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Five years after uprising, Egyptians find little to celebrate

Khaled Desouki / AFP | An Egyptian national flag flutters over Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 24, 2016, on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

Egypt marks five years since the start of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak on Monday, though for many little has changed since the days of the former president’s iron-fisted rule.


On the eve of the anniversary, Egypt’s current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid tribute to the 2011 revolt, saying that protesters killed during the 18-day revolt had sought to revive "noble principles" and found a "new Egypt".

But rights groups and activists argue that Sisi’s repressive regime has largely betrayed those principles, brutally crushing its opponents even as it battles a deadly, jihadist-led insurgency

In the run-up to the anniversary, the police have intensified a deadly crackdown against Sisi's, critics, including the arrests of several youth activists who took part in the 18-day uprising that ended Mubarak's rule.

"While the president is talking about backing the youths, all those who participated in the January 25 revolution are facing arrests," said Mostafa Maher, a founder of the April 6 youth movement that spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Maher says he now avoids staying at his Cairo apartment after police arrested several fellow youth leaders.

"Though I'm not wanted, I'm scared that I could be arrested on false charges," said the 28-year-old graphic designer.

Decades of police abuse under Mubarak had been a key factor behind the 2011 revolt, and activists say these violations are back in full swing under Sisi.

Sisi, who has no political party, won a presidential election in 2014 after crushing all forms of dissent.

He has ruled Egypt with an iron fist since July 2013 when, as army chief, he ousted Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist who had succeeded Mubarak but only lasted a year in office.

Since then hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed and thousands imprisoned in a police crackdown, while dozens of secular and leftist activists have also been jailed.

Amnesty International said Egypt is now "mired in a human rights crisis of huge proportions" as the "country reverts back to a police state".

"Peaceful protesters, politicians and journalists have borne the brunt of a ruthless campaign against legitimate dissent by the government and state security forces," it said.

Tired Egyptians welcome stability

In the past few months, police have raided or shut down favourite hangouts of activists such as cafes, cultural centres and a publishing house near Cairo's iconic Tahrir square -- the epicentre of anti-Mubarak protests.

"This regime is the enemy of the January 25 revolution," said ex-lawmaker Mustafa al-Naggar.

"We have no political space by way of having a party, a syndicate or a civil society."

Along with the political repression, the country’s economy has remained sluggish on falling investments and tourist revenues, while a deadly insurgency led by the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has only swelled.

On Thursday, seven people including five policemen were killed in a bomb blast when police raided an apartment in Cairo. An IS group affiliate claimed the blast.

But despite the country’s problems, many Egyptians tired of years of political unrest credit Sisi’s regime with bringing a degree of long-absent stability and see few political alternatives to the soldier-turned-politician’s rule.

"Enough about this revolution. It's five years now and it has proved to be useless," said Ahmed Mohamed, an owner of a publishing house.

"I incurred terrible losses in the first two years, and I can't bear anymore."

Sisi himself has warned against demonstrations on Monday and only Morsi’s blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement has called for protests.

"Democratic experiences don't mature overnight, but rather through a continuing and accumulative process,” Sisi said in a televised speech on Sunday, before emphasising the need to exercise "responsible freedom" to avoid "destructive chaos."

The rhetoric, and insistence that gradual democratisation is key to stability, mirrored that of Mubarak during his 29-year authoritarian rule.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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