Pro and anti-Sisi sporadic protests have taken place last week in Egypt; the authorities responded by making thousands of arrests.
Several small-scale anti-Sisi demonstrations took place before being quickly dispersed, while supporters of the president also took to the streets, witnesses said. Though sporadic, many observers were surprised by the raid on the streets of hundreds of Egyptians demanding the resignation of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in several Egyptian cities on Friday (September 20th).
Hundreds of people demonstrating against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
An eyewitness said that on the island of Warraq, on the Nile in Cairo, hundreds of people responded Friday to the call to protest against Abdel Fattah al-Sissi launched by the businessman in exile Mohamed Aly who accuses the president of corruption.
“About 3 000 people demonstrated after Friday prayer,” said the witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that the police had fired tear gas to disperse the protest. It was not possible to confirm the number of protesters mentioned. According to another witness in the province of Qena, in southern Egypt, limited demonstrations took place in the centre of Qus and in the city of Qena. “A hundred people went out to Qus and tore banners carrying photos of Sisi,” said the witness. He added that “security forces control the situation”.
“No reason to worry”, says the Egyptian president
Demonstrations of support for President Sissi were also organized in the country. In Cairo, near the tomb of former president Anwar Sadat, they were about a thousand people Friday afternoon, according to a journalist on site.
On Friday morning, Egyptian police blocked the streets leading to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the symbol of the 2011 revolution, in anticipation of demonstrations that could take place after Friday prayer. Upon his arrival at the Cairo airport from New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly, President Sissi said there was “no reason to worry” about calls to protest against him.
Increased repression could fuel more instability in the future, experts say
Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced on September 28th, in a statement posted on its website, the arrest by the Egyptian authorities of “peaceful protesters”. While Egypt is officially talking about 1 000 arrests after the first anti-Sisi protest on September 20th, Human Rights Watch reports nearly 2 000 people arrested.
In fact, after the 20th of September protests, the authorities reacted quickly by conducting a wave of arrests: some 2 000 people, journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, political activists, demonstrators… were arrested. “Egyptian authorities arrested nearly 2 000 people in a nationwide crackdown in response to anti-government protests that began on September 20th, 2019,” said HRW, calling for their release. “Authorities should respect the right to peaceful protest by avoiding the use of excessive force. The government should also release all those arrested solely for peacefully exercising their rights, “the organization said. In its document, Human Rights Watch was also alarmed by the systematic blocking of news websites and other means of dissemination on which protesters rely.
A figure of the 2011 revolution back in prison
In the latest news related to the recent protests, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, a figure of the 2011 uprising in Egypt -released in March under judicial control-, was arrested again on Sunday, his family and a judicial source said. His lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer was also arrested the same day, according to the NGO “the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights”.
Since his release, Abdel Fattah had avoided taking part in politics, contenting himself with expressing socio-economic thoughts on social networks. He was not part of the calls to demonstrate against President Sissi this Friday and the one before.