Books for changing the world

Sisi’s Many Jails — From Gaza to Tora

Trump’s reference to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as his “favorite dictator” revealed the former US president’s penchant for lawlessness and authoritarian rule. But the Biden administration continues to provide carte blanche for Sisi’s widespread repression and human rights abuses, based on the premise that Egypt plays an important role in enforcing US policies for the region, in particular as a mediator between Palestinians and Israel. This Realpolitik logic of unconditional support for tyrants is shortsighted. The Sisi regime is currently imprisoning an estimated 60,000 political prisoners while it also plays a central role in maintaining the longstanding blockade of Gaza and jails Palestine solidarity activists in Egypt.

This forum will address the state of human rights in Egypt, Sisi’s role in besieging Palestinians (in collusion with Israel and the Palestinian Authority), how US policy fuels repression in Egypt and Egypt’s nefarious role in Israel-Palestine, and what progressives can do to improve human rights conditions for Egyptians and Palestinians.



Raed Jarrar is Advocacy Director for Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). Since immigrating to the U.S. in 2005, he has worked as a lobbyist on political issues pertaining to the U.S. engagement in the Arab world. Widely recognized as an expert on political, social, and economic developments in the MENA region, he has testified in numerous Congressional hearings and briefings. He is a frequent guest on national and international media outlets in Arabic and English, including CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and Sky News Arabia.

Yasmin Omar, a human rights lawyer, is Egypt Legal Associate at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). She has been a practicing human rights lawyer for the last nine years. She has worked with several NGOs in Egypt and is a member of the Front of Defense for Egyptian Protesters. She holds an L.L.M. from Syracuse University with a focus on counter-terrorism, national security, and refugee and asylum law.

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, investigates human rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Prior to his current role, he was a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he focused on US counterterrorism policies, including legal representation of Guantanamo detainees. As the 2013-14 Arthur R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellow at Human Rights Watch, he investigated human rights violations in Egypt, including the Rab’a massacre, one of the largest killings of protesters in a single day.

Ted Swedenburg (moderator) is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Memories of Revolt: The 1936-39 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past and co-editor of Palestine, Israel and the Politics of Popular Culture and Displacement, Diaspora and Geographies of Identity.


This event is co-sponsored by the Middle East Research & Information Project (MERIP), US Committee to End Political Repression in EgyptDemocracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Internationalism from Below, and Haymarket Books.