Exclusive: Over 3,000 Arrested in Egypt's Latest Uprising as President Abdel Fattah el Sisi launches 'Biggest Crackdown' Yet

Over 3,000 people have been kidnapped, rounded up or arrested in the last 12 days of Egypt's latest political uprising—as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi launched his "biggest crackdown" on anti-government protesters yet.

Demonstrations and protests have previously been a rarity under the former military general's iron grip of the country since snatching power in a coup d'état in 2013, however a recent spark of anger has re-ignited the will of Egyptians to take to the streets again.

That spark has come from an unlikely source—a Ferrari-driving former military contractor now living in Barcelona, Spain, named Mohamed Ali—and his viral videos addressing government graft have seemingly lit the flame for impoverished Egyptians seeking change.

Hussein Baoumi, an Egypt Researcher for Amnesty International, told Newsweek that many of those Egyptians would have been far too fearful to stand up to Sisi's rule in the past, but as conditions worsened, freedom-of-expression restrictions tightened and Ali's videos showing tangible signs of corruption, more and more are now willing to take the risks.

"Despite the history, to go to protests is a relatively new thing in Egypt," he said. "Protests have almost been seen as something of the past—at least major protests have really receded so this came as a big shock.

Egyptian activist and lawyer Khaled Ali
Egyptian activist and lawyer Khaled Ali (C) uses a megaphone to shout slogans during a demonstration in Cairo, Egypt, 2016. Getty

"We have seen protests in places that you would not really think people would protest in too, such as in places in upper Egypt and some of the smaller towns and villages, and what we're seeing now is that many people that were not politicized or were not very politically active were the ones to participate.

"This is quite a major change in Egypt because the turmoil of the last few years left a very violent memory in the minds of Egyptians. Then we have seen attempts to organize protests being met with major threats of force.

"So what we are seeing over the last two weeks is that these protests have been going on despite all the atmosphere of fear and the fact that over the last six years the security forces have constructed an extremely aggressive apparatus which has led to thousands of people being imprisoned for sharing their opinions or expressing their complaints.

"Egyptians did not know what the government response would be, whether there would be extreme violence like the shooting of protesters and so on, but people are so angry to the point that they are willing to risk a lot of things—not only their freedoms but possibly also their lives.

"When people's backs are against the walls and there is only one way out—which is protesting—than many people may end up deciding to do just that."

Bauomi confirmed the previously undisclosed number of 3,000 prisoners, adding that it is rising rapidly every day. Among them are at least 100 minors and Baumi said his organization was repeatedly being contacted by family members asking about loved ones who have gone missing.

An Egyptian riot policeman
An Egyptian riot policeman stands guard on top of a vehicle protesters during a demonstration in 2016. Getty

The total number of political prisoners held in Egypt is now believed to be upwards of 60,000.

Among them is award-winning human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry, journalist and opposition politician Khaled Dawoud and the political scientist Hassan Nafea.

In a written statement, Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director for Amnesty International, said: "Sisi's government has orchestrated this crackdown to crush the slightest sign of dissent and silence every government critic.

"The wave of unprecedented mass arrests, which included many who were not even involved in the protests, sends a clear message–anyone perceived to pose a threat to Sisi's government will be crushed."

Egyptians, so far however, have seemed unbowed by the growing number of prisoners and people attending the protests are growing week by week.