Activists took Twitter by storm as U.S. president Donald Trump met his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi this week.
Mohamed Soltan, (a US-Egyptian former political prisoner - and son of currently imprisoned prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Salah Soltan), led the #FreedomFirst campaign, highlighting the human rights violations committed by Egypt since al-Sisi took power in 2014.
Originally, Soltan had planned to feature the campaign on ad spaces on the Washington DC Metro, but, the transport network denied his requests, arguing they violated its ban on “issues-oriented advertising," according to the Middle East Observer.
Nevertheless, the campaign took social media by storm with some activists protesting on the ground.
”This campaign is an effort to harness that same energy and build on it to do the same for others who remain in the grips of injustice,” Soltan said.
”Sisi has also overseen horrific human rights abuses, including the massacre of more than 1,000 activists in a single day, and the jailing of more than 40,000 journalists and activists without charge or trial," he added.
'There is hope'
Soltan expressed his optimism about the Trump-Sisi meeting. Speaking to the Washington Times he said:
“My message [to Mr. Trump] is to stay true to form, stay true to your campaign message. If America comes first, we should be able to get our American citizens out,” Soltan told The Washington Times.
“President Obama struggled to get one person out — me. Now what can we do about the others?” he said. “President Trump is ‘The Art of the Deal.’ He is the great negotiator. So he should be able to understand the kind of leverage that the United States government has and demand that our citizens be released.”
The trip was Sisi's first official U.S. visit since being elected president in 2014. Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, never extended an invitation.
The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and renewing the relation between the two countries. They also reportedly agreed on the importance of advancing peace throughout the Middle East, including in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, and expressed interest in supporting Israel and the Palestinians in moving toward peace, according to Reuters.
Human rights abuses unchecked
Prior to the meeting, prominent U.S. officials made it clear that the issue of human rights in Egypt would not be discussed publicly during al-Sisi's visit.
Trump has repeatedly praised the Egyptian president for a "fantastic job" done in Egypt's political and economical situation. Despite a growing friendship between Trump and his Egyptian counterpart, it was mentioned that there were indeed some topics they did not agree on- however no particular attention was drawn to humans rights abuses.
“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.