During the fourth quarter of 2018, 44 papers were published by 16 think tanks. This is three below par to the number of papers published in the third quarter by 14 institutions. Papers from the fourth quarter mostly dealt with topics such as civil society, military, economy, security, judicial affairs, human rights, Islamic institutions and movements, foreign affairs and Sinai. Matters dealing with Islamic institutions and movements and Sinai were less prevalent in the third quarter.
In descending order, the third quarter was dominated by reports from the Egyptian Institute for Studies (18), Carnegie Endowment (5), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (4), Human Rights Watch (4) and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (3).
The third quarter witnessed an emphasis on papers (25) written about Egypt’s military and economy. According to Egyptian Institute for Studies’ report ‘Militarization of Egypt amid Army Economic Hegemony’, the hegemonic power of Egypt’s military is seen in its economic prowess: “experts estimated the proportion of the army’s economy at about 50% of the State economy, while others said it was between 45% and 60%.” (1) Despite the military’s stupendous growth in Egypt’s economy, the Atlantic Council reported “high levels of inflation and unemployment, as well as stagnant wages which contributed to fomenting discontent among the population.” (2) Further, the Egyptian Institute for Studies added that low-income citizens have an increased burden since prices have gone up. (3) Lastly, President Sisi has successfully taken control of the military by repositioning leaders within the army. (4) The proactivity of Egypt’s military was and continue to be seen in the losses for both militants and the army in the Operation Sinai. (5)
Another set of prevalent topics in the third quarter was the interconnectedness between human rights, judicial affairs, civil society, and foreign affairs culminating in 21 papers. The continuation of Egypt’s poor human rights record was highlighted by Egypt’s usage of counter-terrorism laws to prosecute journalists and activists. (6) This phenomenon was directly correlated to Egypt’s stark internet censorship which not only restricts freedom of thought for civil society but heavily subject journalists of supporting terrorism. (7) In relation to foreign affairs, the release of US military and financial aid to Egypt came amid the abuses of human rights as similarly reported by Human Rights Watch, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Carnegie Endowment and the European Council on Foreign Relations. (8) (9) (10) (11) (12)
The reports from the third quarter saw topics such as Egypt’s military and its economy being discussed; as well as an intermingling of human rights, civil society, and foreign affairs. By comparison, the fourth quarter has seen a decrease in the number of papers published but an increase in topics covered by including aspects such as Islamic institutions and movements, Sinai and foreign affairs.
For the fourth quarter, the notable think tanks and institutions that published the most by descending order were the Egyptian Institute for Studies (11), Carnegie Endowment (6), Middle East Institute (5) The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (5), Human Rights Watch (4) and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (3)
This quarter witnessed 15 papers on the topic of human rights and judicial affairs. Starting with human rights, the arrests of at least 40 human rights workers occurred even though “Al-Sisi ordered a review of the abusive 2017 law restricting the activities of non-governmental organizations.” (13) (14) By the end of December, Egypt acquitted these 40 non-governmental human rights workers. (15) Considering the fact these workers were American removed a dilemma amongst the U.S. Congress who have and continue to provide Egypt with financial and military aid. (16) (17) Further, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies reported reprisals from Egyptian authorities against those who met with the UN special rapporteur. (18) This move from the Egyptian authorities came after the rapporteur’s investigation to the right to adequate housing.
In regards to judicial affairs, there have been various laws and action taken by the Egyptian government that has affected Egypt’s civil society. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy described the aforementioned housing situation as evictions by the Egyptian government for security and development purposes which have led to tens of thousands without inadequate access to housing, a basic right protected in the constitution (article 78). (19) In addition, Egypt’s Cybercrime Law that was ratified in August 2018 suggests significant discretion to authorities in imposing mass surveillance and censorship that contradicts freedom of thought and privacy rights. (20) Lastly, the implementation of the new health insurance will transfer financial commitment from the State to the society contradicts Article 18 of the Constitution that states “The State shall maintain and support public health facilities that provide health services to the people and shall enhance their efficiency and their equitable geographical distribution.” (21)
The themes of the military and security were apparent in 16 papers during this quarter. Both saw two notable advancements: a possible Arab Nato and the continual efforts in Sinai. Egypt who hosted the military exercises was clear on its objective of jointly with the Middle East Strategic Alliance, to tackle Sunni extremism rather than singling out Iran as the threat. (22) Despite the possibility of an Arab coalition, there remain many challenges within its member states and regional instabilities. (23) The horrific attack on al-Rawda Mosque by Wilayat Sinai forced Egypt to launch ‘Operation Sinai 2018’. The operation has continued the increased suffering of citizens due to high rates of poverty and unemployment. (24) (25) (26) (27)
Egypt’s economy was acknowledged by 13 papers and concluded that it had mixed reviews. On the one hand, the $12 billion IMF backed loan has attracted foreign direct investments and provided essential public services. (28) On the other hand, the ‘Galal Amin and the Egyptian Middle Class’ paper from the Economic Research Forum and would argue the IMF loan that strides for “macroeconomic stability rarely translates into more investment and better-quality jobs; and it is the poor and the middle class who experience the pain.” (29) (30) (31) Lastly, the increased role of the military in the economy is one of Sisi’s achievements. The military is exempted from taxes and can enjoy free access to conscript labor: “the military boast that they can get things done more effectively than the private sector.” (32)