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Egypt: Protests and Crackdown After President al-Sisi Transfers Red Sea Islands to Saudi Control
‘Egypt is not for sale’, reads this placard at a protest outside the journalists’ syndicate in Cairo. (Reuters)
This week’s snapshot focuses on the fallout of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s executive decision to cede control over two Red Sea islands to Riyadh. The agreement capstones numerous other investment deals between both countries designed to bolster a lackluster Egyptian economy via foreign funds. In response to the deal, thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for President al-Sisi to resign. Hundreds of people, including journalists, have been detained, and clashes with police forces are widespread. Custody of the strategically located islands was transferred from Saudi to Egyption control in 1950 at the request of Saudi King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud because Saudi Arabia lacked a naval force to protect the islands against possible Israeli expansion following the 1948 war. Israel was included in the behind-the-scenes talks that led to this month’s agreement.
News summary of events during the week of 25APR16 – 02MAY16
- 25APR: Thousands of security personnel deployed around Cairo as Egypt braced for scheduled protests over the return of the islands. (Bloomberg)
- 25APR: Police fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse hundreds of demonstrators calling on President al-Sisi to step down over his decision. (AP)
- 26APR: The “Egypt is Not for Sale” campaign vowed to continue pursuing its goal of ending the Saudi-Egyptian agreement. (Daily News Egypt)
- 26APR: An Egyptian coalition of rights groups said that police arrested at least 237 people during the previous day’s protests in Cairo. (AP)
- 26APR: Rights group Amnesty International accused Egypt of “paranoia” in its crackdown to prevent protests the previous day against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. (AFP)
- 26APR: Around 100 Egyptian journalists staged a protest in central Cairo against the arrest of colleagues for covering demonstrations opposing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Reuters)
- 27APR: Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council approved the demarcation of the maritime border between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (Arab News)
- 27APR: Egyptian official sources confirmed that the Ministry of Interior is investigating a recent report that a Saudi businessman was kidnapped by unidentified people on the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
- 27APR: Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian police arrested at least 382 people in the days leading up to and during 25APR protests in Cairo. (AP)
- 28APR: Egyptian prosecutors referred 116 suspects to urgent trial over charges of organizing and joining protests in defiance of an anti-protest law. (Xinhua)
- 30APR: Egypt put on trial 237 activists arrested for protesting against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the first court cases after demonstrations this month. (Reuters)
- 01MAY: For the first time, Egyptian police stormed the headquarters of the the journalists’ syndicate in downtown Cairo. (WSJ)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Egypt-Saudi deal
- @RandaHabib – Randa Habib, Regional Director for the Middle East for Amnesty International and covers the region for AFP newswire
- @JeannieAssad1 – Jeanie Assad, Middle East Producer for the BBC based in Cairo
- @Beltrew – Bel Trew, Middle East reporter for The Times (UK) based in Cairo
- @RashaQandeelBBC – Rasha Qandeel, Senior Broadcasting Journalist for the BBC
- @DavidAWeinberg – David A. Weinberg – Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on the Gulf
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Egypt-Saudi deal
Mohamed Elmeshad, Egyptian journalist and PhD student in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London
“As the state keeps an eye—and a hand—on public expression, the media, and information sharing, the president’s view of the media and the arbitrary application of ‘security measures’ will only contribute to what is increasingly becoming a dystopian state regime.”
- ‘Sisi Sours on the Media,’ Carnegie Endowment, 29APR16
Frida Ghitis, independent commentator on world affairs and a World Politics Review contributing editor
“El-Sissi’s spell is now officially broken. The taboo against protests has ended.”
- ‘Island Deal Backlash Signals the Honeymoon Is Over for Egypt’s El-Sissi,’ World Politics Review, 28APR16
Hani Sabra, head of the Mideast practice at the Eurasia Group
“[El-Sisi was] the embodiment of strong nationalism and even to some of his supporters he looks weak, a supplicant to Saudi Arabia.”
- ‘Egyptian Police Mass to Counter Anger Over Red Sea Islands,’ Bloomberg, 25APR16
Ibrahim al-Hatlani, Saudi writer based in Jeddah
“It seems that the angry Egyptians’ real problem is with Sisi himself and the way he is running the country. Thus, it did not take them long to stop chanting slogans about land and begin to demand the end of the regime.”
- ‘Why Egyptians’ anger at island handover is misplaced,’ Al-Monitor, 21APR16
Yaakov Amidror, former director of Israel’s National Security Council
“There is no doubt that the relationship between Egypt and Israel is at a higher level than ever before. It is also clear that Saudi Arabia has many interests that are linked to Israeli interests. I would also add Jordan to this. I think that there are great common interests here, which serve as a good basis for various relationships.”
- ‘How two Red Sea islands shed light on secret relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia,’ The Washington Post, 13APR16
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Egypt-Saudi deal
- Police deployed across Egypt’s capital ahead of protests
Media: Associated Press
Date: 25 April 2016
CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of police are deployed across the Egyptian capital in anticipation of demonstrations to protest the government’s decision to surrender control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
Following the arrest of dozens of activists and journalists in recent days, riot police backed by armored vehicles on Monday took up positions in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, They also deployed on the ring road, downtown and at a square where hundreds of Islamist protesters were killed when security forces broke up their sit-in in August 2013.
- UPDATE: Police, protesters clash in Cairo over islands
Media: Associated Press
Date: 25 April 2016
CAIRO (AP) — Police fired tear gas and birdshot on Monday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators calling on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to step down over his government’s decision to surrender control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
The clash in Mesaha square in Cairo’s Dokki district took place as thousands of police and soldiers were deployed on Monday across the Egyptian capital ahead of the planned demonstrations over the islands, a thorny issue which has already sparked the largest protests since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi assumed power nearly two years ago.
- UPDATE: Egyptian rights group says 237 protesters arrested in Cairo
Media: Associated Press
Date: 26 April 2016
CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian coalition of rights groups said Tuesday that police arrested at least 237 people during the previous day’s protests in Cairo against a government decision to hand over to Saudi Arabia control of two strategic Red Sea islands.
Amnesty International condemned the arrests, the latest criticism levelled by the leading international advocacy group over human rights abuses in Egypt.
- Egypt refers 116 to trial over breaking anti-protest law
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 28 April 2016
CAIRO, April 28 (Xinhua) — The Egyptian prosecution referred on Thursday 116 suspects to urgent trial over charges of organizing and joining Monday’s protests in defiance of an anti-protest law, official MENA news agency reported.
The defendants are accused of committing crimes of organizing and joining a protest in downtown Cairo, without a prior permission as per the protest-regulating law, urging demonstration and spreading claims that might ruin public security and peace.
- Egypt puts on trial 237 activists for protests against Sisi: sources
Date: 30 April 2016
Egypt put on trial 237 activists arrested for protesting against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, judicial sources said on Saturday, the first court cases after demonstrations this month.
Thousands angered by Sisi’s decision to hand over two islands to Saudi Arabia called on April 15 for his government to fall in the largest demonstration since the former army general took office in 2014. Security forces dispersed a second protest.