Anti-government protests erupt in Egypt as security is tightened
Security forces tightened controls in Egypt’s capital Cairo and closed off entrances to Tahrir Square following calls for demonstrations against…
Security forces tightened controls in Egypt’s capital Cairo and closed off entrances to Tahrir Square following calls for demonstrations against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday. This comes after protests broke out last week following corruption allegations against the president from actor and businessman Mohamed Ali.
Video of pro-Sisi rally in Cairo. Yes I’m sure some were incentivized or paid to attend, but there is genuine support for him in the country (and diaspora). It’s not all un-authentic. pic.twitter.com/HgDldefOMU— Bessma Momani (@b_momani) September 27, 2019
Over 2000 arrests prohibited lots of protesters to go for sit inns and marches.
Close Metro Station , Checkpoints in all roads , and Arrests Crackdowns, today Cairo transformed into Military barracks. No room for freedom of expression , or demonstrations , El-Sisi’s Regime escalating means of repression.
Egyptian security forces have blocked access to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the highly symbolic focal point of the 2011 revolution, as part of a wide-ranging crackdown aimed at heading off planned protests against the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
Barricades and checkpoints on surrounding streets and the Qasr al-Nil Bridge diverted traffic on Friday afternoon, and three metro stations underneath the square were closed. Security officials stopped and searched pedestrians in the vicinity.
The Sisi regime appeared to have been caught off guard last weekend when hundreds of protesters took to the streets in major towns and cities. Security forces responded with live fire and teargas. More than 2,000 people have since been detained, including high-profile activists who do not appear to have had any involvement in the protests, according to civil society groups.
On Thursday the interior ministry made clear it intended to use force to quash any demonstrations on Friday.
A resident of Warraq Island, a poor area of Cairo involved in a protracted uprising against a municipal development plan, said about 300 people had staged an anti-Sisi protest on Friday afternoon that had got broken up by police firing teargas and bird shot. Police also dispersed a protest involving 50 to 60 people in the southern Cairo district of Helwan.
In southern Egypt, small-scale protests were staged in Qus and Qena city, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.
In the port city of Suez, a man who took to the streets last weekend said a heightened military presence had dampened the prospect of fresh protests. “I think the battle will be deferred to another time,” he said.
Sisi, who came to power in a coup in 2013, has overseen a wholesale crackdown on freedom of speech and public dissent, considered by observers to be the worst in Egypt’s modern history.
His expansion of a bloated security state has led to a rise in torture and police brutality that could constitute crimes against humanity, according to Human Rights Watch. An estimated 60,000 political prisoners languish in jail.
Sisi attempted to project an image of business as usual in a rare interaction with the public when he greeted a crowd gathered to welcome him at Cairo airport as he returned from the UN general assembly in New York. “You didn’t have to wake up on a Friday, it’s not worth it. Don’t worry about anything,” he said. “What happened before will not happen again.”
Pro-regime gatherings took place in Cairo’s middle-class area of Nasser City and the northern port city of Alexandria.
“People are demonstrating their love and support for their leader, their army, and their country,” said Ahmed Mohammed, a member of the Future of a Nation political party, set up to support Sisi. “This is just the beginning. It’s a celebratory environment to counter the terrorist call to protest against the president and his achievements.”
Last week’s rare protests were sparked by a series of social media videos posted by Mohamed Ali, a former military contractor living in self-imposed exile in Barcelona who called for a million Egyptians to march on Friday.
Ali has alleged that the Egyptian military squandered public funds to build palaces and luxury hotels, including opulent palaces for the president. Sisi later denied the claim, calling them “lies and slander”. “Of course I have built presidential palaces, and I will build presidential palaces,” he said. “But they are not for me, they are for Egypt.”
The loud wail of police sirens could be heard throughout Friday over Tahrir Square, a vital intersection in central Cairo that was the centre of protests that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and the gathering point for demonstrations against the late former Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi in 2012 and 2013.
The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed deep concern over this week’s mass detentions. “I urge the authorities to radically change their approach to any future protests, including those that may take place today,” Bachelet said in a statement.
Amnesty International called on world leaders to prevent a crackdown on demonstrators. The Franco-Egyptian Initiative for Rights and Freedoms published a letter to France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, calling on his government to “seriously consider its responsibilities concerning the use of French weapons against peaceful protesters”.
Egypt’s attorney general said late on Thursday that 1000 people had been detained and questioned in relation to last weekend’s protests.
Ali’s corruption claims spoke to deep discontent among many Egyptians, living in a country where 32.5% of people live below the poverty line, according to the government’s own estimates. Many have struggled to maintain their standard of living since the government began harsh austerity measures, dramatically raising everyday costs through cuts to vital subsidies on commodities such as fuel and electricity.
“Many Egyptians are understandably nervous about a new uprising. One must bear in mind that from the perspective of most Egyptians they have overthrown two governments since 2011 and for most of them their standard of living has deteriorated each time,” said Timothy E Kaldas of the Washington thinktank the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
“That said, the popularity of Sisi and his government has been declining for years as people’s standard of living has plummeted and the number of Egyptians in poverty has risen substantially.”