Egypt 'more dangerous' than ever for government critics says Amnesty
International rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday that an intensified crackdown on dissent in Egypt made the country "more dangerous" than ever for peaceful critics of the government.
The statement from the group comes ahead of the eighth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising which led to the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Amnesty said Egyptian authorities had arrested at least 113 people during 2018 for "peacefully expressing their views".
"Today it is more dangerous to openly criticise the government in Egypt than at any other time in the country's recent history," said Najia Bounaim, the group's North Africa Campaigns Director.
Amnesty said the space for dissent "is being crushed out of existence".
"Under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's administration, Egypt has been converted into an open-air prison for critics," it said.
"Walls of Freedom": immortalising the Egyptian Revolution
The book "Walls of Freedom" presents readers with images of the street art of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The English-language photo book is published by the activist and street artist Don Karl (aka Stone). In Egypt, the work has fallen victim to censorship. Wafah Al-Badri offers his impressions of "Walls of Freedom"
"Honour for the Unknown": this wall painting on Mohamed Mahmoud Street depicts a homeless child who lost his life on Tahrir Square during the revolution. The painting is the work of Ammar Abu Bakr, who says, "Our walls show the truth, and the book 'Walls of Freedom' serves as our tool to share the events of the revolution with the world."
The book "Walls of Freedom" was published in 2013 and shows works of graffiti dealing with the Egyptian Revolution and the events that followed after 2011. The book was published in English by Don Karl, who hails from Berlin, in collaboration with the Egyptian designer Basma Hamdy.
Just as the pharaohs of bygone days immortalised themselves with images on the walls of their temples, modern-day Egyptian artists preserve the memory of the events surrounding the January Revolution on the walls of their cities with graffiti and wall murals. Alaa Awad painted this work of graffiti in memory of thousands of football fans who lost their lives in 2012.
The streets surrounding Tahrir Square have become a gallery for street artists. The graffiti depicted here bears the title "Egyptian Identity" and was painted by Ammar Abu Bakr and Alaa Abd El Hamid. The Arabic calligraphy was provided by Sameh Ismael and the poem was written by Ahmed Aboul Hassan.
In 2011, Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo was the site of bloody clashes between demonstrators and the security forces. Now it is a central part of this art gallery of the revolution. It features a work of graffiti by Abood with the title "State vs. Freedom." Basma Hamdy photographed the piece and published it in "Walls of Freedom."
This is the work of Ammar Abu Bakr and Farik, who belong to the "No Walls" movement. The trompe-l'oeil of a street scene is painted on the blocks of a barricade put up during the revolution to prevent demonstrators from storming the Interior Ministry.
The photographer who works under the pseudonym "El-Zeft" captured this image and named it "Peace Machine." The book "Walls of Freedom" features some 750 photographs and expressive works of graffiti by close to 100 artists. The publication of this book was forbidden in Egypt because it supposedly incites the reader to engage in violence against the government.
Portraits of the heroes of the revolution: "The police would remove a work of graffiti even if it served to honour one of their own men – just as they removed my graffiti of General Batran, who lost his life during the first attacks of the revolution," says Ammar Abu Bakr.
This work of graffiti by the artist Hanaa El Degham ironically portrays the queues of Egyptians waiting to vote. The queue is just as long as that of Egyptians having to wait for gas cylinders, often resulting in skirmishes between those waiting.
The Egyptian leader recently denied in an interview with CBS that the country holds any political prisoners.
Human rights groups have regularly criticised Sisi's government for cracking down on secular and left-wing activists, as well as the Islamist supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.
A growing number of activists have been detained in Egypt in recent months. The country has also passed legislation allowing authorities to monitor popular social media accounts and block them if they are found to publish "fake news".
Rights groups say the legislation is aimed at curbing freedom of expression online, with the Internet being one of the last forums for dissenting voices to speak against Sisi's rule.
Authorities insist that such measures are needed to maintain stability and counter terrorism in the country.
As army chief, Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 after mass street protests against the Islamist leader's rule.
Sisi was re-elected in March 2018, winning a second four-year term after securing more than 97 percent of the vote in the absence of any serious competition. (AFP)