While foreign leaders buddy up to Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, his people endure a brutal crackdown on rights

Even before Egyptian authorities warned that they would “decisively confront” any protests that take place on Friday, it was evident that it would require extraordinary courage to answer the call to the streets. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s regime has repeatedly shown its utter ruthlessness since seizing power six years ago in a coup. Security forces killed thousands of people protesting against the takeover. The country has locked up 60,000 political prisoners. Executions have soared this year.

Yet hundreds of people did demonstrate in cities including Cairo, Suez and Alexandria last week. The authorities responded with teargas, rubber bullets, beatings and live ammunition. Almost 2,000 people have since been arrested – more than are thought to have taken part. They include several prominent figures who do not appear to have been involved in any way, including the internationally recognised rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry, who was defending protesters; the journalist and opposition politician Khaled Dawoud; and Hazem Hosny, a former spokesperson for Sami Anan, the former military chief of staff detained since he tried to challenge Mr Sisi for the presidency last year.

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