Egyptian Protesters to Press for President Sisi’s Ouster
By Staff, Agencies
Egyptian demonstrators are expected to stage protests on Friday with Twitter hashtags and social media accounts urging people to take to the streets and peacefully demand the resignation of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
More than 2,000 people have been arrested since rare protests broke out in several cities last week calling on el-Sisi to step down. Thousands marched against the president's rule after corruption allegations emerged surrounding his and his family's lavish spending.
Security forces on Wednesday detained several prominent Egyptian intellectuals and public figures, including Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University and well-known columnist.
"I have no doubt that the continuation of el-Sisi's absolute rule will lead to disaster," Nafaa said in a tweet on Tuesday before being taken away. "Egypt's interest requires his departure today before tomorrow."
Nafaa's arrest followed the detention of Hazem Hosny, a spokesman for former army chief Sami Anan who was jailed last year for attempting to run against el-Sisi in a presidential election. Khaled Dawoud, the head of al-Doustor Party who has been a vocal critic of the president's policies, was also detained.
Analysts and politicians say the crackdown on critical voices reflects the government's insecurity and vulnerability at a critical time as Egypt's economic woes intensify for the poor and middle class.
"The arrests show the regime's disregard for Egyptians and how terrified it is," said Istanbul-based Ayman Nour, an opposition leader and former presidential candidate.
"But there's more to it. Sisi is trying to send a clear message to prominent generals and politicians who might provide an alternative to him because he has run country's economy to the ground and because of his widespread political repression."
Nour said he expects more people will take to the streets now that "the fear barrier" has been broken down, with the government's heavy-handed approach only heightening people's anger at worsening socioeconomic conditions.
Though small in scale, the rare public displays of anger followed calls for action from a contractor who previously worked with the Egyptian military, Mohamed Ali. The part-time actor was able to forge close ties with members of the political establishment and top brass of the armed forces, eventually becoming an insider.
In a series of videos posted online, he admitted to benefitting from government corruption, describing how his company, Amlak, was awarded lucrative state contracts without going through the proper bidding process.
Ali said he regretted being part of the rampant corruption among the army corps and el-Sisi's relatives, including his wife Intissar.
His description of opulent palaces and luxury hotels that he claimed to have built for el-Sisi - and for which he has yet to be paid - stood in sharp contrast to the deep poverty Egyptians currently live in.
On Twitter, hashtags such as "come out you are not alone", "you are done Sisi", "Sisi must go", and "Next Friday" generated tens of thousands of tweets and retweets calling on people to take to the streets peacefully to demand that el-Sisi step aside.
The decision to slash food and fuel subsidies as part of a 2016 loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund [IMF], in addition to the floating of the Egyptian currency, has led to a sharp increase in the price of basic commodities, hitting poor people the hardest.
By the government's own admission, the poverty rate rose to 32.5 percent in 2018, up from 27.8 percent in 2015.