Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is to visit the UK this weekGetty Images

When General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi lands in London tomorrow (5 November), he will be just another name on the long list of dictators and blood-stained authoritarian leaders who have enjoyed the hospitality of British governments over decades.

Doubtless, very few will retain any memory of his visit after he and his entourage have departed, and in a few months' time, most will be hard-pressed to recall the exact month in which he stepped foot on British soil. But there are also a significant number of parties who will be watching closely, taking notes and projecting implications of the visit.

Primary amongst those are the millions of Egyptians, within Egypt and in Britain, who will register that the British government, for all its protestations about British values and its claims to democracy and human rights, is disingenuous to say the very least; probably even hypocritical and culpable. For Sisi is no ordinary dictator.

His claim to fame will forever be the crushing of Egypt's only democracy within less than 30 months of a peaceful civilian revolution which toppled a regime that had built its power base over several dark, corrupt and miserable decades.

He will also forever be remembered for toppling Egypt's first ever democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, within 11 months of an election that saw 70% of the Egyptian people vote in a free, fair and transparent process commended by the world over; the same president who plucked him from obscurity six months earlier and appointed him defence minister.

More so, he will forever be remembered as having overseen the decision to send in tanks, heavy artillery and snipers to disperse a peaceful civilian sit-in in the very heart of Cairo, leading to the massacre of more than a thousand and the wounding of 3,000, including women, children, disabled and elderly, in what Human Rights Watch dubbed the worst massacre in modern times.

Since that fateful morning on the 14 August 2013, Egypt has spiralled dangerously into the abyss of corruption, authoritarianism, repression, violence as well as political and economic failure. Tens of thousands of political prisoners have been rounded up and locked up in inhumane conditions with reports of torture abound.

Dozens of media platforms have been shut down, countless journalists killed, injured, threatened and imprisoned. Hundreds have been sentenced to death, many in hearings lasting mere minutes, and condemned by international observers as farcical.

The economic crisis is impossible to quantify or to put a figure to despite tens of billions of dollars of aid from oil-rich Gulf countries alone over the past two years, amid state propaganda attempting to trump up a calamitously absurd Suez Canal project that will see Egyptians paying the price for at least a generation to come.

In short, under General-cum-President Sisi, Egypt has transformed from a source of hope and inspiration to the oppressed and marginalized around the world, to a failed tragic shadow of its former corrupt self, engulfed in repression, fear, failure, division, violence and now the ever growing threat of terrorism.

When Cameron shakes the hand of Sisi in front of 10 Downing Street, the regime in Cairo will celebrate the opportunity for more space, credibility and legitimacy. Sisi will hope to trump up the meeting before his own waning popularity, brutally exposed by a turnout that may have been as low as 2% for parliamentary elections two weeks ago.

killing the messenger
Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the verdict inside a cage during their trial for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, on 23 June, 2014. The Egyptian court sentenced them to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years. They were released in February 2015Khaled Desouki/AFP

Meanwhile, more and more Egyptians with any remaining trace of belief in our sincerity when calling for political reforms and democracy throughout the Arab and Muslim region, will let go of that belief. We openly and unashamedly enter into lurid relationships with repugnant regimes at the risk of alienating entire nations and creating waves after waves of victims of those regimes who will forever see us as the main culprit of their collective suffering and oppression.

Undoubtedly Sisi will propose himself as the last line of defence against Isis and the spread of Islamic terrorism. It always is terrorism and the undertaking to fight it that dictators resort to first and at the end, as they have little else to offer.

Assad of Syria is an excellent example of how this works each time every time. Undoubtedly too, David Cameron will lap it up, accept, and publicly celebrate this partnership against terrorism. How could he not, when the political and media narrative is structured towards proposing that nothing else matters, and every other crisis affecting our lives whether political, social or economic, must forcibly pale in significance?

It would do Cameron well to point out to his guest that the rise of Isis could be traced back to precisely two and a half years ago, coinciding with the military coup he administered against a short-lived democracy in Egypt, throughout which terrorism dramatically receded not only in Egypt, but throughout the entire region. It would also do Cameron well to note that partnering a dictator to fight a terrorist is not only naïve, but has potentially tragic consequences.

The peaceful popular revolutions that brought dignity, freedom and democracy to Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, and inspired others to rise against their tyrants, would have been the best antidote and most effective strategy to terrorism. Sadly, not only did we actively act in sullying and polluting that movement, in what later became the tragedies of Libya, Syria and Yemen; we stood by and watched passively as it was brutally crushed in Egypt at the hands of a military general.

Now that general is receiving the red carpet treatment courtesy of Her Majesty's government. Will we ever learn?


Dr Anas Altikriti is the CEO and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, a British think-tank specialising in Western-Muslim relations and chairman of the Muslim Association of Britain.