying him on his three-day Berlin trip.

Addressing Merkel directly, he said, “So as to make the message clear, the Egyptian populace wanted change, and changed the country for the better,” referring to the June 30 popular protests against the Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohamed Morsi. At this point, Sisi’s supporters started cheering loudly.

Sisi described June 30 as the widespread “rejection of religious fascism,” claiming that if it weren’t for the military-backed ouster of Morsi, Egypt might have descended into civil war, and “the Egyptian populace would have become refugees.”

Sisi stressed that Egyptians want freedom, just like the people of Europe.

1. Sisi insisted that Egypt is a democratic state by virtue of its Constitution, which was approved in a referendum in January 2014.

2. Sisi justified the large number of death sentences issued against Muslim Brotherhood leaders and former President Morsi, highlighting the referral of such legal determinations to the grand mufti for his approval or rejection. He added that most sentences have been handed down in absentia and can be appealed, asserting that the Egyptian judiciary is independent.

3. Sisi said the state isn’t seeking to clamp down on German NGOs, or any other NGOs operating in Egypt.

4. Sisi asserted that the military-backed ouster of Morsi on July 3, 2013 opened the door to national dialogue, so that Egyptians “did not need to engage in violence against each other.”

This narrative was largely supported by mainstream Egyptian media on Thursday, with the main headline for privately owned Al-Watan newspaper reading, “Germany recognizes June 30 revolution.”

The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper quoted anonymous sources on Thursday asserting Merkel said the meetings acted as recognition that Sisi became president at the will of the people, and is not a military dictator.

There have been mixed reactions to Sisi’s Germany visit, with groups in Berlin organizing protests against the current Egyptian government.

In the selective narrative presented by Sisi in Germany on Wednesday, certain details were omitted.

1. Sisi didn’t mention that parliamentary elections are several months overdue, according to the provisions of the same Constitution he praised, nor that he and his Cabinet have issued a number of unilateral decrees in the absence of an elected parliament for over a year.

2. Sisi didn’t explain that the mufti’s opinions on death sentences are merely consultative, and not legally binding. Although he claimed most death sentences were “not issued by exceptional courts or revolutionary courts,” he didn’t mention the thousands of civilians who have stood trial before military courts since 2011, some of whom have already been executed.

3. Sisi did not explain that in late 2014, Egypt introduced new restrictions on NGOs that receive foreign funding in Egypt, nor that since then, over 380 NGOs have been shut down by official court orders.

4. Although he spoke of peaceful dialogue after June 30, Sisi did not mention the violent dispersals of the pro-Morsi Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins a few months later, nor the ongoing “war on terrorism” in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sisi explained that from 2011 to 2015, Egypt “was suffering from a revolutionary condition.” He immediately corrected himself, “or rather, living.”


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