Just days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sat down with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he called him a “fantastic guy.”
“I thought it was very productive,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, after being asked about his meeting with Sisi in New York on Monday, on the sidelines of the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants. “He’s a fantastic guy. He took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it, and I thought it was a great meeting. We met for a long time, actually. We had a long meeting, and got along. There was a good chemistry there.”
Trump went on to praise Sisi as someone who took control of the “tremendous problem” of terrorists in Egypt.
“I’ll tell you, he took control of the country, he has gotten the terrorists out and wiped them out, and we talked about that,” he said. “He took a very tough approach, much different than our approach, I can tell you. And he really did pretty much wipe ’em out.”
Sisi rose to power in Egypt in 2013 after leading a coup d’etat against President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president following the 2011 revolution and ouster of Hosni Mubarak. While Morsi faced a lot of criticism during his short presidency, Sisi went on to oversee one of the bloodiest periods in recent Egyptian history: the Rabaa massacre.
On August 14, 2013, the Egyptian army and security forces used force — including live ammunition, bulldozers, and tear gas — to disperse people at two camps in Cairo, who were protesting the Sisi-led coup, including in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. At least 817 people were killed in the confrontations, though the actual number may be over 1,000.
After a year-long Human Rights Watch investigation, Executive Director Kenneth Roth called the Rabaa Massacre “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators on a single day in recent history,” and still there hasn’t been any accountability for those involved. “The authorities have failed to hold even a single low-level police or army officer accountable for any of the killings, much less any official responsible for ordering them, and continue to brutally suppress dissent,” Human Rights Watch reported.
“Anyone who dares to speak out is at risk, with counter-terrorism being used as an excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture people who challenge the authorities,” Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, said in July.
But not only has Sisi been terrible for human rights in Egypt, there also isn’t a lot of proof his counterterrorism strategy is working. As ThinkProgress has previously reported:
Since taking power, Sisi’s focus has been on increasing security in Egypt through strict counterterrorism measures. But his efforts have largely failed to bear fruit as there has been an increase in terrorism in Egypt since the coup in 2013, and ISIS has established a solid presence in the Sinai.
After Trump’s meeting with Sisi on Monday, his campaign noted that Trump has “strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism” and “under a Trump administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also met with Sisi on Monday, though there are indications that she brought up human rights in their discussion.
Sisi, for his part, told CNN that he thought Clinton would also make a good president. “Political parties in the United States would not allow candidates to reach that level unless they are qualified to lead a country the size of the United States of America,” he said.