First Hariri, now Shafik: The Trend of GCC States Meddling in Their Neighbors' Politics

Published December 3rd, 2017 - 12:04 GMT
A promotional poster from Ahmed Shafik's 2012 presidential campaign in Egypt (Wikimedia)
A promotional poster from Ahmed Shafik's 2012 presidential campaign in Egypt (Wikimedia)
  • An Egyptian presidential candidate has allegedly been deported from the U.A.E.
  • The case has sparked parallels with that of Lebanese Prime Miniser Hariri in Saudi Arabia
  • Emirati backing for Egyptian President Sisi has long been documented
  • Sisi has not yet announced his intention to run in 2018


After it was claimed that an Egyptian presidential candidate had first been prevented from travel and then deported by the U.A.E., comparisons immediately emerged to the case of Saad Hariri.

#UAE deports #Ahmed_Shafik to #Egypt while keeping #HisFamily as hostages. Just as Saudi Arabia did before to #Saad_al-Hariri and his family. They bully those who differ from their politics.

The Lebanese prime minister sparked a flurry of rumors that Saudi Arabia had forced his hand and prevented him from leaving after he resigned from Riyadh early last month.

At the time Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun refused to accept the resignation, saying of Hariri “we consider him to be held and detained.”

In fact, the trend of Gulf States interfering in the democratic process of their neighbors seems to be becoming the new norm.

#UAE forcibly deports #Shafik to #Egypt so #Sisi can play with him a bit then #France will intervene and take him with Hariri after re-drafting the agreement based on the new data.

Soon after Ahmed Shafik announced his intention to run in Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections on Wednesday, he claimed that he was being prevented from leaving the U.A.E., where he lives.

"I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel," he told Al Jazeera.

The Emirati Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, however, denied the suggestion in two tweets - just as Hariri himself had refuted claims he was being held in Saudi via Twitter.

“We confirm that there is no obstacle to Ahmed Shafik leaving the state,” he wrote after repeatedly emphasizing the extent of Emirati hospitality towards Egyptians.



On Saturday further confusion was created after Shafik’s lawyer alleged he had been arrested by the Emirati authorities and deported to Egypt.

In a Facebook post she said: "Shafiq was arrested by the UAE authorities from his home to be deported to Egypt, and communication has been cut off from everyone."

On Sunday, Reuters reported that his family had not heard from him upon his return to Egypt.

A former prime minister, Shafik lost the 2012 presidential election to Mohamed Morsi, who was later ousted by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Having fled to the U.A.E., he was found guilty in absentia of corruption, but was later acquitted.

An Egyptian judicial source told Reuters that there were no pending criminal cases against Shafik. Other reports suggested he could face charges of treason.

As with Hariri, there is considerable speculation and uncertainty surrounding events.

Some Egyptians have described the deportation of their former prime minister “as if he was a criminal” as an “insult.”

“So-called states have started to carry out gang practices. They deport the man and keep his family hostage. What dignity do Egyptians have left?” Tweeted prominent Muslim brotherhood figure Amr Darrag.

Again in a parallel to the Lebanese prime minister, the continued presence of Shafik’s family in the U.A.E. sparked anger, with some claiming they were “hostages” and incorrectly suggesting his daughters had been detained.

Others defended what they saw as the right of the U.A.E. to deport any foreigner. Pro-regime television presenters had begun framing Shafik as corrupt following the announcement of his intention to run.

Journalist Dandrawy Hawary tweeted that “it is the right of our sister the U.A.E. or any other country to arrest any foreigner residing in its territory and to deport him on the grounds that he is not wanted in their territory.”

The New York Times went so far as to suggest that “the move against Ahmed Shafik is the strongest indication yet of the length that the [U.A.E] is willing to go in order to protect President [...] Sisi of Egypt from any real challenge in his expected campaign for re-election next spring.”

Sisi has not yet said he will run, claiming he will follow the will of the people. However, the Egyptian general has been criticized for his heavy-handed responses to dissent. As Human Rights Watch found in 2016, “public criticism of the government remains effectively banned in Egypt.”

The U.A.E. is a close ally of Egypt, both forming part of the quartet boycotting Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia.

In October, The Intercept published a report suggesting that the Emirates had funded lobbying on behalf of the Egyptian president in Washington. Their investigation found that Emirati Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba had acted “as a sort of de facto second ambassador for” Sisi’s regime.

In fact, the U.A.E. had previously sent $3 billion in aid to Egypt following Sisi’s 2013 overthrow of democratically elected Morsi. Saudi also provided financial support. In Tunisia two years after that claims emerged that Emiratis had urged the Tunisian opposition to “repeat the Egyptian scenario” in exchange for financial aid.

Emirati support for Egypt’s Sisi and interfering in the politics of Arab states is not new, then. However, their alleged intervention on his behalf by first apparently preventing Shafik leaving, then forcing his return to Egypt, seem to draw on the precedent of Saudi’s supposed treatment of Hariri and set a pattern for future regional interference from the Gulf.

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