In a rare show of dissent against Egyptian strongman Fattah Sisi in Egypt, Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Egypt. Former general Fattah Sisi is ruling Egypt with iron hand and his regime has zero tolerance policy towards dissent and protests. Thousands of Islamists belonging to Muslim Brotherhood and secular activists and bloggers have been arrested and put in the prisons. Sisi established his strong grip on the power after ousting elected president Muhammad Morsi.
There is conflict about the exact number of people who participated in these country wide protests. It is difficult to ascertain the exact numbers because of media restrictions and tight state control over the information and news. Just leave a side the numbers of protestors- the significant aspect is that thousands dare to come out on the streets. Protests are not something normal in Egypt and authoritarian government take even small protests very seriously.
The protest and dissent has a heavy price in Egypt. There is blanket ban imposed on protests. Whoever dared to protest face arrests and jail terms. Those who dare to challenge the Sisi regime have to pay heavy price with arrests, tortures, murders and longtime prison sentences after summary trials. Sisi’s rule has been marked by the repression of political opposition, civil society and any perceived criticism.
So it is not easy to organise demonstrations and protests. These protests have shown that anger and discontent against president Sisi has reached to boiling point. These protests have clearly shown that new protest movement has started to build in Egypt. But it just started to begun.
The overwhelming majority of protestors were young people. Those on the streets on Friday were different from the crowds who took part in the 2011 protests that brought down Mubarak. Mostly younger people came out on the streets that “did not see the benefits of the revolution” and frustrated by poverty and austerity that “is crippling everyday life”.
There is atmosphere of fear in Egypt created by the Sisi regime. This could be at a crescendo moment that leads to people to break through the fear barrier.
The small protests might not pose immediate threat to Sisi rule but it indicates about the new awakening in Egypt. The Sisi regime might be able to crush the current protests with brutal use of force. But Sisi might not be able to rule Egypt with iron hand for a long period. The pressure will mount on Sisi in the coming period.
In Cairo, protestors gathered at iconic Tahrir Square on Friday and chanted slogans such as “the people demand the fall of the regime” and “leave Sisi”. Tahrir Square was the rallying point for the protestors 8 years ago when Egyptians chanted the similar slogans and which brought down longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. Protests were took place in 08 largest cities of Egypt- the Cairo, Alexandria and Suez saw the biggest turnout.
The police used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowds. More than 70 people have been arrested across the country. Unauthorised protests are not allowed in Egypt and police take strict action against illegal protestors.
The call of protests was given by exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who urged Egyptians to take to the streets through the social media. In a series of videos posted on Facebook and Twitter, Ali, who said he worked as a building contractor for the army for 15 years, has accused el-Sisi and his aides of squandering public funds on vanity projects despite rising poverty.
Sisi has taken low-level corruption to a new level. I built five villas for Sisi’s aides and a palace for the president in a military camp in Cairo,” he said from Spain, where he is currently in self-imposed exile. El-Sisi denied the allegations as “slander” last week. Speaking at a youth conference, he said he “was honest and faithful” to Egypt and the military.
Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief of The International Interest, said: “The fact that tens of people have been able to actually enter Tahrir Square is in itself an incredible achievement to the people to try to protest against Sisi.”
Analysts say the 64-year-old leader’s popularity has weakened in recent years because of austerity measures and soaring poverty rates. Official statistics released in July show that 33 percent of Egyptians were living in poverty, up from 28 percent in 2015 and 17 percent in 2000. Other estimates put the figure higher.
The Egyptian government and Sisi has crushed any protest ruthlessly so the fact that people are prepared to take to the streets tonight I think speaks to the enormous frustration, the enormous anger that ordinary Egyptians feel towards Sisi.
In a country with an estimated 60,000 political prisoners and where protests are expected to be met with force, observers marveled at the demonstrators’ willingness to turn out even for a limited time.
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