Anti-Sisi protests re-ignite in Egypt: Will the Egyptian leader be toppled?
Anti-Sisi protests erupt in Egypt
In the past days, protests have erupted in Egypt against the Sisi government. Egyptians took to the streets across the country after weekly Friday prayers, demanding the departure of President Adel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Several Egyptian social media activists shared footage of demonstrations in Cairo, Al-Jiza and Luxor responding to calls by self-exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali to protest al-Sisi’s rule. This was the sixth day of against anti-regime protests amid deteriorating living conditions in Egypt.
Mohammad Ali urged the Egyptians on his Facebook page to hold street demonstrations on Friday against al-Sisi regime and to “break the fear barrier” in the face of the regime brutal crackdown of the protests. Egyptian security forces launched random arrest campaigns in the streets, which included searching pedestrians’ phones for photos of the protests.
Al-Sisi came to power in Egypt in July 2013, after he deposed the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammad Morsi.
“This is our chance to liberate our country,” Mohamed Ali, a former military contractor, said in a video message posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“Every day, our numbers are rising. There is no difference between Christian and Muslim … secular or liberal, we are the people of Egypt,” he added, urging people to participate in the rallies.
The latest wave of protests came after Ali, who lives in self-imposed exile, last week called on people to take to the streets to commemorate a similar movement for change a year ago.
Since then, several protests have been held, mainly in the governorates of Giza and Beni Suef. Images posted on social media showed demonstrators holding placards and chanting slogans against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Security services tried to pre-empt the latest wave of protests by launching a campaign of arrests that included political figures such as left-wing political thinker Amin al-Mahdi. According to the independent Mada Masr news website, at least 150 people have appeared before the state security prosecutor, including 14 minors, this week. They face accusations such as belonging to a “terrorist” organisation, spreading false news and misusing social media, the outlet quoted the defendants’ lawyers as saying.
Why are people protesting?
The sudden outbreak of protests has become the norm in Egypt despite the repressive measures taken by its military-led autocratic regime, which comes down heavily on dissenters. But Sisi’s iron-fisted approach has failed to extinguish the nation’s smouldering rage. The country is currently gripped by protests once again.
“Beyond any ideology or revolutionary cause, people are protesting for their very lives and their self interests to protect their families and survive under the pressures of daily life’s essential needs,” says Hamza Zawba, the former spokesman of the Freedom and Justice Party, who hosts a show for Mekameleen TV, a media organisation launched by Egyptian exiles in Istanbul.
Last year, the same thing occured as the streets of Egypt had erupted into a state of unrest as thousands of protesters took to the streets across several cities in Egypt, in a rare show of dissent against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late on Friday, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as “the people demand the fall of the regime” and “leave Sisi”, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place more than eight years ago and which brought down longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. A heavy security presence was also maintained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
Such demonstrations are rare after Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi. But discontent over rising prices has been swelling in Egypt, where Sisi’s government has imposed strict austerity measures since 2016 as part of a $12-billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund. Nearly one in three Egyptians live below the poverty line on less than $1.40 a day, according to official figures released in July last year.
In the past, Egyptian security forces have arrested people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to subdue protests. But now they appear to have no clue about the roots of the ongoing protests. They are widespread and unpredictable, and security forces have arrested people from different political groups and backgrounds, says Zawba.
Current protests have appeared to be triggered by Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian actor and businessman who used to be a government contractor. He later left Egypt, citing differences with the Sisi government. But before Ali’s call for the rallies, there were, in fact, some angry demonstrations underway across several cities against the Sisi government last week – this, after the Egyptian state began demolishing thousands of allegedly illegal homesacross the country.
Will the protests succeed?
As seen above, the Egyptian authorities have clamped down hard on the protests, and tried to limit their sphere. There are also signs of other tactics being used by the government like counter-protests, and shows of support for Sisi.
Egyptian security forces have called on the heads of political parties and MPs to gather supporters for a demonstration today.
Sources have told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that General turned President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s supporters will be brought to the capital to gather in support of the president, who is facing increasing calls to stand down.
The buses used to ferry them into Cairo will be rented by the Nation’s Future Party, which backs the president.
They have been enticed to join in exchange for free meals. In April 2019, during the constitutional amendments referendum, members of the Nation’s Future Party distributed food packages and gave cash in exchange for votes.
The heavy-handed tactics used by security forces has only angered more Egyptians. A video was released yesterday of security forces shooting live bullets at protesters in Kafr Qandil village in Giza Governorate. There have been reports that the government has hired beltagayya to warn off protesters at popular sites, particularly police stations.
Furthermore, the hashtag “#You are not alone” began trending across Egyptian Twitter on Sunday, showing an image of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with words of encouragement towards him. First posted on Saturday, the hashtag quickly became one of the most searched terms and aims to showcase support for Sisi and his government, particularly regarding the state’s achievements since 2014.
It is clear that there is still a long way to go before protest threaten Sisi’s position, but a spark could make the situation uncontrollable like in 2011, however to a lesser extent, as the army has been taking measures for several years to prevent such an uprising from ever repeating.