2019 Egyptian protests
|2019 Egyptian protests|
|Part of the Arab Winter and 2018–19 Arab protests|
|Date||20 September 2019 – present|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2019 Egyptian protests consist of protests by thousands of people in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta and five other Egyptian cities starting on 20 and 21 September 2019 in which the protestors called for President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to be removed from power. Security forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live bullets and, as of 6 October 2019[update], 3000 arrests had been made, based on data from the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. Prominent arrestees included human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry, journalist and former leader of the Constitution Party Khaled Dawoud and two professors of political science at Cairo University, Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafaa. The wave of arrests was the biggest in Egypt since Sisi formally became president in 2014. Human Rights Watch called for all those arrested for peacefully expressing their opinions to be released immediately. Amnesty International described the Sisi government being "shaken to its core" by the 20–21 September protests and that the authorities had "launched a full-throttle clampdown to crush demonstrations and intimidate activists, journalists and others into silence". Two thousand people, including Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) representatives, protested in Khartoum on 26 September in support of Waleed Abdelrahman Hassan, a Sudanese anti-Islamist student detained by Egyptian authorities, who gave a forced confession on MBC Masr television. The SPA stated, "the era when Sudanese citizens were humiliated inside or outside their country has gone and will never return". The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Egyptian ambassador and Waleed Abdelrahman Hassan was freed on 2 October 2019.
A massive police clampdown took place around Tahrir Square and across Egypt on 27 September, together with pro-Sisi rallies of government employees organised by the National Security Agency, and anti-Sisi protests on Warraq Island on the Nile, in Giza, in Helwan, in Qus, and in the Luxor, Aswan Minya and Sohag Governorates.
- 1 Background
- 2 Online anti-Sisi videos
- 3 Late September 2019 protests
- 4 Arrests and harassment
- 5 Sociopolitical analysis
- 6 Reactions
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Mass protests in the Egyptian revolution of 2011 led to the demission of President Hosni Mubarak, the 2012 Egyptian presidential election won by Mohamed Morsi, the 2012–13 Egyptian protests against the Morsi presidency, the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état which overthrew Morsi, the August 2013 Rabaa massacre by the security forces and army led by general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and an authoritarian government under Sisi, who was elected president with no serious opponents in 2014 and 2018.
Online anti-Sisi videos
Starting on 2 September 2019, Mohamed Ali (also: Aly), an Egyptian construction contractor living in exile in Spain, claimed on online social networks that he had worked in the construction industry for 15 years under army contracts, building five villas for colleagues of Sisi and a palace for Sisi in a military camp. Ali accused Sisi of wasting public funds and "[taking] low-level corruption to a new level". Ali's videos outline specific incidents and directly accuse well-known military individuals, including Major-Generals Kamel al-Wazir and Essam al-Kholy. Egyptian authorities ran a media campaign attacking Ali. According to Said and Mamdouh writing in Mada Masr, the governmental campaign "did not refute the substance of [Ali's] claims."
After the first week of wide circulation of Ali's videos, Sisi denied the allegations at a session of the "National Youth Conference. Sisi stated that "all the intelligence agencies told me please do not talk about it. ... I told them, what's between me and the people is trust." Within a few hours of Sisi's speech, Ali posted two hours of new videos, referring to Sisi's son Mahmoud and the Sinai insurgency.
Mosaad Abu Fagr, a Sinai activist in exile, then released two videos in which he claimed that the Egyptian authorities refused an offer by North Sinai tribal leaders to remove the terrorist cells within a few weeks, and that he was asked by the tribal leaders to publish that information. Abu Fagr stated that Sisi cooperated with drug smugglers and dealers instead of working with the tribes and that Sisi and his son Mahmoud have business interests in smuggling between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Abu Fagr also accused the Egyptian security forces of the "wiping out of entire villages" along the border with Gaza.
Lawyer Mohamed Hamdy Younes stated that he would request the Attorney-General to investigate Ali's accusations. He was then arrested and charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation.Former army officer and lawyer Ahmed Sarhan circulated a video supporting most of Ali's claims, calling for Younes to be released and making new accusations against people close to Sisi. Sarhan's video was viewed half a million times.
A masked man circulated a video claiming that he had sensitive information about Sisi, that Ali's videos contain "factual information about the corruption in the upper ranks of the Armed Forces" and that "the events happening" constitute "retaliation" by the Mukhabarat against Military Intelligence, which was headed by Sisi until 2012. In another video, a masked man claiming to be an intelligence officer stated that Sisi changed commanders frequently in order to avoid any becoming too powerful and that Sisi coordinated intelligence information closely with Israel. Former Air Force pilot Hany Sharaf and former state security officer Hesham Sabry then circulated videos highly critical of Sisi.
Wael Ghonim, who played a key online role in sparking the 2011 Egyptian revolution and lives in the United States, posted videos similar to the others, adding claims that Sisi's son Mahmoud played a strong role in managing Egyptian "daily politics". A representative of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C. telephoned Ghonim, asking him to stop criticising the Egyptian authorities, in exchange for which he would receive a payment and a guarantee to be able to "return to Egypt safely". Ghonim refused, and a few days later Ghonim's brother Hazem was arrested in Cairo. Ghonim interpreted this as a kidnapping in revenge for Ghonim having refused to remain silent.
Ali was described in mid-September by Mohamed Elmasry of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies as being "probably the most popular man in Egypt" with millions of viewers of his online videos and millions of people using Ali's anti-Sisi hashtags. Elmasry described Ali as "a legitimate threat to the el-Sisi government."
On 21 September, following the previous day's protests, Ali called for a "million-man march" to fill all the "major squares" in Egypt on the following Friday, 27 September. Ali stated, "This is a people's revolution... We have to link up together as one... and organise going down to the major squares."
Late September 2019 protests
20 and 21 September
On Friday 20 September 2019, in response to Ali's call for anti-Sisi protests, two thousand people, mostly young, in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Suez and four other Egyptian cities on 20 September 2019 carried out street protests calling for Sisi to be removed from power.
Chants included "rise up, fear not, Sisi must go" and "the people demand the regime's fall".
Street protests continued in Cairo, Suez, Giza and El Mahalla El Kubra on 21 September. In Suez, with 200 demonstrators, teargas, rubber bullets and live bullets were shot at protestors. The teargas spread to "a few" kilometres from the zone of the protest where a resident felt the gas making her nose feel as if it were burning.
On 26 September, exiled former presidential candidate Ayman Nour stated that the massive scale of the arrests showed that the Sisi government was "terrified" and that he expected protests to grow, with the fear barrier having been broken down and the mass arrests provoking anger in the context of socioeconomic difficulties. On the same day, actor Amr Waked tweeted to seven million followers that "Sisi is done ... it is over for him and anyone who supports him now will be making a huge mistake."
On 27 September itself, 1000 to 2000 people on Warraq Island on the Nile next to Cairo protested against Sisi and were attacked by police using tear gas. One of the slogans chanted by protestors was, "No matter how, we'll bring Sisi down". Using their rifles, police "beat the hell" out of six of the Warraq protestors.
Police organised "a huge show of force" in central Cairo and other Egyptian cities, with Tahrir Square heavily policed and four metro stations close to Tahrir Square were closed. All roads leading to Tahrir Square were blocked and checkpoints were established on 6th October Bridge, which had been a key route to Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and 15th May Bridge.
Instructions received by the Ministry of Interior had been to respond to demonstrations with limited force for "no more than a few minutes" and the to use all available violent measures against street protests.
Pro-Sisi rallies were organised on 27 September with the National Security Agency instructing health, education, youth and sports ministries and agencies and oil companies to send their employees to the rallies. State companies bussed employees to a major road east of the centre of Cairo and to Alexandria. Free meals were given to a group of families from Beni Mazar in Minya Governorate who organised 30 buses to participate in the pro-Sisi Cairo rallies. The National Security Agency warned independent Members of Parliament from talking about the "ongoing events or the discussions around Sisi".
Arrests and harassment
In response to the first reports of arrests, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for Egypt to respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is legally bound, guaranteeing freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. HRW called for the Egyptian security services to follow the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials by using "non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms".
Arrests for the 20 and 21 September protests were estimated as 500 by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) that published a list of the names of arrestees. Arrests were earlier reported by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) for 12 towns including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Suez and towns in Dakahlia Governorate, Qalyubia Governorate and Kafr el-Sheikh. ECRF stated that it had created an "emergency room" to provide support in relation to the sudden surge in arrests.
Human rights lawyer Mahienour el-Massry was arrested by three plainclothes officers in front of the Supreme State Security Prosecution headquarters in Cairo while telephoning to a friend Noha Kamal on 22 September. She screamed to Kamal, "They're arresting me. I am being taken away" and was taken away in a microbus.
HRW called on the Egyptian security forces to "immediately release all those arrested for solely exercising their rights".
On 23 September, Mohamed Ali, whose videos sparked off the online discussion and street protests, stated that "officers" had been following him in Spain for two weeks, and that he had been "hiding and running away from them". Ali stated that the officers wished to kill him and that he was too tired to "run any more". Ali stated that Spanish authorities were responsible for his safety and that if he were "killed in Spain," then that would "[prove] that Europe is a liar just like the United States and is willing to give up anybody."
By 25 September, the arrest count was estimated at 1100 by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), ECESR and ECRF and 1400 by Middle East Eye.In addition to el-Massry, prominent arrestees included former leader of the Constitution Party Khaled Dawoud and two professors of political science at Cairo University, Hazem Hosny and Hassan Nafaa. Dawoud, Hosny and Nafaa were charged with "spreading fake news and joining terrorist organisations".
Hazem Hosny was arrested without a warrant and held incommunicado. His legal defence team called for him to be released immediately. Hosny had earlier described Mohamed Ali as playing a "positive role" and described the new protest movement as having the potential to affect the "international formula that largely determines Sisi's continued rule". Hosny argued in favour of "[stripping] Sisi of his dictatorial control of the Egyptian state".
Prior to his arrest, Hassan Nafaa had argued that "the continuation of Sisi's absolute rule [would] lead to disaster" and that "public pressure from the street" was needed to end Sisi's presidency. Nafaa stated that "the image Sisi has created for himself has been totally shaken and it has been replaced by the opposite image."
Khaled Dawoud, arrested on 25 September 2019, as former media spokesperson of the National Salvation Front, had supported the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état but later criticised Sisi. Following Mohamed Ali's video releases, Dawoud called for investigations of the corruption claims.
The arrest count mounted to 1909 on 26 September, with the arrest of lawyers Mohamed Salah Agag, deputy head of the Lawyers' Syndicate; Ahmed Sarhan; Ahmed Abdel Azeem; Islam Khairy Nour Eddin and Mahmoud Moemen Naeem. Two Turks, two Jordanians, a Palestinian and a Dutchman were arrested and charged with "spreading violence against the state and publishing false news."
The arrests of five journalists, including Sayed Abdellah, who had been reporting on the protests in Suez, and Mohammed Ibrahim, author of the blog "Oxygen Egypt", were documented by Amnesty International. Labour leader Rashad Mohammed Kamal, who participated in the protests, was arrested at his home in Suez. Politicians, including Abed Aziz Husseini, vice-president of the Dignity Party (Karama) and Abdel Nasser Ismail, vice-president of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party were arrested.
On 29 September, the Egyptian blogger, software developer and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who had previously been arrested for his political activism during the Mubarak, Morsi and Sisi presidencies, and had not participated in the 2019 Egyptian protests, was arrested by State Security Prosecution on unknown charges. El-Fattah's lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer, director of the human rights organisation Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, was himself arrested at the prosecutor's office on 29 September. Both were tortured in welcome parades in Tora Prison.
On 2 October, ECESR listed 2285 detainees grouped into six separate legal cases, among which almost all (2268) are in Case 1338/2019. Alaa Abd el-Fattah and his lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer were detained under Case 1356/2019 or 1365/2019. On 6 October, ECRF listed about 3000 detainees, larger than any earlier arrest waves of the Sisi presidency. Three quarters had appeared in front of a prosecutor; 57 had been released without being charged; 100 people were listed as missing.
Egyptian political party freeze threat
The Civil Democratic Movement, including the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, stated that it did not participate in the protests but did have a vision for political reforms. It objected to the mass arrests of protestors, lawyers, journalists and politicians, and stated that it was considering a freeze on public political activities in response to the crackdown.
Dalia Fahmy of Long Island University said that the 20 September 2019 protests showed people "[breaking] the fear barrier", which she said was surprising but expected because of demographic change. She stated, "When you have much of the population that doesn't live with the post-revolution trauma or memories, you have a group of young people coming in with a different set of demands and different kinds of understanding of a future possibility. So those on the streets today are very different from the ones that were there eight years ago."
Muslim Brotherhood role
According to American University in Cairo political science professor Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, the Muslim Brotherhood supported and amplified Mohamed Ali's criticisms against Sisi and Ali's calls for protests. Al-Sayyed stated, "the Brotherhood certainly benefited from his videos and their channels exploited what he was saying to portray a negative image of Sisi's leadership." He expected that the Muslim Brotherhood as an "idea based on Islam [would] continue to attract many."
Former member of parliament and member of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Amr el-Shobaki, judged the Brotherhood's role to be weak, stating that the Brotherhood does not "have the capacity to call for a rally [and its] capacity to recruit new members has been weakened." He said that the 20 September protests were by "everyday youth, those economically marginalised" and that "the Brotherhood wasn't behind or even participated" in the protests.
The Revolutionary Socialists stated that the protests "restored hope to the millions who were desperate". The Social Democratic Party, a supporter of the 2013 coup by Sisi, objected to the 2019 crackdown, stating that citizens had the right to "exercise their constitutional and legal right to peaceful demonstration".
International civil society protests
On 26 September, two thousand people protested in support of Waleed Abdelrahman Hassan (or Walid, Abdulrahman), a Sudanese student arrested in Cairo for alleged participation in the 21 September protest. The protest took place in Khartoum in front of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Egyptian embassy. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) called for Abdelrahman Hassan to be able to contact his family, choose a lawyer and not be tortured or coerced. Abdelrahman Hassan's friends and relatives stated that an apparent confession by him broadcast by MBC Masr on 26 September, in which he stated support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was a forced confession, given Abdelrahman Hassan's long-term opposition to Islamists in Sudan under the Omar al-Bashir government, for which he was arrested in 2013 and 2018, and during the Sudanese Revolution. Abdelrahman Hassan's friend Mohammed Saleh described the idea of Hassan supporting the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood as "unbelievable". The SPA stated that the video broadcast was "shameful" and that, "We stress here that the era when Sudanese citizens were humiliated inside or outside their country has gone and will never return." Another protest in front of the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum was held on 27 September, with protest banners stating that Abdelrahman Hassan was not a member of the Muslim brotherhood and that he didn't participate in the 2019 Egyptian protests. The Sudanese embassy in Cairo stated that it was in contact with Egyptian authorities and that Abdelrahman Hassan was charged with terrorism and membership of a banned organisation.
On 29 September, the Egyptian ambassador in Khartoum was summoned and informed of concerns about Abdelrahman Hassan. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry protested against the Egyptian refusal to allow the Sudanese embassy in Cairo to meet Abdelrahman Hassan and asked for Abdelrahman Hassan to be given his full legal rights by the Egyptian authorities. Abdelrahman Hassan was released on 2 October and the Sudanese embassy in Cairo said that he would depart Cairo the same evening to return to Khartoum.
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