TIME Egypt

Egypt Sentences 3 Al-Jazeera Reporters to 3 Years in Prison

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt
Amr Nabil—AP Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, listens to his verdict in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo on Aug. 29, 2015.

Al-Jazeera English's acting director-general said the verdict "'defies logic and common sense"

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison, the latest twist in a long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

The case against Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed embroiled their journalism into the wider conflict between Egypt and Qatar following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the sentence would affect the three men. Greste, earlier deported in February, spoke to Al-Jazeera from Sydney and said he believed an Egyptian appeals court would overturn the verdict. Fahmy and Mohammed, both on hand for Saturday’s hearing were immediately taken away by police after the hearing.

Mostefa Souag, Al-Jazeera English acting director-general, also criticized the verdict, saying it “‘defies logic and common sense.”

“The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner,” Souag said in a statement. “There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organizations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.”

Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling, said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country’s journalist syndicate. He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials’ approval, had broadcast “false news” on Al-Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.

Immediately after the ruling, Fahmy’s wife, Marwa, began crying. Others loudly sobbed.

“The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt,” said human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represented Fahmy. “It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”

The case began in December 2013, when Egyptian security forces raided the upscale hotel suite used by Al-Jazeera at the time to report from Egypt. Authorities arrested Fahmy, Greste and Mohammed, later charging them with allegedly being part of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has cracked down heavily on his supporters, and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera and the journalists have denied the allegations, saying they were simply reporting the news. However, Doha has been a strong supporter of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the greater Mideast.

At trial, prosecutors used news clips about an animal hospital with donkeys and horses, and another about Christian life in Egypt, as evidence they broke the law. Defense lawyers — and even the judge — dismissed the videos as irrelevant.

Nonetheless, the three men were convicted on June 23, 2014, with Greste and Fahmy sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years for being found with a spent bullet casing. On Saturday, Mohammed received an additional six months for being in possession of a “bullet,” according to the full text of the court decision carried by the Egyptian state news agency MENA. It wasn’t immediately clear why Saturday’s verdict referred to a “bullet,” rather than a spent bullet casing.

The verdict brought a landslide of international condemnation and calls for newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who as military chief led the overthrow of Morsi, to intervene. Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeals court, later ordered their retrial, saying the initial proceedings were marred by violations of the defendants’ rights.

Egypt deported Greste in February, though he remained charged in the case. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

Fahmy was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality by Egyptian officials in order to qualify for deportation. It’s not clear why he wasn’t deported, though Fahmy said he thinks Canada could have pressed Cairo harder on the matter.

Angered by Al-Jazeera handling of the case, Fahmy has filed a lawsuit in Canada seeking $100 million from the broadcaster, saying that it put the story ahead of employee safety and used its Arabic-language channels to advocate for the Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera has said Fahmy should seek compensation from Egypt.

TIME Egypt

Large Bomb Explodes in Cairo Neighborhood

The explosion was near a national security building

(CAIRO) A large bomb exploded early Thursday near a national security building in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo, wounding at least six people including at least one police officer, Egyptian security officials said.

There were no immediate reports of deaths from the explosion, which tore the facade off of the government building. For blocks around the blast site in the popular residential neighborhood, glass from blown-out windows could be seen on the street.

A new anti-terrorism law was finalized this month amid a wave of attacks and killings this summer, including the assassination of Egypt’s attorney general by a car bomb in Cairo. The far-reaching new law sets a sweeping definition for who can face a harsh set of punishments, including journalists who don’t toe the government line.

The Cabinet approved the draft law last month, two days after a car bomb in an upscale Cairo neighborhood killed the country’s prosecutor general, Hisham Barakat. On the day it was approved, Islamic militants launched a multi-pronged attack attempting to seize a northern Sinai town, hitting the military with suicide attacks and battling soldiers for hours.

TIME Egypt

Egypt’s President Signs New Anti-Terrorism Law Into Effect

Mideast Egypt Extremism
Belal Darder—AP In this June 23, 2015 photo, members of Ultras Nahdawy, a youth group of the Muslim Brotherhood, carry a banner with an Arabic word meaning "peaceful" and a smiley face holding a weapon in a protest ahead of the second anniversary of the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in the Nahia district near Cairo, Egypt. Nahia is a virtual no-go zone for the state at the moment

It prescribes stiff jail sentences for a range of crimes

(CAIRO) — Egyptian state media says President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has signed into law a new anti-terrorism bill which has prompted criticism from some politicians and rights groups.

The 54-article law, published on state news agency MENA Monday, defines terrorism broadly, describing it in one clause as any act that disturbs public order with force.

It also prescribes stiff jail sentences for a range of crimes, including promoting or encouraging any “terrorist offense,” as well as damaging state institutions or infrastructure.

The law also sets heavy fines for publishing “false news or statements” about terrorist acts, or news contradicting the Defense Ministry’s reports.

Egypt has not had a parliament for over two years, and legislative authority rests with el-Sissi. Any debate is largely through compliant media or behind closed doors.

TIME Egypt

Egypt’s Security In Question After ISIS Beheading of Croatian

Tomislav Salopek is the second foreigner to be killed by extremists in the last two years

A photo claiming to show the decapitated body of a Croatian hostage killed by ISIS-backed fighters is raising renewed concern about security in Egypt for tourists and foreign workers in the wake of weeks of attacks by insurgents.

The image that surfaced on social media on Wednesday appeared to show the decapitated body of Tomislav Salopek, 30, who worked in Egypt for a subcontractor for CGG, a French oil services company.

Salopek was kidnapped in July on a desert road on the outskirts of Cairo, some 50 kilometers from the city’s edge, according to an early official account. The gunmen who seized him released his Egyptian driver, according to the same account.

If confirmed, it would be the second killing by insurgents of a foreign worker on Egyptian soil, and the first that resembles previous executions of hostages by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Moreover the death of a foreign worker abducted in Egypt’s “mainland” undermines recent attempts by Egypt’s military-backed government to project an aura of security and renewal after years of unrest.

“Egypt is trying to increase foreign direct investment but it’s going to make it difficult to bring foreigners who want to work as part of that investment because of concerns over risk,” says Angus Blair, president of the Signet Institute, an economic and political think tank in Cairo.

“It’s more bad news. Egypt’s authorities have banned all movement of foreign workers outside of armed convoys,” he says, referring primarily to workers in the oil and gas sectors working far outside Egypt’s cities. Blair says he did not expect recent event to affect tourism, as tourist sites are “protected by the military.”

The execution of a foreign hostage could also suggest a new approach for the so-called Sinai Province of the Islamic State, which has waged a deadly insurgency against the Egyptian state. The “Sinai Province” grew out of another group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which allied with ISIS in 2014.

To date, the majority of those attacks have been concentrated on Egypt’s military and police, in Sinai, Cairo, the Nile Delta and elsewhere. In 2014 the militants killed an American oil worker, William Henderson.

Following an increase in attacks in June and July, security has been ramped up at Egyptian government and foreign buildings in Cairo. Trucks unloading concrete blast walls are a familiar sight in the capital. In one attack in July, a bomb destroyed part of the Italian consulate in central Cairo.

The still image of a headless body that emerged on Wednesday identifies the victim in Arabic as a “Croatian prisoner ‘whose country participates in the war on the Islamic State.’” Superimposed alongside the image are two clippings from Arabic media seemingly meant to confirm Croatia’s participation in the coalition against ISIS. One clipping appears to be a screenshot from the website of the Jordanian newspaper al-Dostor.

The image shows a head stacked on top of a headless body, the hands bound behind the back, a stream of blood oozing from the neck onto desert sand. Adjacent to the body is a knife plunged into the sand, while behind the body is the black flag used by ISIS fighters. Projected onto the sand are shadows of what appear to be two people, possibly the executioners, standing behind the camera.

In a video released a week ago, Salopek’s captors threatened to kill him within 48 hours unless the Egyptian government released “Muslim women” from prison in what could be a reference to the thousands detained in a two-year political crackdown since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi from power.

That ultimatum was issued on the eve of Egypt’s inauguration of the Suez Canal, a project hailed by the government as a turning point for the Egyptian economy. For days, a lavish state-sponsored celebration of the canal dominated headlines in Egypt, largely burying news of the threat on Salopek’s life.

TIME Egypt

Archaeologist Says He May Have Found Nefertiti’s Tomb

Egypt - Ancient Thebes (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979). Valley of the Kings. Tomb of Tutankhamen (1347-1338 BC)
De Agostini/Getty Images Entrance to the Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, Ancient Thebes, Egypt.

Nefertiti continues to be known for her beauty to this day

A British archaeologist says he may have discovered where ancient Egyptians buried Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten.

Nefertiti, whose famous bust immortalized her profile, has been the object of searches by archaeologists for decades with little luck. Now, Nicholas Reeves of the University of Arizona says that he has identified the location of her hidden tomb behind a wall in the Valley of Kings. In a research paper, Reeves suggests that Nefertiti may be connected to Tut’s tomb through a portal.

The findings still need to be verified but would be a major breakthrough and help shed light on other lingering questions about how the ancient Egyptians buried their royalty.

Nefertiti, who lived in the 14th century BC, continues to be known for her beauty to this day.

Read next: Who Remembers the Greatest Woman to Rule the Ancient World?

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME isis

ISIS Release Photo That Appears to Show Beheaded Body of Croatian Captive

An ISIS video threatened to kill him earlier this month

A photograph believed to be from the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) shows what looks like the beheading of a man the group threatened to execute earlier this month.

Last week, a video believed to be from ISIS in the Sinai peninsula threatened to kill a man who identified himself as 30-year-old Tomislav Salopek if the Egyptian government did not release female Muslim hostages within 48 hours. It was unclear exactly whose release the group was calling for. The video was circulated by ISIS supporters and shot in a style similar to other ISIS videos, the AP reports.

Salopek, a married father of two, worked as a topographer for the French geoscience company CGG and was captured on July 22. Croatia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed last month that a Croatian national with the same initials as Salopek was kidnapped in Cairo.

TIME Innovation

How the Gender Pay Gap Widens Over Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Watch the gender pay gap start small, then explode over time.

By Jeanna Smialek in Bloomberg Businessweek

2. You can now look up emergency room wait times, hospital noise and more on Yelp.

By Lena H. Sun in the Washington Post

3. Under pressure, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood might be growing even more extreme.

By Nathan Brown and Michele Dunne at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

4. Do we know how to help teachers get better? Unfortunately, no.

By Dan Weisberg at TNTP

5. Never mind Iran and North Korea. Here’s where the real nuclear danger lies.

By Joe Cirincione in Al Jazeera America

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Egypt

Suez Canal Extension Unveiled in Egypt

Mideast Egypt Suez Canal
Hassan Ammar—AP A cargo container ship crosses the new section of the Suez Canal after the opening ceremony in Ismailia, Egypt on Aug. 6, 2015.

"Egyptians have made a huge effort so as to give the world this gift for development, construction and civilization"

(ISMAILIA, Egypt)—With much pomp and fanfare, Egypt on Thursday unveiled a major extension of the Suez Canal billed by its patron, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as a historic achievement needed to boost the country’s ailing economy after years of unrest.

El-Sissi, wearing his ceremonious military uniform and trademark dark sunglasses on a sweltering August day, flew to the site aboard a military helicopter and immediately boarded a monarchy-era yacht that sailed to the venue of the ceremony.

The yacht was flanked by navy warships as helicopters, jet-fighters and military transport aircraft flew overhead. A visibly triumphant el-Sissi stood on the vessel’s upper deck, waving to well-wishers and folklore dance troupes performing on shore. At one point, a young boy in military uniform and holding an Egyptian red, black and white flag joined him on deck.

Later in the day, the president changed to a dark grey business suit and took his seat at the main stand for an elaborate ceremony in the canal city of Ismailia, attended by foreign dignitaries and organized amid tight security measures following a series of attacks by Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula and the capital, Cairo.

“Egyptians have made a huge effort so as to give the world this gift for development, construction and civilization,” el-Sissi said at the ceremony. Egyptians, he added, “showed their ability to efficiently make history and leap to the future for the prosperity of humanity.”

His address was interrupted by the ship horns of container vessels using the new extension, something that brought a smile to el-Sissi’s face and cheers and whistles of some of the attendees.

Among those at the ceremony were French President Francois Hollande, King Abdullah of Jordan and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kuwait’s Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also attended, as well as Yemen’s exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The unveiling of the $8.5 billion extension has been trumpeted as a historic achievement by pro-government media and has revived the nationalistic personality cult built around the 60-year-old el-Sissi, who as army chief led the overthrow of an Islamist president in 2013 and was elected to office last year.

Egypt’s black, white and red flags now adorn streets across much of the nation, along with banners declaring support for el-Sissi and hailing his latest achievement. The government declared Thursday a national holiday, and banks and most businesses were closed.

The new Suez Canal extension involved digging and dredging along 72 kilometers (45 miles) of the 193-kilometer canal, making a parallel waterway at its middle that will facilitate two-way traffic. With a depth of 24 meters (79 feet), the canal now allows the simultaneous passage of ships with up to 66 ft. draught.

The project was initially estimated to take three years, but el-Sissi ordered it completed in one.

The government says the project, funded entirely by Egyptian investors, will more than double the canal’s annual revenue to $13.2 billion by 2023, injecting much-needed foreign currency into an economy that has struggled to recover from the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and the years of turmoil that followed.

Economists and shippers have questioned the value of the project, saying the increased traffic and revenues the government is hoping for would require major growth in global trade, which at this point seems unlikely.

El-Sissi said the project also reassured his countrymen and the world that Egyptians “are still capable” of great accomplishments.

But the man-made waterway linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, which was inaugurated in 1869, has long been seen as a symbol of Egyptian national pride. And pro-government media have compared el-Sissi to former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose nationalization of the canal in 1956 is seen as a defiant break with the country’s colonial past.

“Egypt makes history,” read the banner headline of Thursday’s pro-government daily Al-Watan. The front page of another daily, Al-Maqal, said “Rejoice, it is worth it!”

But Thursday’s ceremony was partially overshadowed by an Islamic State affiliate’s threat to kill a Croatian hostage kidnapped in Cairo last month — a grim reminder of the threat posed by Islamic militants to Egypt’s stability.

The affiliate, calling itself the Sinai Province of the Islamic State, released a video Wednesday threatening to kill the Croatian in 48 hours if Egyptian authorities do not release “Muslim women” held in prison, a reference to female Islamists detained in the government’s broad crackdown on former President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters.

The 30-year-old Croatian father of two, Tomislav Salopek, was kidnapped on July 22. There have been conflicting reports on where he was snatched. An official at the French company he worked for in Egypt said he was taken from his car at 7 a.m. in an area west of Cairo while making his way to the city’s airport from a company site. Other reports spoke of him being snatched in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, a quiet and leafy neighborhood where many of the city’s Western community live.

If confirmed, a broad daylight kidnapping of a foreigner in a Cairo suburb could cause panic among the city’s security-conscious expatriate community. Croatian state TV reported on Thursday afternoon that Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic left for Cairo together with Salopek’s wife, Natasa.

El-Sissi made no mention of the Croat’s kidnapping, but denounced the Islamic militants battling his government as “the evil people” seeking to “hurt Egypt and the Egyptians.”

“Without a doubt, we will triumph over them,” he added.

Egypt has seen a surge in attacks by Islamic militants since Morsi’s ouster, in both the restive north of the Sinai Peninsula and the mainland, focusing primarily on security forces.

The violence continued on Thursday, with militants shelling two homes near security checkpoints in northern Sinai, killing two people and wounding nine, according to Egyptian security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Also Thursday, a soldier standing guard at a military checkpoint in northern Sinai was killed by sniper fire, the officials said.

Militants have also targeted foreign interests, including the Italian Consulate in Cairo, which was hit with a car bomb last month. That came just days after another bomb killed Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in an upscale Cairo neighborhood.

However, Wednesday’s video was the first to be released by Islamic militants showing a kidnapped foreigner in Egypt, an ominous escalation as the country tries to rebuild its vital tourism industry. The professionally-made video resembled clips released by the IS group in Syria and Iraq, indicating closer ties with its Egyptian branch.

The government says it has taken major steps to prevent anyone from disrupting Thursday’s ceremony, and pro-government media have portrayed the canal extension itself as a victory over extremism.

“Rejoice, for it is a victory over terror,” wrote Al-Maqal’s editor Ibrahim Issa. “Rejoice, for it is a tremendous win for a country suffering from the blows of terror.”

TIME Egypt

ISIS Threatens to Kill Croatian Hostage in Egypt

The group says they will the hostage if Egypt does not release "Muslim women" held in prison within 48 hours

CAIRO — A purported Islamic State group video released Wednesday threatened to kill a Croatian hostage if Egyptian authorities do not release “Muslim women” held in prison within 48 hours, a day before the country plans to unveil a highly promoted new extension of the Suez Canal.

The video, circulated on social media by Islamic State sympathizers, shows a man wearing a yellow jumpsuit kneeling in the desert before a knife-wielding masked man in military fatigues. An Islamic State flag flutters next to him and the video identifies it as coming from the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula.

Reading calmly from a note in English, the man identifies himself as Tomislav Salopek, a married, 30-year-old father of two, adding that Islamic State fighters captured him on July 22. If Egyptian authorities do not act, he said, “the soldiers from Wilyat Sina will kill me.” Wilyat Sina is the Arabic phrase for the Egyptian group calling itself the Sinai Province of the Islamic State.

It was not clear where the video was shot. Nor was it exactly clear who the militants wanted released. Egypt, a majority Muslim country, now holds thousands of Islamists and suspected supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group in prison. That follows the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Croatia’s Foreign Ministry late last month said that one of its nationals with the same initials had been kidnapped in Cairo while on the way to work. The company, which Salopek identified as France’s CGG Ardiseis, works in the oil and gas sector and has a branch office in Cairo’s leafy suburb of Maadi, where many expats and diplomats live.

Calls to CGG Ardiseis’ office in Cairo were not immediately answered. Croatian authorities could not be immediately reached.

The footage, entitled “A Message to the Egyptian Government,” was shot in the style of previous Islamic State propaganda videos in which they threaten and behead hostages.

TIME Egypt

Egypt’s Disaffected Youth See Violence as Only Way to Protest

Egypt's suppression of peaceful protest has created new extremists

CAIRO — The 20-year-old law student says he has had enough of fruitless protests in support of Egypt’s deposed Islamist president, two years of a losing struggle with police.

Now he wants to join the extremists of the Islamic State group who are battling the army in the Sinai Peninsula.

He and other youths are growing increasingly open in their calls for violence and a move toward extremism, frustrated by the police crackdown since the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Some want to avenge friends and family killed or abused by police.

Once sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, some of them resent it as weak and ineffectual.

“Now we know there is only one right way: jihad,” said the law student, Abdelrahman, showing off scars from pellets fired at him by police shotguns during protests. Like other protesters interviewed by The Associated Press, he spoke on condition he be identified only by his first name for fear of police retaliation.

He spoke bitterly about the series of ballot box victories in 2011 and 2012 that gave the Muslim Brotherhood political dominance and made Morsi the country’s first freely elected president.

“Democracy doesn’t work. If we win, the powers that be, whoever they are, just flip things over,” he said. “The Brotherhood thought they could play the democratic game, but in the end, they were beaten.”

At a time when militants are carrying out more sophisticated attacks in Egypt, the apparent spread of radicalism among youths in Cairo is a worrying sign for Egyptian authorities, who say they are working to quell violence.

In recent weeks, militants who declared themselves to be the Sinai branch of the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State group tried to take over a Sinai town in an elaborate attack on security forces, and Egypt’s top prosecutor was killed by a bomb in the first assassination of a senior official here in a quarter-century. Attacks are frequent in Cairo and elsewhere, often killing policemen or soldiers, and hitting businesses and some tourist sites.

The insurgency swelled after the army overthrew Morsi following mass nationwide protests of his rule. Since then, the more than 80-year-old Brotherhood has been shattered by a security crackdown. Most of its top leaders are in prison, with several sentenced to death, including Morsi. Since 2013, hundreds of protesters have been killed, many more wounded and thousands arrested, often brutalized in prison.

With other leaders in hiding or abroad, lower-level supporters of the Brotherhood have been the ones working to keep protests alive. Members of the Brotherhood themselves are divided over whether to stick to its official policy of peaceful protest or to embrace violent confrontation with the government. Authorities already accuse the group of fueling violence and have branded it a terrorist organization.

An official at Egypt’s Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police, said its policies aim to eradicate lawlessness and chaos, saying it must confront those who seek to incite youth in rough neighborhoods to violence.

“The Interior Ministry also follows information and monitors social media sites to track people who promote extremist ideas and who are affiliated in groups,” according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because regulations did not allow him to talk to reporters.

The ministry has carried out several “pre-emptive strikes” against such individuals, he said without elaborating. If it is proven that a policeman is guilty of wrongdoing, he would immediately face legal proceedings, the official added.

Youssef, a Brotherhood member who leads protests in the greater Cairo area, said he opposes a turn to violence, but adds that others are embracing it in the face of police abuses.

“We have all lost lots of friends. And as a result there are lots of opinions. Some feel the only way to resist now is with armed struggle,” said the 20-year-old business student. Others also involved in organizing demonstrations made similar statements.

Protests occur almost daily in poor, forgotten corners of the capital and countryside. Banners are less about Morsi and more about revenge against police.

“Peace is dead,” proclaimed one at a recent march in the Cairo slum of Matariya. In the nearby village of Nahia, another banner bore the slogan “peaceful” — then mocked it by adding a smiley face carrying an assault rifle. Some demonstrators chant slogans praising the Islamic State group.

“Most of these young guys were not political before. They were politicized by violence, by seeing friends or family members shot and killed by police or being arbitrarily detained,” said Basem Zakaria al-Samargi, who works at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, an advocacy group, and lives in Matariya. “There are many people who now want vengeance from the state.”

Jerome Drevon, a researcher at the University of Manchester and a specialist on militant groups in semi-authoritarian regimes, said the conflict is not about ideology, but rather people’s willingness to avenge themselves and their friends against the security forces and join whatever group can help them achieve that.

“The new Egyptian regime has triggered a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “They have hindered any possibility of peaceful opposition to the regime, assimilated the Islamist opposition to IS, eroded mainstream Islamist groups’ internal organizational control over their sympathizers, and nourished a desire for revenge for young opponents.”

At a news conference this month in Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry quoted President Barack Obama, who has said that “when people are oppressed, and human rights are denied … when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism.”

Matariya, a crowded district of narrow alleyways with few services and a history of neglect, has seen some of the country’s bloodiest clashes with police in the past two years. Dozens were killed in gunbattles there in January. Rights groups have raised alarm over possible abuses at the district’s police station, where detainees have died in custody and where residents talk of rampant torture and of young men disappearing after night raids on their homes.

Abdelrahman’s family is like many others in the district. His cousin is in a wheelchair after being shot by police at a demonstration. His uncle was recently arrested for protesting. His brother, known for orchestrating attacks on police, is on the run.

Security forces have clamped down in Matariya, making protests more difficult. Armored personnel carriers and troops surround mosques during Friday prayers.

But Nahia, the nearby village, is a virtual no-go zone for the state at the moment. There, hundreds of youth march unopposed in formation down main roads, calling for the ouster of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the army chief who deposed Morsi and later was elected to office. Some residents brag about the lack of a police station in Nahia, or the 2013 sniper killing of a police general in Kerdasa, a nearby Islamist stronghold.

While marching, Abdelrahman has waved the Islamic State group’s black flag. He says the only violence he has committed is burning three police cars. But he adds: “I’m ready to fight.”

He says he has several friends already fighting alongside militants in Sinai.

Now living in a safe house away from his family, he says he knows whom to contact in order to join the group but that he needed to have a sponsor and go through vetting because it is wary of government infiltrators.

The self-declared Sinai branch of the Islamic State group is believed to have originally drawn on local Bedouin tribesmen for recruits. But the attacks it has claimed around the country have involved Egyptians from outside Sinai, suggesting it is gaining new followers.

Some Brotherhood members have attacked police stations or planted bombs on the street, but they usually get arrested, Abdelrahman said.

“I tell people they should join a jihad group,” he said, “and if not, take the risky step of forming a group on their own, or even acting alone.”

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