On September 25th, 2020, Egyptian activists and demonstrators across the country took place in anti-government protests referred to as ‘Friday of Anger’ rallies. These demonstrations, which have taken place for over six days, call for the removal of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi from office. Though protests have been banned in Egypt since 2013, many took to the streets to rally, particularly in major cities like Cairo, Giza, Damietta and Luxor. According to Aljazeera, Egyptians are protesting the countries worsening living conditions and the President’s decision to demolish what he called “illegal construction” nationwide, angering those in low-income areas. This crackdown on ‘illegal construction’ has called for numerous individuals to pay fines to legalize their homeownership. Self-exiled Egyptian businessman and former military contractor Mohamed Ali encouraged ‘Friday of Anger’ rallies after days of protests. After Friday’s rally, more than 150 people were arrested and one man was killed in a clash between demonstrators and police according to Aljazeera.
Before Friday’s protests, Ali took to Facebook and encouraged fellow Egyptians to continue demonstrations against al-Sisi stating, “This is our chance to liberate our country” as well as declaring, “Every day, our numbers are rising. There is no difference between Christian and Muslim … or secular or liberal, we are the people of Egypt”. In Giza, 25-year-old Sami Wagdy Bashir was killed and others wounded in the same tragic shooting. Many others were arrested during protests across the country, several of which were minors. Egyptian prosecutors have called for these minors to be released amidst fear for their safety expressed by their families and human rights groups in Egypt. Dalia Fahmy, an associate professor of political science at Long Island University in the United States, spoke to Aljazeera and stated that “economic woes played a major role in the ongoing protests”. She also noted that “70 percent of Egypt’s 98 million population were living on the brink or under the poverty line”. According to Human Rights Watch, Egypt has been experiencing its worst human rights crisis in decades.
Rural and low-income families have been significantly affected as a result of al-Sisi’s decisions and with the ongoing economic concern due to the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. Many families are struggling not only to provide an income for their families during the pandemic, but must now worry about paying fines to ensure legal ownership of their land in fear of being left without a home. Al-Sisi’s government has cracked down on protests and security after the numerous demonstrations, because of the country’s ban on protests, which has been in place since 2013. This came after al-Sisi’s government took power with the use of military removal of former president Mohamed Morsi from office. According to Aljazeera, there was also a nationwide crackdown on demonstrations following last year’s protests against al-Sisi, who was said to have been wasting government money on personal lavish projects according to Ali. Amnesty International stated that at least 4,000 people were arrested following last year’s demonstrations.
With the fear of further arrests and violence from illegal demonstrations, Egyptians fear for their lives as al-Sisi’s government has made it clear that there is no tolerance for protests. Egyptians are uniting to ensure that their message is heard loud and clear. Citizens want al-Sisi out and want to see a change in their current economic status. The situation has escalated so far, that they would rather risk their lives to illegally protest, then continue to see the government go on as it has for the past several years.
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