Egypt is witnessing a third wave of migration of political dissidents, according to a report released by civil society organization, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information on Tuesday.
The two waves preceding this were in the 1950s and 1970s, according to the report: The Third Exodus: Migration and the Involuntary Departure of Egyptians. Those leaving during the 50s under President Gamal Abdel Nasser were predominantly members, supporters and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, whereas departures in the 70s included leftists and Arab nationalists under President Anwar al-Sadat, who normalized relations with Israel and permitted greater space for Islamists.
The appendix to the report cites an article by journalist and writer Belal Fadl, who describes certain Egyptians with a “like it or leave” attitude as having a conception of democracy as “a medium for winning elections and then telling those who are unhappy they can go to Canada or Turkey, or to hell.”
The report is based on the testimonies of 31 Egyptians who have left during this third wave, which began with the period of governance under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and continued under the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsi, up to the present day.
Unlike the previous two migratory waves, the report argues the current exodus is not limited to one geographic location or continent. The Egyptian migrants interviewed for the report are currently residing in nine different countries in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Another fundamental difference from the previous two waves is that the current departures are from across the political spectrum and aren’t limited to one political group. Those who have left include Egyptians with Muslim Brotherhood affiliations, liberals, leftists, nationalists, as well as academics and professionals. Most are young or middle-aged, according to the report.
The first part of the report focuses on the reasons why people decide to leave, the second part explores their experiences in exile and the third examines the rationale for either continuing to live abroad or returning to Egypt.
Those interviewed cited wide ranging reasons for leaving, including hostile conditions at work and veiled threats, to direct threats, police harassment, false media claims, fabricated charges and even assassination attempts.
Most of those interviewed said they would return to Egypt only if drastic changes were made and they were guaranteed they wouldn’t be targetted.
One respondent, identified as Y.L says, “I left because I was standing trial in a public opinion case. I wasn’t barred from traveling, but when I returned to attend my trial in mid-2012 I was subjected to pressure and threats from the regime.” Y.L was sentenced to two years in prison after he left, and claims: “In light of my work and my stance regarding the regime, police officers were dispatched to search my house and terrorized my family, even though they knew of my being abroad.”
Another respondent, identified as F.R, who stood trial in the same case, narrated a similar account. While working abroad in 2012, “I insisted on declaring my stance regarding the political charges I was facing.” Despite the warrant issued against him and the travel ban imposed on him, F.R returned to Egypt. “I was arrested at the airport, as I expected, but was released on bail after attending trial. Over the course of four months, I defended myself and the other defendants in the case, and in October 2012 I was able to obtain a court ruling invalidating the arrest warrant. After my name was removed from the travel ban list, I traveled abroad again.” F.R was subsequently sentenced in absentia.
One respondent describes being presented with the choice of maintaining his party position or continuing with his line of work in the period following June 30. “I submitted a written pledge to the authorities to transfer my work outside of Egypt and also to resign from my position in the party,” he recounts, “with the implicit agreement that they would spare me and my family if I didn’t make problems for them.” This agreement was signed by a senior member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, according to the respondent.
The report also includes the testimony of renowned writer Wael Qindeel, who is currently residing in London. In July 2013, Qindeel traveled from Cairo to Doha for an interview with Al Jazeera satellite channel regarding the military-led takeover of the state, which had taken place two weeks previously. He learned from a friend that a pro-military lawyer had filed a lawsuit against him claiming he had “insulted the Armed Forces” and “threatened national security,” based on comments he made asserting July 3 was a military coup and that the country’s security forces were conducting massacres against Morsi’s supporters.
The accusations were accompanied by state interference in and censorship of his articles, including the removal of one of his pieces from the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Qindeel explains, which he says led him to accept the post of chief-editor of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper in London.
Most of those interviewed in the report indicated they would return to Egypt only if drastic changes were made and they were guaranteed they wouldn’t be targetted.
Translated by Jano Charbel, originally published in Arabic here.