Egypt: Sisi’s writers’ block

Helen Fitzwilliam on how the military regime in Cairo has curbed creative and cultural activity

The World Today
3 minute READ

Helen Fitzwilliam

Journalist and filmmaker

In her new novel, Here is a Body, the Egyptian writer Basma Abdel Aziz depicts a fictional military general in an unnamed Middle Eastern city. 

Street children are rounded up at night and conscripted into a state-run rehabilitation centre. The homeless boys are bulked up with food, given military training and compulsory lectures. Across town, a teacher, her doctor husband and their son join a peaceful sit-in demanding the reinstatement of a deposed president. The boys are to be the general’s strike force that is to attack the protesters and drive them off the street. 

The parallels to the Rabaa massacre in Cairo in August 2013 are clear. Then, Egyptian security forces used lethal force to disperse a protest camp assembled after the military, under General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, staged the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi as president. More than 800 protesters died, according to Human Rights Watch – no credible official figures are available.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.