Random raids and arrests continued for the third day in a row ahead of the Sinai Day celebrations of April 25 in anticipation of protests against the demarcation agreement. According to the Committee to defend protesters, the total numbers of arrests was 1277 in 22 governorates, in 12 days. Some journalists were also charged with “spreading rumors that the two islands are Egyptian.” Some were also charged with the absurd charge of ”openly shouting” – الجهر بالصياح . Two 14 yr old children in Fayyoum were arrested and charged with ‘attempting a coup’! The children – Adham Said Mahmoud and Abdel Rahman al Sayed, were apparently walking out of their workshop to get lunch and an officer was suspicious of their presence and arrested them. Other passers-by were also arrested elsewhere just on suspicion for walking by.
Armored trucks blocking press syndicate
On April 25, there were limited demonstrations amidst heavy armored trucks and military and police presence around Egypt. The trucks mostly prevented people from accessing protest areas such as the Press Syndicate and others. Only police-backed thugs were allowed to cross the barriers in order to threaten the protesters.
Danish journalist arrested then freed
Throughout the day there were multiple attempts to storm the Press Syndicate by those thugs but the journalists managed to prevent them from entering the place. At the end of the day, 239 people were arrested, many of whom were released soon after. Among those arrested were 40 journalists who were denied lawyers and a syndicate presence. BBC’s Orla Guerin was prevented from covering the protests or crossing the barricades and her crew were beaten up. Other foreign journalists such as Danish Stefan Weichert & Harald Christian Hoff who were detained have been later released.
The Egypt-Saudi demarcation agreement and the subsequent protests continued to be a top priority in the news, although the Regeni topic also came briefly to the forefront following a Reuters news report [see updates on the Regeni post]. Two more important visits happened in Cairo: Dubai’s Crown Prince and a German delegation. The Germans signed agreements with Egypt give it loans of 1.8 billion euros and the Emirates allocated $4bn to Egypt to support cash reserves. Another high level meeting is expected by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Tiran and Sanafeer again:
Sameh Heien and Bassem Ashraf arrested and released
More protests are planned for 25 April and the State is taking precautions. Initially Al Shorouk newspaper published that Sisi had met with his core security group and chided them for allowing protests to take place the way it did this week and allegedly urged them to take measures to prevent that from happening again. After the presidency denied any such orders, Al Shorouk newspaper apologized and the page was deleted. However later that evening – April 21, a campaign of random arrests operation took place on the streets in Cairo and Alexandria – primarily raids on noted coffee shops where intellectuals and youth enjoy discussions and debates over coffee/tea. Several people were arrested and some were released elsewhere on the streets.
Med school student Mohamed Adel Sultaى – among those arrested. Whereabouts unknown.
According to eye-witnesses and to some of those who were released, it was men in civilian clothing that came to arrest them. The main coffee shops that were raided were Ghazal, Al Fallah, Al Borsa, Al Sahafeyeen – downtown Cairo on Hoda Shaarawi St. and Champillion St.. Some of those arrested were journalists, cartoonists and others. Some youth and lawyers went to nearby police stations looking for those who were arrested but were told they had no idea about their whereabouts. which actually is a possibility since the arrests were most likely conducted by state security. Approximately 40 people were arrested from downtown Cairo alone. In addition, several homes were raided and people taken from their homes. According to Al Bedaiah newspaper by April 22, 10 were released from Cairo detentions, 21 are in police stations and with prosecutors, and 7 disappeared [5 of whom are form Alexandria]. No charges have been filed. One of the Alexandrian detainees was transferred to military police.
- Journalists wrote their testimonies on the arrests.
Ali Qandeel‘s testimony. Ahmed Tamam’s wife’s testimony. Reem Abdel Rahman’s testimony about her brother who was thrown in the desert after his arrest.
at the al-Qubaa palace in Cairo on April 17, 2016 ©Khaled Desouki (AFP)
French President Hollande visited Egypt on the 17th of April for signing a military contract worth billions. In their first press conference together, Hollande and Sisi were asked about human rights. Hollande said that respect for human rights was a way of preventing terrorism and disturbances and that this requires a strong state but also a state of law. Sisi’s response was: “We cannot measure human rights in Egypt by the same criteria that Europeans measure it.” He added “We are taking steps towards democracy,” adding his usual “we are in a disturbed area of he world.” His most revealing comment was when he said: “I would like to say to the French President and to all Europeans who care about this issue [of human rights], but we see that in addition to freedoms and human rights, providing good education, housing, and proper health-care are part of human rights…I would hope we do not speak of people’s and human rights in isolation of reality on the ground.”
“أرغب في القول، للرئيس الفرنسي وكافة الأوروبيين المهتمين بهذه القضية، إننا نرى بالإضافة إلى الحريات وحقوق الإنسان، أن توفير التعليم الجيد وتوفير المسكن الجيد، والعلاج الجيد والوعي الجيد هو حق من حقوق الإنسان”
It may seem repetitive to mention George Orwell, but it was he who said: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” It is a bleak picture and could not be more true than in Egypt. I remember when I first read it, I was certain that no one can be fooled again after Hitler and Mussolini. No one can blindly disobey any more. We have brains to think and media to inform. But as I unfailingly discovered, the media is there to shape, not to inform – to enforce, not to debate. The only outlet is social media, as I predicted in a very early paper written in 2004 – and even that, one has to be careful about the information one receives. The doctrine of blind obedience is one that the Egyptian regime has been trying to indoctrinate in people’s minds. Sisi reinforced that in his recent speeches when he said ‘trust only me and don’t listen to anyone else’ and ‘stop talking about the islands and trust me.’
Blind obedience to authority is disturbing at best [remember Milgram?]. Blind obedience leads to tyranny and it is the one thing that any dictatorship stresses. It demands absence of common sense and critical thinking. Einstein said that the unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. While it’s true that obedience is based on trust and authority, a leader has to continuously seek to build on that trust and that authority under the watchful eye of his government, his parliament, and his people. Otherwise, he will abuse it. The popular Egyptian saying seems pertinent here: “Who made you Pharaoh?” He responded “No one stopped me.”
Sis at Gabal El Galala
As demonstrations took place around Cairo to protest the land demarcation agreement, President Sisi was in Gabal Al Galala , Ein Al Sokhna, looking at some allegedly ‘big national projects’ that will be built there such as the Galala City. He also went to Friday prayers at a mosque in the area. Sisi was accompanied by ‘Egyptian youth’ according to newspapers, and he told them that they were “the purest and most active people who are capable of building the future of Egypt”.
During the ‘heart to heart’ talk with the youth who accompanied him, Sisi said ‘we don’t lay down the foundation of a project and leave as others have done. We accomplish projects before their deadlines.’ He also made this incomprehensible statement, warning of ‘national suicide’: ‘like a father who brings nice things for his children and his wife tells him what is this you got? understand and listen to my words.” As always, he once again spoke of how there are people trying to ‘destroy the will of the Egyptian people, and that 5-10 years is not a long time in the history of nations.’ He stated that internal conspiracies are worse than the external ones.
وحذر السيسى الشعب من الانتحار القومى، قائلا: “زى الأب إللى بيجرى على ولاده ويجيب لهم حاجات حلوة ومراته تقوله إيه إللى أنت جايبه ده.. افهموا كلامى واسمعوه”.
Sisi did mention the islands: he said the two islands are ‘on the other side of the coast but they belong to others. Our land is here and we have to work on it and protect it.”
“أن جزيرتي تيران وصنافير موجودتان على الناحية الأخرى من الشاطئ، ولكنهما أرض غيرنا، وهنا هي أرضنا وعلينا أن نعمرها ونحافظ عليها”.
Sisi also declared that he has given 1 billion pounds from the Tahya Misr campaign to upgrade Egypt’s infrastructure.