Security forces in Egypt have clashed with hundreds of protesters in the port city of Suez, according to media reports, firing tear gas and live rounds to disperse crowds calling for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to quit, Al Jazeera reported Sunday (Sept 22).
The unrest on Saturday came a day after thousands of people took to the streets in several Egyptian cities in a rare show of dissent against el-Sisi, who has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent including the jailing of thousands of dissidents and the effective banning of protests.
A protester in Suez told the AFP news agency about 200 people headed to the city’s central area for a second night in a row, where they were met by security forces and armored vehicles.
“They [security force] fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets and there were injuries”, the man who declined to be named told the AFP.
Protests were also reported in Giza, the capital Cairo’s twin city, and in the northern town of Mahalla. Al Jazeera is banned from reporting inside Egypt.
Meanwhile, a heavy security presence was maintained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
The AFP, citing an unnamed security source, said at least 74 people had been arrested on Friday in the capital after clashes between police and protesters, who had marched through the streets of Cairo, chanting slogans including “Leave, Sisi!” and demanding the “fall of the regime”.
Anti-El Sisi protests in New York & Washington
Videos on social media showed dozens of Egyptians demonstrating in front of el-Sisi’s residence in New York, where he is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly this week.
The anti-Sisi demonstrations were met with tens of his supporters also staging a demonstration to chant slogans praising his achievements.
The Egyptian diaspora in Washington, DC also staged a vigil in front of the White House to denounce el-Sisi, Al Jazeera reported. The protesters called on US President Donald Trump to end his support for el-Sisi and demanded that el-Sisi leave the US.
The demonstrations were in response to an online call by an exiled Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Ali, who has accused el-Sisi and his aides of squandering public funds on vanity projects.
Ali, a construction contractor, upped the pressure on Saturday in an expletive-filled video, imploring Egyptians to join a “million-man march” next Friday and to fill all “major squares” of the country.
“This is a people’s revolution … We have to link up together as one … and organise going down to the major squares,” he said in a Facebook appeal to his followers.
Mohamad Elmasry, chair of the media and journalism program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that the popularity of Ali’s videos and the protests they sparked posed a “legitimate threat” to el-Sisi.
“Millions of people have watched his videos, while his anti-Sisi hashtags have gone viral,” Elmasry told Al Jazeera. “This is something that is a legitimate threat to the el-Sisi government – if it wasn’t a legitimate threat, then el-Sisi wouldn’t have come out and responded directly to Mohamed Ali at last week’s youth conference,” said Elmasry, adding it was “unprecedented” for el-Sisi “to be put on the defensive like that inside Egypt by an Egyptian”.
“No one shouted bread, freedom, social justice like in 2011, they escalated straight to ‘Leave’ from the first minute,” Nael Shama, a Cairo-based political analyst told AFP news agency, adding: “This is the first time people take to the streets in many years but I am not sure it will be the last.”
President Mohammed Morsi dies in court
Anti-El Sissi demonstrations came three months after the overthrown President Mohammed Morsi has died on June 17 during a Kangaroo court hearing in Cairo.
Mohammed Morsi died after collapsing during a session in court.
He was buried quickly in Cairo on June 18. “He was buried in Medinat Nasr, in eastern Cairo, with his family present,” said Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud, one of his lawyers.
Tellingly, the UN has called for an independent investigation into whether Morsi’s detention in solitary confinement contributed to his death.
The UN human rights office called for a “prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation” into death of Morsi, who had been in prolonged solitary confinement. The probe should “examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death,” UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Rupert Colville said.
Correspondent Ruth Michaelson in Cairo told DW that authorities were “increasing security” across Egypt amid fears that “violent offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood may take action following the incident.”
The Morsi was democratically elected in 2012, one year after the popular uprising that ended the rule of longtime US-client dictator Hosni Mubarak. He spent just one year in office. He was toppled in July 2013 by General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi who later assumed the title of Field Marshal.
Morsi and thousands of other members of the Brotherhood were jailed in the crackdown that followed.
The former president has faced court several times since then on charges that include plotting terror attacks and spying for Iran. June 17’s session was part of a retrial over allegations of espionage connected to Palestinian militant group Hamas. He was also serving a 20-year sentence related to the killing of protesters during 2012 demonstrations, as well as a life sentence for espionage for Qatar. He had denied all charges.
Erdogan honors a ‘martyr’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid rick tribute to the former leader: “May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr’s soul in peace,” he said. “I offer my condolences to all of my brothers who walked the path with him. I offer my condolences to the Egyptian people.”
Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, expressed his “deep sorrow” via Twitter. “I extend to his family and to the Egyptian people brotherly condolences,” Al-Thani wrote.
Mohammed Sudan, a leading Brotherhood member in London, called Morsi’s death a “premeditated murder,” saying the ex-president had been deprived of medical treatment.
“He has been placed behind a glass cage (during trials). No one can hear him or know what is happening to him,” Sudan said. “He hasn’t received any visits for months … He complained before that he doesn’t get his medicine. This is premeditated murder. This is slow death.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director with the Human Rights Watch, tweeted that Morsi’s death was “terrible but entirely predictable” given the government “failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits.”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com