Abdel Fattah el Sisi's autocratic regime is now detaining the defenders of rape victims.
Since the military coup in 2013, Cairo has drastically increased the crackdown against civil society and opposition groups under the general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who occasionally suggests that his people are not ready for the same freedoms and prosperity other nations enjoy.
In the latest crackdown Cairo detained two activists, who have campaigned to arrest culprits related to an infamous gang-rape incident in a five-star Nile hotel back in 2014. In recent months, other activists against sexual assault have also been detained by Egyptian authorities.
Sisi’s government has tried to justify detentions on the grounds that the activists are alleged to have been involved in activities ranging from drug use to incitement and debauchery, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But experts find the Egyptian state’s reasoning, which have been followed by a smear campaign disclosing the private lives of detainees in pro-government online forums, as part of a deliberate action to spread fear among activists against sexual assault.
“It’s business as usual [in Egypt under Sisi],” says Hamza Zawba, the former spokesman of the Freedom and Justice Party, which governed Egypt before the coup. Zawba, now a popular and successful TV personality, has lived in exile in Istanbul since the coup.
“The suspects [of this gang rape in 2014] are powerful people. These youngsters [alleged rapists] are coming from the richest families of Egypt. That’s why the government would like to close, shot down this case,” says Zawba.
By detaining witnesses and activists, Sisi’s government has appeared to silence them in favor of some of the country’s corrupt rich elites, whose sons are allegedly involved with the rape.
“Any advocates and any lawyers, who want to talk about this, are going to be subjected to some sort of threats and might be taken into custody,” Zawba told TRT World.
The activists, who have recently been detained by Cairo, and their allies, have helped launch several popular Instagram pages urging Egyptian authorities to investigate the gang rape of a young woman at the Fairmont Nile City hotel. One of the detained activists also testified for the rape case, providing video evidence to prosecutors.
“It’s a problem with the Egyptian judicial system. Instead of focusing on the crime, they’re looking into the lifestyles of the victims. It’s victim blaming,” said Hussein Baoumi, a researcher, working for the Amnesty International.
The detentions come after the arrests of some rape suspects in Egypt and Lebanon last month by the Egyptian judiciary, which was under immense pressure from the public.
“In Egypt, you could not find any good news. They arrested musicians. They arrested activists. Even they arrested people, who are talking to each other in their private homes,” Zawba says of recent detentions in the country.
Beside raping and unlawfully detaining people, Zawba also sees a lot of other security threats for opposition figures and private citizens, who demand more freedoms and rights.
“Killing is a daily story in Egypt either on the streets or detention centers,” Zawba says, describing police stations and prisons as places, where many killings happen routinely.
“We are under the experimentation of a brutal state, which uses us like animals were used in a lab,” he says.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Egypt over terror and other related charges.
In the Rabaa massacre alone in August 2013, security forces killed more than 800 people who were peacefully protesting the military coup.