Who (are the main combatants): Since 2011, Egypt has experienced dramatic social upheaval and shifts in power. Control over the country has vacillated between the military Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which has acted independently of the President, and its allies, and various Islamic groups, pro-democracy actors, and their supporters. Popular protests, which are often met by state violence, have accompanied and sometimes caused changes in the successive governments, with political groups occasionally coalescing around shared concerns, but other times articulating different demands or opposition to each other. Extremist group ISIL-SP threatens stability in the North Sinai Province areas.
What (started the conflict): After 30 years of authoritarian rule, Egyptians took to the streets in early 2011 to oust President Mubarak. The revolution in Egypt attempted to mirror the success seen in Tunisia, where the “Arab Spring” movement began. Crackdowns and popular protests helped spur Mubarak’s resignation and the passing of power to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in February 2011. Chairman Mohamed Hussein Tantawi acted as interim head of state until the June 2012 election of Mohammed Morsi, who was celebrated as Egypt’s first democratically elected president. In November 2012, Morsi formed a new constitutional committee that gave him almost complete control over the country. This led to the creation of the opposition National Salvation Front, an alliance of political parties. Civil unrest in the country led to a second coup d’état on July 3, 2013 and the SCAF once again assumed control of the government. A major crackdown on two main protest sites in August 2013 caused more than 1,000 civilian deaths. This led to retaliatory attacks on government and police buildings across Egypt, followed by an official state of emergency. In June 2014, Adbel Fattah el-Sisi, the former head of Egypt’s armed forces, assumed the presidency in democratic elections. Since then, the public has protested the security state he reinstalled, his repression of public dissent, and the country’s high unemployment and inflation rates (Telegraph, Newsweek).
When (has fighting occurred): After gaining independence in 1954, Egypt was generally controlled by corrupt leaders who abused their powers. Fighting between Islamic militants and government forces led to over 1,300 deaths between 1992 and 2000 (Project Ploughshares). The contemporary conflict began on January 25, 2011, with protests that led to the ousting of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for three decades (1981-2011). Mubarak’s removal did not bring political stability and his democratically elected successor, Morsi, was removed in a second coup on July 3, 2013. Popular protests against the government are regularly met with violent crackdowns by security forces. Civil unrest and violence are also ongoing in the North Sinai Province.
Where (is the conflict taking place): Islamic insurgents are most active in the North Sinai Peninsula. Conflict has occurred throughout the country, but has been most intense in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, and the cities of Alexandria and Suez. Many protests against the government have been held in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
2017 In 2017, Islamic State attacks on civilians and security forces persisted. While most were against Coptic Christians, one attack killed hundreds of Sufi Muslims. The Coptic Christian community expressed outrage at the lack of security provided by the Egyptian government (The Guardian). Deadly attacks against security forces escalated, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, the “epicentre” of the insurgency (The Guardian).
The Egyptian government reacted strongly against free expression. According to Amnesty International, 15 journalists were imprisoned for defamation and publishing “false information” in the first five months of 2017. Access was blocked to more than 400 websites, including those of human rights organizations and independent newspapers (Amnesty International). Protestors and human rights activists were subjected to pre-emptive arrest and harsh treatment for participating in protests (Human Rights Watch). In April, 190 political activists were arrested by security forces before the announcement of a parliamentary decision on the ceding of two islands to Saudi Arabia (Human Rights Watch). Security forces also arrested and detained perceived members of the Muslim Brotherhood (Amnesty International). The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior continued to carry out extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances (Amnesty International). Security forces shot dead more than 120 people already in custody (Amnesty International). In the first eight months of the year, 165 people were disappeared by security forces for periods from a week to a month (Amnesty International).
2016 The Egyptian parliament conducted its first session since 2012 and reviewed presidential decrees that had been passed since 2013. The North Sinai region hosted the most active conflict spots, with periodic attacks by insurgents allied with the Islamic State, notably ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP). The Egyptian army responded to growing and more coordinated militant attacks with the launch of a new military campaign against IS-affiliated militants. The government has reportedly increased the use of forced disappearances, particularly against civilians accused of sympathizing or associating with the Muslim Brotherhood. Civil protest rose in response to the passage of controversial political laws, resulting in hundreds of arrests. In November, parliament drafted a law limiting the independence of nongovernmental organizations in Egypt. International human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, expressed concern for the rights of Egyptians should el-Sisi ratify this legislation in 2017.
2015 Egyptians participated in parliamentary elections in the fall, although the rate of voter turnout was relatively low. ISIL-Sinai Province emerged as the most active insurgent force in Egypt, with the intensity and coordination of their attacks increasing. Most attacks by this group took place in North Sinai. The government cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood with more than 200 sentenced to prison or death. New counter-terrorism legislation gave the state additional power and criminalized public statements against the national defence ministry. This legislation was criticized by international rights organizations, including Amnesty International, which claimed that undercut rights of freedom of speech and association.
2014 More than 41,000 people were reportedly arrested or charged with criminal offences between July 2013 and May 2014. Former Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became president in June after a landslide victory in the May elections. Human rights groups reported setbacks in human rights, such as violations of basic freedoms and the use of excessive force by police. The Egyptian people voted to amend the 2012 Egyptian constitution in January. A presidential decree in February made the Defence Minister head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). In October, President al-Sisi expanded the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians. Fighting continued in the Sinai Peninsula. In November, insurgent group Ansar Beit-Al Maqdis (ABM) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and renamed itself Sinai Province. Two new rebel groups emerged after factions split from the ABM. There were more than 440 conflict-related deaths—a marked decrease from the previous year.
2013 Egypt experienced severe internal unrest and violent protests. The government’s inability to make coherent reforms, increasing shortages of food and fuel, and growing inflation were all reasons cited for the protests. Twenty-two million supporters of Tamarrud (“rebellion” movement) signed petitions to oust President Morsi and 25 million followers of Tagarrud (“impartiality” movement) supported Morsi. Growing tensions between the elected Muslim Brotherhood, the National Salvation Front and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) led to the forced removal of President Morsi on July 3 in a military coup d’état. Adly Mansour, head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, became the Interim president. Parliament was dissolved, the constitution reviewed, and the cabinet re-shuffled to remove all Islamists. Following the coup, protests became increasingly violent; in August clashes resulted in more than 1,000 deaths.
Foreign countries viewed the coup as illegal because it overthrew a democratically elected government. In August, the European Union condemned the violence used by security forces against civilians and declared an arms embargo against Egypt. In response to continuous protests the Interim government created a law in November that restricted mass demonstrations and freedom of assembly. On December 25 the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
2012 Protesters continued to pressure the government to make quicker reforms, but the death toll declined significantly. To demonstrate progress the Interim government partially lifted the State Emergency Ban in January and removed it entirely on May 31. The Interim government also released 3,000 prisoners in January. In early February 74 football fans were killed in Port Said by alleged thugs from the rival team; further clashes between civilians and police killed 12 people. Former president Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on June 2. Presidential elections held June 16-17 were won by the Muslim Brotherhood; leader Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected head of state. Following his election tensions grew between the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. Allegations arose that Morsi was attempting to create an Islamic state when a large number of Muslims were appointed to the Constituent Assembly. The first draft of a new constitution was released October 10; the constitution was signed by President Morsi on December 25, but was widely considered illegitimate.
2011 Inspired in part by events that took place in Tunisia, in January Egyptians began to protest i30 years of authoritarian rule under President Mubarak. The protests became increasingly violent; according to an internal report released in April, 846 protesters were killed and more than 8,000 injured in January and February. After 18 days of violent unrest President Mubarak stepped down on February 11 and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) formed an Interim government. Two days later, the SCAF dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution. The formally banned Muslim Brotherhood formed the Non-Theocratic Freedom and Justice Party in April, which was recognized by the Interim government on June 7. Egyptians urged the Interim government to hold security officials accountable for human rights violations committed during the protests. Former President Mubarak’s trial began in August and parliamentary elections were held in November. Approximately 984 Egyptians died and more than 12,700 were injured during Mubarak’s removal.
1. Government of Egypt: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former Field Marshal of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), was elected president in June 2014, replacing interim president Adly Mansour. A military coup d’état on July 3, 2013 deposed President Morsi, who was subsequently placed on trial. Before Morsi, President Mubarak was head of state for 30 years until the 2011 revolution; he was forced to resign and later sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the killing of protesters in 2011, but was acquitted during retrial in November 2014.
2. Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF):SCAF is comprised of 23 military generals from the army, navy, air force, air defence, and military intelligence. In 2014, a presidential decree made the defence minister, rather than the president, the head of SCAF. After the 2011 revolution the Council took control of Egypt; SCAF Chairman Mohamed Hussein Tantawi was installed as interim president. After the June 2012 presidential elections, Mohammed Morsi assumed office. Morsi and SCAF disagreed on the direction that Egypt should take. After millions of Egyptians protested against Morsi’s agenda, SCAF forcefully removed Morsi from office and assumed control, with Adly Mansour as interim president. Elections in 2014 brought current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power.
Political parties (opposed to the current government, may have previously governed Egypt):
3. National Democratic Party (NDP): The NDP, described as an authoritarian centrist party, was founded by Anwar Sadat in 1978. He was succeeded as president by Hosni Mubarak, who led the NDP from 1981-2011. The NDP became a member of Socialist International in 1989. When the NDP failed to address the needs of Egyptian civilians, Socialist International Secretary-General Luis Ayala revoked the NDP’s membership in January 2011. Following January and February 2011 protests, President Mubarak stepped down and the Supreme Administrative Council dissolved the NDP.
4. Muslim Brotherhood Movement/Freedom and Justice Party: The Muslim Brotherhood is a religious, political, and social movement as well as a political party. It was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, who favoured the adoption of Sharia law in Egypt. Under Mubarak’s rule, the Muslim Brotherhood was actively repressed, but its activities were legalized again after his fall. The Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom and Justice Party won Egypt’s first democratic elections in 2011, bringing President Mohammed Morsi to power. In July 2013, following reforms that gave him almost unlimited power, Morsi was overthrown by SCAF. The interim SCAF government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and banned it in December 2013. In 2015, there was division within the Brotherhood over the use of violence. The group has actively denounced the current regime of President el-Sisi and continues to organize demonstrations and actions against it.
5. Anti-Coup Alliance: Also known as the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), it was founded in 2013 and comprises approximately 40 Islamist parties that support deposed President Morsi (Egypt Independent). It was formed and led by the Muslim Brotherhood as a way to insert itself into the political race after the Brotherhood was banned in June 2013. In September 2014, the court banned NASL and its activities in Egypt (Ahram News). Since then, some parties have left the alliance to participate in the political system. According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the alliance was still led by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2016 and organized a large majority of anti-government protests (ANHRI).
6. The Hasm Movement: Formed in July 2016, it targets policemen, soldiers and state figures as a strategy to topple the current regime (Al-Monitor). The group operates in mainland Egypt and has not affiliated itself with ISIL or any other insurgent group in the region.
7. Liwa al-Thawra (Revolution Brigade): An unaffiliated militant group that surfaced in September 2016, it believes that the current regime has betrayed the Egyptian people. The group targets police officers and other officials in response to abuses against protestors (Daily News Egypt).
8. Sinai Province (ISIL-SP): Formerly known as Ansar Beit-al Maqdis (ABM), the group is based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The United States and United Kingdom designated it a terrorist group in April 2014. The group began operations in 2011 and became well-known in 2012 for a series of attacks against Israel. After the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, it began targeting Egyptian security forces. ABM aligned itself with the Islamic State in November 2014 and changed its name to Sinai Province. In April 2016, the Egyptian military killed the group’s leader, Abu Duaa al-Ansari, who was succeeded by Sheikh Abdullah (International Crisis Group). It is estimated that ISIL-Sinai Province currently has between 1,000 and 1,500 active members.
9. Ajnad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt): A splinter group of Ansar Beit-al Maqdis (ABM), Soldiers of Egypt emerged in January 2014. Since then it has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on security forces, government buildings, and public spaces. In May 2014, Ajnad Misr was designated a terrorist organization by the Cairo Court. The group’s founder was killed by police in April 2015 and its operations and numbers have dwindled significantly since then (Stratfor).
10. Katibat al-Rabat al-Jihadiya: This group splintered off from Ansar Beit-al Maqdis after an internal disagreement about ABM’s 2014 pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State.
2017 On November 24, in the deadliest civilian attack in years, 305 people were killed in the al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, North Sinai (The Guardian). After a bomb went off inside the mosque during a service, a group of approximately 25-30 militants shot worshippers trying to escape (The Guardian). The shooters also reportedly shot at ambulances and set vehicles on fire (The Guardian). While no group claimed responsibility, the Islamic State has been blamed by many (The Guardian).
According to BBC News, Islamic State attacks on Egyptian Christians claimed more than 100 lives in 2017. On April 9, Palm Sunday, bombs went off in two Coptic Churches. Twenty-nine people were killed in the Mar Girgis Church in Tanta, while 18 people were killed in St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria (The Guardian). In May, at least 28 Coptic Christians were killed in a bus on their way to the St. Samuel’s Monastery in the Minya Province (BBC). On December 29 in Cairo, a gunman killed 11 people inside a Coptic Orthodox Church and a nearby Christian-owned store in Cairo; Islamic State claimed responsibility (Reuters).
The Egyptian government responded to a number of these attacks with airstrikes. Following the Minya attack, Egyptian fighter jets launched strikes on what were believed to be the training camps of the assailants near Derna, Libya (The Guardian). After the Sinai mosque attack, there were airstrikes on suspected “terrorist” locations and vehicles in the mountainous areas of Bir al-Abed (The Guardian).
Hundreds of members of Egyptian security forces have been killed by insurgents since 2013 (The Guardian). According to Amnesty International, 111 security agents were killed in North Sinai in 2017. On January 17, at a checkpoint in the el-Wadi el-Gedidi province, eight policemen were killed by gunmen; two of the gunmen were also killed (The Guardian). On July 7, at least 23 Egyptian soldiers were killed during an attack by the Islamic State on a checkpoint in the northern Sinai Peninsula (BBC); approximately 40 militants died in the clash (BBC). On September 11, 18 Egyptian police were killed when a car rammed through their convoy and then exploded (BBC); Islamic State claimed responsibility (BBC). On October 21. more than 54 police were killed in an ambush by militants in Giza Province.
2016 President el-Sisi extended the state of emergency in North Sinai for three months in May and then again in July after an intensification of IS-related violence in the Sinai Peninsula. On October 14, armed militants attacked a security checkpoint in North Sinai, killing 12 military personnel (Reuters). On October 16, the Egyptian Army announced that it had launched a new campaign against IS militants in Sinai (Ahram). On October 22, General Adel Ragaai, head of the army in North Sinai, was shot outside his Cairo home. The government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of arranging the attack, although a new terrorist group, Liwa al-Thawra, claimed responsibility (International Crisis Group).
On December 9, two roadside bombings occurred. One, claimed by the Hasm Movement, occurred at a mobile checkpoint near the pyramids of Gaza, killing six Cairo police officers (Independent). The other attack, claimed by ISIL-SP, took place in the north, killing one civilian and injuring three policemen. On December 11, a suicide bombing at Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral killed 25 and injured approximately 40 (International Crisis Group). The attack, for which ISIL-SP claimed responsibility, was the deadliest attack on Christians since 2011, when a bomb killed 21 at an Alexandria Coptic church.
There were 630 enforced disappearances between January and May (Amnesty International). While in police custody, 433 detainees claimed they had been tortured or mistreated; human rights groups allege that such treatment is used to extract false evidence for sham trials (Human Rights Watch). In May, an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo crashed in the Mediterranean Sea under mysterious circumstances (BBC). While no group has claimed responsibility, the government deemed terrorism the likely cause (BBC).
2015 Conflict in the North Sinai region persisted throughout the year; Sinai Province was the most active insurgent group in Egypt. On July 1 the militants launched simultaneous raids on at least five military checkpoints and a police station in and around Sheikh Zuweid in one of the largest co-ordinated assaults to date. Government reports estimated that 241 militants and 21 soldiers were killed. According to BBC News, the group launched a missile at an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean on July 16. In response to these activities, counter-terrorism operations intensified in North Sinai. Sinai Province leader Ashraf Gharabli was killed in a shootout in Cairo on November 9. Sinai Province claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane on October 31. On December 14, Egyptian investigators reported finding no proof that terrorism caused the crash. (ACLED)
2014 Although there was less rioting and protesting this year, hundreds gathered to protest the anti-demonstration law and election results. Security forces remained notorious for their use of excessive force to disperse protestors. In July, an Interior Ministry official stated that, since Morsi’s ousting, authorities had arrested 22,000 people, most suspected supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights reported that, between July 2013 and May 2014, more than 41,000 people were arrested or charged with criminal offences. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 7,000 people who had been arrested in the aftermath of Morsi’s removal were still in pre-trial detention. Human Rights Watch noted that arrest campaigns in 2014 also targeted secular and leftist activists, specifically on charges that include protesting without authorization, incitement, “thuggery,” vandalism, blocking roads, and belonging to banned or terrorist groups.
Conflict in the Sinai Peninsula continued during the year, notably between Egyptian security forces and insurgent group Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Beit-al Maqdis (ABM). In January, militants for the first time used surface-to-air missiles to down a military helicopter. In one of the deadliest insurgent attacks in Egypt in years, at least 25 security personnel were killed and more injured by a car bomb in October. The same month, the government declared a state of emergency in north and central Sinai that lasted three months and led to the closure of the border with Gaza and the evacuation of 1,100 residents along the border.
2013 Egypt experienced a resurgence of violent clashes and protests due to tensions among the elected Muslim Brotherhood, the opposition National Salvation Party, the Supreme Council for Armed Forces, and civilians. On January 26, just over two years after the initial revolution, 21 Port Said civilians were sentenced to death, sparking a wave of protests against the Morsi government. Security forces used brutal tactics to halt the demonstrations. Increasing food and fuel shortages and growing inflation also sparked protests. On March 24, according to the International Crisis Group, Morsi warned that he would take “necessary measures” to “protect the nation.” In June civilians polarized around the question of removing Morsi from power. Twenty-two million Tamarrud signed a petition to oust the President and 25 million Tagarrud supported him. Morsi called for a national dialogue in June, but ongoing tensions and allegations that Morsi was creating an Islamic state and abusing power led to the SCAF coup on July 3. Morsi’s removal from power sparked violent protests throughout the country. August saw the most violence: more than 1,000 Egyptians died. Fear spread that the removal of Morsi would lead to a regime similar to that of Mubarak. Following the violent crackdown on civilians by security forces interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei stepped down. Former President Mubarak was released from prison and put under house arrest on August 21.
2012 Conflict declined slightly, although civilian protests against government reforms and security officials remained common. In April, for example, thousands of civilians took to the streets to demand that the country be ruled by its people. In early February political tensions led to 74 football fans being killed in Port Said by alleged thugs of the rival team, and clashes between civilians and police resulted in the deaths of an additional 12 people. In January the military partially lifted the State Emergency ban and released approximately 3,000 prisoners. The ban was officially removed on May 31 before presidential elections in June that resulted in a new government under President Mohammed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ex-president Mubarak was sentenced on June 2 to life in prison for corrupt practices and his role in the deaths of protesters. The drafting of a new constitution resulted in friction between Muslim Brotherhood and opposition supporters on October 12 in Tahrir Square.
2011 On January 25 tens of thousands of civilians, inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, organized a “Day of Revolt” to protest the 30 years of authoritarian rule by President Hosni Mubarak. According to the International Crisis Group 846 protesters were killed and more than 8,000 injured in public protests that lasted 18 days in January and February. Finally, President Mubarak resigned on February 11. April protests demanding that Mubarak and his sons be put on trial for corruption, led to his trial, which began August 3. Other former officials were also charged and sentenced for crimes while in office. Calls for accountability of current security officials grew as serious human rights violations against protesters became commonplace.
Total: The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project estimates the number of deaths at 7,000 from 2011 to 2016 (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File). More than 15,000 Egyptians have been injured as a result of armed conflict in Egypt.
2017 According to the ACLED, 1,566 combatants and civilians were killed in 2017 (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File). 477 people died in attacks on civilians, and some 1,089 were a result of conflict, including battles and bombings.
Number of Refugees & IDPs: Egypt hosts approximately 211,104 refugees from 63 different countries, most from Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and South Sudan (Human Rights Watch). In 2016, there were 78,00 internally displaced persons in Egypt (The World Factbook). Between January and April 2017, at least 50 asylum seekers (from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan) were deported without receiving access to legal representation (Amnesty International).
2016 According to the ACLED, 1,711 combatants and civilians were killed in 2016 (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File). One hundred and sixteen people died in attacks on civilians; 1,583 deaths were the result of armed conflict, including battles, IEDs, and bombings.
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): The CIA Factbook estimated that 78,000 IDPs were displaced within Egypt by conflict. As of August 2016, there were 87,838 refugees and asylum seekers registered and residing in Egypt, with the majority from Syria (UNHCR).
2015 According to ACLED, 2,869 people were killed in 2015, including security forces, civilians and militia. Thirty-three deaths occurred during riots and protest; 1,780 directly resulted from armed conflict; and 404 were the result of violence against civilians (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File, results filtered for Egypt, 2015).
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): According to UNHCR, as of June 2015 226,344 refugees, 30,019 asylum seekers, and 21 stateless persons were residing in Egypt. While 16,105 refugees and 10,415 asylum seekers originated from Egypt (UNHCR).
2014 According to data provided by International Crisis Group, more than 464 were killed and 152 injured, including security forces, civilians, and militia.
Refugees and IDPs: The UNHCR reported 237,117 refugees, 25,194 asylum seekers, and 22 stateless persons residing in Egypt in July 2014, while there were 13,050 refugees and 9,049 asylum seekers originating from Egypt.
2013 International Crisis Group estimated that 1,439 deaths and thousands of injuries resulted from the violent protests that erupted throughout the country following the coup d’état that evicted President Morsi on July 3. The violence between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood members and pro-Morsi supporters peaked in August when approximately 1,000 people were killed.
Refugees: According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there were 9,456 Egyptian refugees and 4,930 asylum seekers by mid-2013.
2012 There was a considerable decline in violent conflict according to the International Crisis Group, which reported a conservative 130 deaths and 200 injuries. February saw the greatest number of deaths when 74 soccer fans in Port Said were killed during clashes with rival fans after the match.
2011 According to the International Crisis Group, the uprising that began on January 25 resulted in approximately 984 deaths and 12,700 injuries. An internal report released in April claimed at least 846 protesters were killed and 8,000 injured during the height of the protests in January and February. Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims resulted in 53 deaths.
2017 In April 2017, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed a set of amendments that facilitated arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and indefinite pre-trial detentions (Amnesty International). He later proposed a law to extend the presidential term from four to six years and approved a law that would allow him to appoint the head of judicial bodies, including those of the mostly independent Court of Cassation and State Council (Amnesty International).
On March 2, former president Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) was acquitted on charges that included corruption and conspiring to kill hundreds of demonstrators during the uprisings of 2011 (The Guardian). After the fall of Mubarak’s government in 2012, he was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to kill 239 demonstrators during the 18-day uprising (The Guardian). The decision concluded Mubarak’s second retrial (BBC), with no opportunity for another retrial (The Guardian).
On December 30, former president Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013) was sentenced to three years in prison and fined for insulting the judiciary (The Guardian). Another 19 people, including human rights activist (Alaa Abdel-Fattah), political commentator Amr Hamzawy, and 11 former parliamentarians (The Guardian) were also charged, but received only smaller fines (Reuters).
2016 On January 10, the Egyptian parliament convened for the first time since June 2012 (International Crisis Group). This 15-day session was held to review and ratify hundreds of presidential decrees that had been issued by President el-Sisi since June 2014. According to the constitution, the president had the authority to issue decrees until a parliament was elected, at which point it would have 15 days to debate legislation (Al-Monitor). In the January session, parliament approved several controversial counter-terrorism laws, including a law from 2015 that sparked public outrage because it penalized journalists for contradicting official reports on militant attacks (Reuters).
In April, the government announced plans to relinquish control of two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia, apparently to secure $20-billion in aid and investment. This announcement sparked a public outcry, leading to the largest protests Egypt had seen since 2013. Approximately 1,300 protesters were arrested between April 15 and May 5 (Human Rights Watch). In June, the state council overruled President el-Sisi’s decision on the grounds that Egyptian sovereignty over the islands could not be amended. The government filed an appeal the same month. On January 16, 2017 the court rejected the government’s appeal and announced that the decision was no longer subject to appeal (The Guardian).
In November, parliament drafted a new law that severely limited the independence of NGOs working in Egypt. The proposed ban would require NGOS to secure government approval for funding and projects, prevent NGOs from conducting political work, give courts the ability to dissolve organizations, and institute criminal penalties for violators (OCHR). The legislation was delivered to President el-Sisi for approval without any public debate or input. Although the President had not yet signed the law, crackdowns against prominent human rights organizations, such as the El Nadeem Centre, continued into January 2017 (Al Jazeera).
There were ongoing allegations of widespread torture by Egyptian security forces. In February, the body of missing Italian researcher Guilio Regeni was found outside Cairo bearing signs of torture. The Cambridge University PhD student had been researching how trade unions might reform Egypt. The Egyptian government continued to deny that its national security services had any part in Regeni’s disappearance or torture, but was accused of delaying and hampering the investigation. In June, Italy removed its ambassador and cancelled its F16 arms deal with Egypt, encouraging other EU members to condemn the country’s actions (Telegraph).
2015 The government continued to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) during throughout the year. In February death sentences were confirmed for 183 MB members and on the 23rd the government dissolved 169 MB-affiliated NGO’s (Crisis Watch). On April 11 the Cairo Criminal Courts confirmed the death sentence of MB leader Mohammed Badie; this sentence was overturned on December 3 and a retrial was later ordered. The death sentence of deposed president and former MB leader Mohamed Morsi was confirmed in mid-June. Soon after MB leaders voiced concerns that ongoing repression might be pushing some members to violence.
The first round of long-delayed parliamentary elections was held October 18-19; the second round followed on November 22-23. The High Election Committee reported a voter turnout of 26.56 percent- the lowest since the 2011 uprising. Many Muslim Brotherhood supporters continued to boycott the vote, as they had since the organization was banned and designated a terrorist organization in late 2013. There was little electoral violence and relatively low levels of protest, in contrast to the more active summer months. According to the Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support, a total of 67 protests, sit-ins, and strikes occurred between July and September. On the anniversary of the 2011 uprising in late January, dozens of protesters and one police official were killed, with more than 500 arrested. (Egypt Independent) On December 31 President Al-Sisi called for the newly elected parliament to assemble on January 10, 2016. This would be the first assembly since the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved in mid-2012. (Crisis Watch)
In August the government passed new counter-terrorism legislation increasing police powers of detention and surveillance, and criminalizing public statements against the defence ministry. Anyone found guilty of falsely reporting militant attacks faced large fines and suspension of employment (The Guardian). The legislation was widely criticized as an attack on free speech by national and international NGO’s and human rights organizations. Amnesty International warned that its powers resembled those invoked during a state of emergency, which banned rights to freedom of expression and association. (Amnesty International)
2014 Egyptian citizens voted to amend the 2012 Egyptian constitution in January, strengthening the powers of the military, police, and judiciary, enhancing the rights of women and disabled people, and discarding select Islamic-leaning clauses added during Morsi’s term of office. Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected President with 96.9 per cent of the vote. Voter participation was about 47.5 per cent, according to the electoral commission; Muslim Brotherhood supporters boycotted the vote. The opposition and observers expressed doubts over the election’s legitimacy. The United States welcomed al-Sisi’s election, but U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concerns over human rights at a meeting with al-Sisi during the United Nations General Assembly in September. The EU mission to monitor the election noted that freedom of association, assembly, and expression remained areas of concern, while police continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters.
Human Rights Watch documented serious shortfalls in procedures by Egypt’s judiciary. Detainees were denied basic due process rights; many trials violated Egyptian law as well as international legal standards. At least 90 detainees died in local police stations and security directorates in the governorates of Cairo and Giza, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al Watan. On May 1, the International Criminal Court (ICC) dismissed a request filed by Morsi and the now defunct Freedom and Justice Party that the ICC investigate crimes against humanity in Egypt on the grounds that the request for ICC’s jurisdiction over Egypt was not filed by the recognized government of Egypt. A presidential decree in February declared the defence minister the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—a position previously held by the president. In May 2014, former president Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzlement, but was acquitted in November of complicity in the deaths of protesters in 2011. In October, President al-Sisi expanded the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians.
New rebel group Ajnad Misr split off from Ansar Beit-Al Maqdis (ABM) at the beginning of the year. In mid-November, ABM aligned with the Islamic State and renamed itself Sinai Province. Katibat al-Rabat al-Jihadiya also announced its split from ABM in December over a disagreement about ABM’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State.
2013 Internal unrest that followed the June 2012 presidential elections continued. In early July a military coup d’état by the SCAF removed President Morsi from power and replaced him with Adly Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional court. In mid-July Interim President Mansour dissolved the parliament, called for amendments to the constitution, and re-shuffled the cabinet to remove Islamists. Fears arose that the interim government would reinstate controversial police units that existed under Mubarak. Internationally, the coup was declared illegal because the military had overthrown a democratically elected government. In August the European Union condemned security force violence against civilians and announced the suspension of export licences for equipment that could be used to oppress Egyptian civilians. In November the Interim government, in response to constant protests, passed a protest law to stop mass gatherings and restrict freedom of assembly. On December 25 the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization and made illegal once again.
2012 Following elections in June the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president and the SCAF gave itself the power to control the budget, to reform legislation, and to write the new constitution. Tensions between the SCAF and President Morsi grew when SCAF leader General Tantawi resigned in September and the position was given to General al-Sisi by President Morsi. Changes by Morsi to the Constituent Assembly also led to allegations that he was creating an Islamic state. The release of the draft constitution in October resulted in severe backlash from the opposition, civil society and the judiciary. When Morsi signed the constitution on December 25, criticisms emerged that the constitution was illegitimate and needed changes.
2011 After continuous public protests President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11. The SCAF took control with Mohamed Hussein Tantawi as head of state until presidential elections. Two days later the SCAF dissolved the Egyptian Parliament and suspended the constitution to make way for amendments that were further legitimized by a public referendum in March. In April Mubarak’s National Democratic Party was dissolved and the Muslim Brotherhood formed the Non-Theocratic Freedom and Justice Party which was formally recognized by the Interim government on June 7. November 28 saw the first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s removal.
Decades of British colonial rule of Egypt nominally ended in 1922 with the unilateral declaration by the U.K. of Egyptian independence. The following year Egypt created its first constitution forming a representative government.
The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 guaranteed Britain’s strategic interests in the Suez Canal. The same year Farouk succeeded his father Fuad as King of Egypt. Prior to World War Two Britain reasserted significant control over Egypt, using it as a regional base for military operations. In a move to national sovereignty, Egypt, with Syria, Transjordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, agreed to the Alexandria Protocol in October 1944, which promoted Arab cooperation. The Protocol was followed by the Arab Pact of March 1945.
This Arab pact was involved in a war with Israel in 1948. Israel emerged as victor. King Farouk’s defeat embarrassed many Egyptians and contributed to the formation of the Free Officers’ Movement, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, which aimed to overthrow the King. On July 23, 1952 Nasser led a revolution that removed King Farouk. Egypt was declared a republic on June 18, 1953 and Mohamad Naguib became the first president. In 1954, after ongoing disagreements with Nasser, Naguib was arrested and Nasser became President. During his presidency Nasser tried to introduce social and economic reforms, but Egypt remained largely impoverished.
In 1956, after Western nations and the World Bank had refused to finance the Aswan Dam, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Britain, France, and Israel banded together to reclaim the canal. Egypt was attacked by Israel and 100 hours later lost the canal. In response to pressure from the United States and the UN, control was returned to Egypt in 1957. President Nasser gained prominence for standing up to the West. Egypt fought Israel again in the Six Day War in 1967 and lost.
After the death of President Nasser, Anwar el-Sadat became president in October 1970. Following another Egyptian defeat by Israel in the Yom Kipper war of 1973, Sadat sought peace with Israel; an agreement was signed in March 1979. Sadat also opened Egypt to private investment, which resulted in substantial economic, political and social changes. Subjected to allegations of corruption and disdain, Sadat was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981. Vice-President Mubarak became president, continuing Sadat’s economic and other policies.
After 30 years of authoritarian rule, President Mubarak was forced from office by widespread protests in 2011 that killed almost 1,000 people. He was temporarily replaced by the SCAF until presidential elections were held in June 2012. Mohammed Morsi, leader of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president in Egypt’s first democratic election. Just over a year later, following accusations of abuse of power and mismanagement, Morsi and his government were removed in a military coup d’état by the SCAF in July 2013. Adly Mahmoud Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional court, became Interim president of Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested for and against the change in leadership in the following months and an estimated 1,000 Egyptians died.
In May 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a key leader in the overthrow of Morsi, was elected President of Egypt. El-Sisi had previously served in several senior roles, including Director of Military Intelligence (2010-2012), Deputy Prime Minister (2013-2014), and, most importantly, Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (2012-2014).
In 2011 Amnesty International admonished the United States for ongoing weapons deliveries to Egypt. It reported that many U.S. weapons were used by Egyptian security officials to commit serious human rights violations against Egyptian civilians. In particular, Amnesty noted that three shipments by the U.S. company Combined Systems Inc. in 2011 included chemical irritants, tear gas, and almost 46 tons of ammunition. In 2011 the Egyptian security officials intercepted a number of weapons that were being smuggled into the country via Libya.
In 2012 the United States continued to supply Egypt with weapons, including 20 F-16 jets. In 2013 Egypt received weapons deliveries from Canada, China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, and the United States.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, on August 21, 2013 the European Union declared that it would suspend licences to Egypt for equipment that could be used to oppress civilians.
In October 2013 the United States reduced military aid to Egypt. A month later Russia began talks with Egypt and came to a subsequent deal that will provide Egypt with $2-billion worth of Russian weaponry, including MiG-29 fighter planes, air defence systems, and anti-tank missiles. In September 2014, U.S. announced that it would provide 10 Apache attack helicopters to aid counterterrorism operations in the Sinai.
In 2015 Egypt received arms deliveries from the United States, France, and Russia. The 2013 U.S. weapons export ban on Egypt was lifted in early April. The military defence budget for the year was estimated at $ 5.47 billion.
In 2015, Egypt received arms deliveries from the United States, France, and Russia. The U.S. weapons export ban on Egypt was lifted in April. Egypt’s defence budget was estimated at $5.34-billion in 2015 (The Military Balance) and $5.33-billion in 2016 (The Military Balance). In April 2016, French President François Hollande signed a deal with Egypt, which included the sale of a military telecommunications satellite. In June, France delivered one of two Mistral-class helicopters to Egypt, following delivery of one FREMM-class frigate, four Gowind-class corvettes, and 24 Rafale fighter jets (Human Rights Watch). In 2016, the United States donated several surplus armed vehicles to Egypt to help increase security capabilities at the Libyan border (The Military Balance).
Egypt cut military spending from $5.3-billion in 2016 to $2.7-billion in 2017 (Forbes). However, in terms of the devalued Egyptian pound, the budget actually increased: from 43.2-billion in 2016 to 47.1-billion in 2017 (The Military Balance 2017). Despite Egypt’s recent attempt to increase the number of indigenous arms producers, it still depends on external suppliers (The Military Balance 2017). In 2017, Egypt commissioned and received military equipment (including submarines, helicopters, and assault ships) from Germany, France, and Russia (The Military Balance 2017).
When economic challenges arose in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s the Egyptian government was able to protect the poorest citizens through subsidies, external aid, and remittances. Economic reforms introduced by Sadat in the 1980s and continued by Mubarak in the 1990s and early 2000s extended the gap between rich and poor.
In January 2012 Aljazeera created a scorecard to measure how far the country had advanced since its revolution the year before. The report noted that half the country still lived on less than $2 a day. But some positive changes had occurred since the 2011 interim government had managed to increase minimum wage to 700 Egyptian pounds a month from 35 Egyptian pounds a month. And for the first time in Egyptian history citizens in the private sector were guaranteed a minimum wage.
Egypt’s overall economic situation continues to decline. Its economic crisis has been compared to the Great Depression. There have been drastic decreases in foreign investment and tourism, a 60 per cent decline in foreign exchange reserves, rising unemployment, shortages in fuel, and further devaluation of the Egyptian pound. President Morsi attempted to make some changes by accepting grants and loans from Qatar and Libya, but he did not conduct any nationwide economic reforms. He increased taxes on some imports and closed shops earlier at night to save electricity. But the increasing disparity between rich and poor triggered a 350-per-cent increase in robberies in 2012.
In 2012 the EU gave Egypt a $6.4-billion financial support package and in July 2013 the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait agreed to provide aid and loans that totaled $12-billion. As of 2014, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAW had committed to provide Egypt with over $18 billion in loans, fuel subsidies and grants – in addition to investments in residential and commercial property.
Egypt’s defence budget has moderately declined in recent years. It was $4.47-billion (U.S.) in 2010, $4.23-billion in 2011 and $4.12-billion in 2013. The United States provides $1.3-billiion in military aid (approximately one-quarter of the defence budget). In August 2013 the United States did not call the overthrow of President Morsi a coup, which would have jeopardized military aid. But by October 2013 the United States had decided to freeze some military aid to Egypt. By October 2013, however, the United States had decided to freeze some military aid to Egypt, a policy which remained in effect in 2016.
Egypt’s once lucrative tourism industry has declined significantly since the 2011 coup, although the government has attempted to entice tourists by reopening popular attractions, such as the tomb of Queen Nefertari (The Guardian). In 2016, there was a shortage of essential goods, including rice and medicine, throughout Egypt and more than one-quarter of the population lived below the poverty line. In November 2016, the International Monetary Fund approved a $12-billion loan to prevent economic collapse, on the condition that Egypt implement significant economic changes, such as reducing energy subsidies (Al Jazeera). Structural reforms resulted in high inflation, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, and countrywide protests against el-Sisi (Al Jazeera).
As a result of declining aid from Gulf allies in 2016, the Egyptian government had to take out a loan that pushed inflation to 30 per cent (The World Factbook). On August 23, 2017, the United States was criticized by the Egyptian government for its decision to withhold $195-million in military aid and $96-million in other aid (BBC). Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid annually to help fight the insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula by Islamic State (BBC). The U.S. decision was a response to a new Egyptian law that would regulate NGOs and impede their efficiency (BBC). The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee decided to withhold the aid until there were significant strides toward “advancing democracy and human rights” in Egypt (Human Rights Watch).
map: CIA Factbook