Not Mr. Abdel-Razek. But, pairing pragmatism with idealism, he learned to work under the new regime, shouting for rights at some times, keeping quiet at others.
“Although we feel defeated now, we cannot deny there have been gains from the revolution,” Mr. Abdel-Razek told Mada Masr, one of Egypt’s very few remaining independent news outlet, in 2015. “Something broke ideologically in January 2011 that cannot be reversed, despite attempts by the state to do so.”
The interview was published the year the government began obliterating any remaining spaces for dissent. Arrests accelerated, while obstacles to human rights groups’ legal status accumulated. Many of Mr. Abdel-Razek’s friends and colleagues left the country. He stayed.
“He was telling me, ‘Maybe we’re doing the work for later on,’” said his wife, Mariam Korachy, who said she often wished the Initiative would close because of the danger. “He said, ‘I’ll wait until they come and close the office.’”
Every year, survival seemed harder, as Mr. el-Sisi tightened his grip on power — and on dissent. After eliminating any serious opposition, the president won re-election in 2018, and a constitutional referendum in 2019 extended his rule. He has continued arresting critics, whether major (well-known activists and politicians), minor (a satirist) or even underage (preteen protesters).
“For many of us, we have more friends inside prison than outside, and it was hard to be hopeful,” said Hossam Bahgat, a prominent investigative journalist who founded the Initiative before passing the reins to Mr. Abdel-Razek in 2015. “Even for someone like Gasser, who was ridiculously optimistic and often ridiculed by his friends for remaining optimistic.”