The issue of the Saudi King’s visit continued to occupy the news and Egyptian social media which is why I am dedicating this post entirely to all the comments/statements on the matter as a follow-up to my previous post.
The biggest blow to Egyptians – and to myself personally – is how the matter was handled. Questions continue to arise: how arrogant is Sisi to ignore the people and parliament and make a decision like this on his own? did Israel know? it turned out it did. In fact it turned out that Israel gave Saudi Arabia written consent as well. Did the US know? it turned out it did. Then why were the people and their parliament kept in the dark about the deal? by what right does Sisi offer the islands without careful investigation into the matter with his own people? why have we not be informed of the contents of that agreement?
In an attempt to ease the anger, President Sisi announced he was organizing a meeting with ‘different representative sections of society’ – a very random and broad definition. He met with them April 13th, and it was broadcast on live television. He announced his position regarding the islands, among other things, and stated that he was basically not forfeiting a single particle of sand. Some of the highlights of his speech:
- “I am happy that Egyptians care so much about their land.”
- “My mother taught me not to covet other people’s things.”
والدتي علمتني ألا أطمع بما في أيدي الناس
- “I am not a Muslim Brotherhood nor a Salafi”, a claim that circulated following the sale of the islands. He stated that he did not fail people and wants them to treat him likewise.
“أنا لست إخوانيًا ولا سلفيًا، بل مسلمًا فقط، قدمت نفسى للإخوان وقلت لهم أنا مش إخوان.
- Border demarcation allows us to look for Egypt’s economic fortunes of our waters.
- All documents prove that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia.
- Those who will live peacefully among us will be taken care of, but those who carry arms against us will be punished.
- He chided a participant who tried to speak and told him “please, I have not given permission to anyone to speak.”
- We are facing the most difficult circumstances in the history of our nation.”
- “I hope we stop talking about the islands again since you are only harming yourselves.”
أرجو موضوع الجزيرتين منتكلمش فيه تانى انتوا بتسيئوا لأنفسكم
- There is a parliament that should discuss those matters [of the two islands] not you.
بلاش تتكلموا في الموضوع ده تاني وعندكم برلمان هو يناقش الأمر
- The stability we are enjoying now must not make us forget the great challenges that we face.
- The strength of the attack against us indicates our success, among such attacks are that we are being choked economically, and the increase in the dollar value.
- There is a conspiracy against Egypt and its tools are outside of Egypt, and it has been escalating. It is not about one day’s event, but it is increasing daily.
أن هناك مخطّطًا ضد مصر، أدواته خارج البلاد وداخلها، ويجرى تنفيذه بوتيرة متصاعدة، مؤكّدًا أن هذا ليس يومًا واحدًا، ولكنه خطة منهجية
- Forces of evil among you do not want peace for Egypt making you doubt everything.
- I could have entered Libya and occupied a part of it.
- “You have become very difficult and you are doubting everyone.”
بقيتوا حاجة صعبة بجد وبتشككوا في الكل
- “Ever since I came to this place I have been tortured.”
“أنا من ساعة ماجيت المكان ده وأنا باتعذب.. ربنا يقيكم شر العذاب”.
- “I can control the media with two battalions – I go to the Internet and create a closed circuit.”
وأنا ممكن أسيطر على الإعلام بكتيبتين أدخل ع النت وأعلمها دايرة مقفولة
- “I took the beating to my chest and had to bear the fact that I did not announce anything about the two islands for 8 months.”
خدت الضربة فى صدرى وتحملت عدم إعلان أزمة الجزيرتين خلال 8 شهور”
Once more Sisi brought up the matter of his accomplishments and wonderrf why people were not seeing those accomplishments and were focusing on the negatives. He also once again called up the ‘conspiracy theories’ and how Egypt was under enormous pressure and therefore it was not the time to object to anything.
So what happened in the past two days?
- The strongest calls for action came on social media regarding demonstrating in Tahrir Sq. against the ‘sale’ of the islands. The demonstrations are planned for Friday the 15th and are under the name of ‘Land is honor’ الأرض هى العرض . A list of meeting places has been compiled. It should be noted that 5 youths demonstrated downtown Cairo in Talaat Harb Sq. already, upon hearing the news and were arrested then released a day later. An Avaaz petition was also circulated against the decision. In addition, liberal lawyer Khaled Ali filed a lawsuit against Sisi’s ‘unconstitutional’ decision.
- Graffiti began appearing again on Egyptian streets in preparation for Friday’s planned demonstration. People also started hanging hanging banners in the streets saying that the two Islands are Egyptian. Posters also began circulating on social media.
- Popular anti-Mubarak slogan “أرحل#” [leave] trending on Twitter (over 20k tweets) after televised Sisi talk.
- A hashtag war: because the hastag ‘Awwad sold his land’ was popular on Twitter, the pro-Sisi Egyptians began a new hashtag ‘Sisi defends his land.’ السيسى صاين ارضه Awwad is a popular movie character who shamefully sold his land.
- Ikhwan issued two statements: one condemning the sale of the islands, and the other announcing they will participate in the Friday demonstrations. Naturally this has caused the ire of many because now the demonstrations are being portrayed by the State as Ikhwan demonstrations which would turn an already nervous and apprehensive public opinion against the demonstrators. Lawyer Nour Farahat expressed such an opinion as well.
- During Sisi’s speech there was a demonstration on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate refusing the demarcation agreement. A demonstration is planned [April 14th] at the Lawyers’ Syndicate for same reason.
A lawyer filed a complaint against activist Esraa Abdel Fattah for ‘inciting for demonstrations in Tahrir Sq. on Friday the 15th’ on her Twitter account.
- The Ministry of Interior issued a warning that anyone who does anything ‘illegitimate’ will be dealt with severely. Egyptian police posted on Twitter and Facebook that it appreciates freedom of speech but urges people not to participate in demonstrations because Ikhwan are participating.
- The ministry of interior brought in heavy reinforcements in Tahrir Sq. with 3 armored trucks and riot police in preparation for the planned Friday demonstrations.
- By early Thursday evening, people holding signs against the sale of the islands began showing up all along 6 October bridge – the main artery into downtown Cairo.
- Al Dostoor party issued a very strong statement addressing three entities: the first is to members of the party and the ‘revolutionary people’ in which it said that it would participate with any peaceful forces who will go to demonstrations on Friday and that it is behind and will give support to anyone who demonstrates peacefully.
The second is to Ikhwan, telling them they had been a thorn in our throats since the beginning of the revolution and that they only ran after consolidating power. It urged them to not go to the Friday demonstrations because this, yet again, is causing divisions on the street. The third is to the Ministry of Interior, stating that demonstrators have the right to protection under the constitution and that its attempts at brutalizing people will be met with another revolution, because even the 25 Revolution itself was one against the MOI’s oppression and brutality.
Al Dostoor party also issued a list of phone numbers to call in case of any emergencies, especially legal emergencies.
[Demonstrations will be in a new post]
Parliament: two parliamentarians, General Mamdouh Moqaled and Salama al Raqiai, سلامة الرقيعى said some praise poetry for King Salman when he arrived in parliament, amidst fervent clapping. Another parliamentarian raised the Saudi flag inside parliament during the King’s speech.
- A lawyer named Al Awadi created a ‘black list’ campaign for parliamentarians who will agree to the sale/return/ceding of the islands. [incidentally, I am totally against any form of blacklisting].
- So far 6 lawsuits have been filed at the State Council against the decision to give the two islands to Saudi Arabia. A 7th will be filed by lawyer, parliamentarian and human rights activist Hafez Abu Saada. [Update April 14: 48 lawsuits have been filed]
- Only three parliamentarians objected to the islands returning to Saudi and to the manner in which it was done. Those are Haytham Al Hareeri, Anwar Al Sadat, and Samir Ghattas. Ghattas gave a tv interview confirming his position. Those were followed by an additional 30 parliamentarians.
- Ministerial Council used an article written by Dr. ElBaradei 30 years ago that they claimed erroneously – as did CNN Arabic – that he proved the two islands were Saudi. In fact the article quoted said ‘Saudi claimed’ they were Saudi.ElBaradei had to announce clearly on Twitter that he did not say any such thing.
Media flip flops:
- Al Masry Al Youm newspaper changed its headline from “Two islands and an honorary PhD degree in return for Billions” to “Result of Salman’s visit: agreements for 25 billion dollars.”
- Al Ahram newspaper wrote an editorial that confirms the islands are Saudi. This is one day after columnist Ahmed Salah wrote an article that stated they were Egyptian. He refused to write in the newspaper with its headline opposed to what he stated a day earlier. Similarly, Ahmed Al Sayed Al Naggar, CEO of Al Ahram newspaper posted on social media that the islands were Egyptian. Al Naggar closed his own Facebook account and his last post was “Peace unto Tiran and Sanafeer”. “سلاما لتيران وسنافير”
- Former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq issued a statement that said the islands were Egyptian. Within two he stated that there were no documents they were Egyptian.
- General Abdel Moneim Said, former Chief of the Armed Forces Operations, went on tv and the media and stated that Tiran and Sanafeer are Egyptian islands. Within 24 hours, and on another tv show, he stated that they were definitely Saudi.
- CNN also posted a video report about Anger in Egypt because of this issue.
- TV host Ibrahim Eissa was livid on his show, and stated that the people will never know the truth because the State is misleading people and giving them disinformation. On hs show, Eissa also said that the people need to rise up on their own because the state wants us to cancel our brains and thinking and just follow them.
- Mostafa Hegazi, former advisor to Sisi, stated that the two islands are indeed Egyptian, and that Egyptian land is above the president and the constitution.
- Former Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia said that Saudi Arabia ‘never asked for the islands back’.
- Ambassador Maasoum Marzook, former aide to the minister of foreign affairs, wrote a heart-wrenching article about the islands and how the media were misleading people with non-existent documents claiming that the islands are Saudi. His article was banned from a newspaper he had sent it to, but was published by AlBedaiah. On April 15th, he participate in the demonstrations at the Press Syndicate.
- Saudi Minister of Agriculture said that Egypt allocated half a million acres in favor of Saudi investors.
- Tourism: All Egyptian boat trips from Sharm El Sheikh to Tiran and Sanafeer have been suspended, although Egyptian tour boat operators said otherwise.
TV host and journalist Ibrahim Eissa’s newspaper Al Maqal had powerful headlines insisting on the islands being Egyptian. The first is “we are not a tribe who are ordered around, but we are a people governed by the constitution.” The second says “No Mr. President, we ask you to respect the law and the constitution.”
- Judge Tahani Al Gebali, a long time Sisi supporter, said that the decision to cede the islands should be with people’s participation. She said that he is ‘surrounded by un-professionals’. [ِApril 15th].
- Saudi reaction: Saudi Ambassador said that he will file a lawsuit against anyone who harms the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia through spreading rumors and lies. This came in the wake of published reports that Saudi paid Egyptian officials while they were in Egypt.
A Saudi newspaper stated that all of Egypt belongs to Saudi Arabia, citing the ancient times when the continents were connected to each other. !!
- Libyan reaction: Libya’s current government issued a scathing statement against Sisi for claiming in his speech that he could enter Libya and occupy a part of it, saying that his words were irresponsible and that they were more than capable of taking care of their own country.
The absurd quotes:
- “Clinging to Tiran and Sanafeer is treason.”
التمسك بتيران وصنافير خيانة
– Actor Ahmed Bedeir.
- “You are the protector of what needs protection.”
انت حامى الحمى
– Gaber Nassar, head of Cairo University to King Salman.
- “I am ready to go to Lahai to prove that the islands are Saudi.”
– TV host Ahmed Mousa
- “Calls for demonstrations are an attempt to break down the state and destroy the country completely.”
– TV host Ahmed Mousa.
- “We will write the names of the parliamentarians who oppose the border demarcation deal.”
أحمد موسى لـ«النواب»: اللي هيرفض ترسيم الحدود مع السعودية هيتعرف بالاسم
– TV host Ahmed Mousa threatening parliamentarians on his tv show.
- “Where is your conscience when it comes to Jerusalem?”
– Khaled Salah, editor in chief of Al Youm Al Sabeaa addressing those upset about the two islands.
- “A terrorist hand trying to cut the hand that works.”
يد إرهابية تحاول قطع يد تعمل»
former Ikhwan leader, Tharwat Al Kharabawi, on the planned demonstrations – [April 15th].
- “It is not permissible to disobey Sisi.”
نائب رئيس جامعة الأزهر: لا يجوز الخروج على السيسى
– Deputy to the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.on the ongoing demonstrations [April 15th]
- “Tarayeb and Sarafeen are Saudi.”
– A Sisi supporter misnaming the islands.