Genocide Country report: Egypt

August 2021

Coptic Orthodox worshippers attend Christmas Eve mass at the Nativity of Christ Cathedral in the administrative capital, 45 kilometers (28 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 6, 2020. - -/AFP via Getty Images

Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution in 2011 created significant upheaval as the country saw three different leaders in two years. After General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected President in 2014, and re-elected in 2018 with little opposition, Egypt has returned to its tradition of authoritarian military rule.

In 2014, Egypt adopted a new constitution that officially allows for freedom of religion under Article 64. Nevertheless, Egypt maintains restrictions on non-Muslim religions, especially on Coptic Christians. Pursuant to a 2016 law, the government began limiting the number of churches built based on the proportion of Christians in an area. Governors are responsible for approving or denying church-building permits, with no appeals process. Islamist mobs have attacked Copts on Christian holidays.

Coptic Christians face discrimination by the Egyptian government and violence from Islamist terrorists. On April 9, 2017, members of ISIS killed 45 people in attacks on two churches. Egypt declared a state of emergency under its Emergency Law, which extends police powers, suspends constitutional rights, legalizes censorship, abolishes habeas corpus, and limits political activity.

The Muslim Brotherhood briefly held power after President Morsi won election in 2012, but it now faces persecution. It is the most significant opposition to the Egyptian government, which classified the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in 2013. Thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained, tortured, sentenced to death in mass trials, or disappeared. Egypt’s highest court upheld 12 death sentences for members of the Muslim Brotherhood after a mass trial in 2018. Executions in Egypt rose from 32 in 2019 to 107 in 2020.


Despite Constitution Article 65’s “Freedom of Thought” protections of freedom of speech, the Egyptian government has targeted dissenting journalists, scholars, and human rights advocates. Many are imprisoned without charge; others are charged with spreading misinformation. Torture is routine in Egyptian jails and prisons.

In 2021, Egypt initiated a resettlement plan to encourage Egyptians to migrate to the Sinai Desert. This policy threatens one million Bedouins in the Sinai. In response to their loss of income from nomadic herding due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, many Bedouins have become sedentary farmers. Egypt considers Bedouins to be stateless persons due to their lack of official documentation. Because they cannot prove their citizenship and property rights, the Egyptian government can confiscate Bedouin land without compensation to build settlements.

Because of violence and discrimination against Coptic Christians, arrests of human rights defenders and journalists, and denial of Bedouins’ citizenship and property rights, Genocide Watch considers Egypt to be at Stage 3: Discrimination, Stage 7: Polarization, and Stage 8: Persecution.


Genocide Watch recommends:

• The Egyptian government should protect Coptic Christians and churches by prosecuting perpetrators of violence against them. It should allow Christians to build new churches freely.

• The Egyptian government should recognize the citizenship and property rights of Bedouins.

• The Egyptian government should immediately release detained human rights advocates, journalists, and opposition leaders and stop arresting and torturing them.

• The Egyptian government should abide by its own constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and speech.

• The United Nations Human Rights Council should sponsor an independent fact-finding mission into human rights abuses against threatened communities.

Egypt Country Report Final
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