By Tim Nanns and Aya Nader
With a group of celebrities and public figures, the burden of Egypt’s recovering economy, and fingers pointing to human rights violations, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Germany was accompanied by a variety of demonstrations, some in his favour, some against him.
On the streets, the police was neither on high alert nor expecting any violent clashes during Al-Sisi’s visit.
Though most demonstrations were scheduled for Wednesday, Tuesday evening already saw demonstrators opposing Al-Sisi gathered in front of the upscale Adlon Hotel, Al-Sisi’s home for the duration of his visit to Berlin, according to media reports.
A man wearing a Muslim Brotherhood supporting t-shirt attacked one Egyptian actor, while some of the group’s members in Turkey were purportedly mobilising for getting Egyptians, Turks and Syrians to go to Germany and hold demonstrations against Al-Sisi, state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
Wednesday’s demonstrations were almost entirely scheduled to take place in Berlin’s small governmental district, a place tightly packed with government and parliamentary institutions.
A broad variety of organisations were mobilising against Al-Sisi, ranging from Journalists Without Borders, and secular German-Egyptian human rights activists, to Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers. Yet none of the demonstrations were scheduled to have more than a few dozen participants.
Human rights organisation Tahrir Berlin claimed in a statement that Germany was “fully complicit in the crimes the Egyptian regime is committing” while Reporters Without Borders rallied for a demonstration in front of the Chancellor’s office to release all imprisoned journalists, accusing the Egyptian government in a statement of “arbitrary arrests and torture on a daily basis”.
Further, pro-Sisi demonstrations were planned to take place in and around the governmental district, with the organisers, among which was the Coptic Church, claiming to bring up to 4,000 people in total. Yet the German police told Daily News Egypt that these numbers were “likely to be exaggerated” and they were expecting peaceful protests.
“The international community and media must start paying as much attention to Egypt’s lurch towards dictatorship as they did during the Revolution in January 2011,” asserted Amr Darrag, minister of planning and international cooperation in former president Mohamed Morsi’s government.
German media has been firing at Al-Sisi, especially since Bundestag President Norbert Lammert cancelled his meeting with him over Egypt’s human rights situation.
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) president, Karim Lahidji, wrote an op-ed for German newspaper Die Zeit telling Chancellor Angela Merkel that shaking Al-Sisi’s hand means shaking “the hand that tortures and punishes”.
While Egyptians criticised Germany for referring to the 30 June uprising that toppled Morsi as a coup, regarding it as German support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Christine Buchholz, member of the executive committee of left-wing party Die Linke told Daily News Egypt that allegations of the Muslim Brotherhood influencing German politics are “grotesque”.
“That’s a flimsy attempt to justify [their] own repressions [against the opposition],” she stated.
Emad Shahin, renowned professor of political sciences, who was sentenced to death in absentia, along with Mohammed Morsi , bashed the regime as fascist in German right-wing newspaper Die Welt, saying: “Those whom he [Al-Sisi] can’t shoot directly, he sends to court and let’s them get sentenced to death”.
Journalist Raniah Salloum wrote for Spiegel Online: “Under Sisi Egypt is transforming into a mafia-like intelligence services-state with a haywire justice system that doesn’t refrain from sentencing hundreds of people to death in a matter of just a few minutes.”
The German federal government is ramping up cooperation with Egyptian intelligence services and the Egyptian police, despite the fact that they’re responsible for grave human rights violations, said Buchholz.
“The [German] federal government from time to time criticises human rights violations in Egypt, but yet strengthens exactly the ones committing them,” Buchholz stated.
“We salute the very few Western leaders who raised their voices against Sisi’s regime,” said Darrag.