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BRICS: Will Egypt’s coup leader el-Sisi escape scrutiny in SA?

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Picture: AFP – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – The likelihood of Egypt gaining membership of BRICS while Sisi remains at the helm of what’s best described as a military dictatorship, will also raise questions about the formation’s political orientation, writes the author.

By Iqbal Jassat

Has South African media become so consumed with the Putin-arrest saga that it has overlooked Egypt’s problematic participation at the forthcoming BRICS summit?

Dignifying its military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with the expected red-carpet treatment will, in effect, be an endorsement of regime change via military coup, which is how Cairo’s despot overthrew the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi government to gain power.

Incidentally, this month marks a decade since Sisi appeared on TV in a military beret to announce the constitution’s suspension and the end of Morsi’s presidency.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) documents that as he spoke, security forces were preparing to storm the Cairo bureaux of the Qatari TV channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Jazeera Mubasher and arrest their journalists.

That evening, Sisi’s military goons led a purge against many more media outlets and shut them down for allegedly supporting Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and arrested their directors.

RSF’s research reveal that the events were just a foretaste of the purge that el-Sisi would wage against the media.

“In the past 10 years, at least 170 journalists have been jailed, dozens of others have been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated, access to more than 500 news websites has been blocked and six journalists have been killed.”

Fault lines in the architecture of global politics are clearly evident in the way Egypt’s notorious leader is misleadingly endowed with a crown of honour and respectability.

Regrettably, most mainstream media has bolstered this faulty image, notwithstanding the fact that the regime of Sisi is undoubtedly one of the most repressive in the world.

Rights organisations have painstakingly compiled reports that point to a catalogue of horrors, detailing terrifying conditions of abuse and cruelty.

Forced disappearances styled on America’s notorious “renditions”, extra-judicial executions, detention without trial, draconian secret prisons, persecution of opponents especially members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, is routine.

Unsurprisingly, the Sisi regime and its spin doctors will deny that such atrocities exist. However, dissidents and others who have managed to flee, including families of prisoners and employers of renowned journalists facing uncertainty behind bars, testify to the reality of severe repression and denial of human rights.

Ricard Gonzalez, journalist and author who spent many years in Egypt, sketched the background to Sisi’s bloody rise to power. “In 2013, a military coup put an end to Egypt’s democratic transition that began with the resignation of dictator Hosni Mubarak following a popular uprising that took place against the larger backdrop of the Arab Spring.”

He confirms what is widely attested to by human rights organisations, that Sisi has since gone on to impose an authoritarian dictatorship even more brutal than that of Mubarak. All dissent is ruthlessly repressed and the regime’s security agencies have particularly targeted the Muslim Brotherhood, winner of the elections during the country’s brief democratic interlude.

A decade later, the bloodstained leader of Egypt’s extremely violent military coup, roams about the world as a respected “statesman” while thousands of anti-coup activists languish in jail.

Surely they, alongside fellow dissidents, would have the expectation that democratic countries such as South Africa as well as the AU will not only raise concerns but also agitate for their freedom?

The likelihood of Egypt gaining membership of BRICS while Sisi remains at the helm of what’s best described as a military dictatorship, will also raise questions about the formation’s political orientation.

Concerns about Egypt’s participation while a veil has been drawn across the country to conceal Sisi’s notorious reign, cannot be denied.

*Iqbal Jassat is Executive at Media Review Network