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Egypt launches crackdown on pro-Palestine activists after mass protests

Dozens of Egyptian activists and protesters have been arrested over the weekend after protests erupted, mainly in the capital, Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, in support of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who have been targeted by a deadly and indiscriminate bombing campaign by Israel for over two weeks.

Central squares in Egyptian provinces witnessed, mainly on Friday, 20 October, pro-Palestine protests denouncing the ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip and the Israeli “genocide” of the Palestinians since 1948.

The protests also slammed plans to allegedly displace the Palestinians of Gaza in Egypt’s North Sinai province after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi publicly called on Egyptians to endorse him to confront such Western and Israeli schemes.

Local news outlets loyal to the regime described the mass protests as “a popular uprising aiming to maintain national security.”

Yet, security forces launched a crackdown, subjecting many activists who took part in the protests, with many taken via enforced disappearance. In contrast, others were interrogated and may face terrorism-related charges by prosecutors.

The Egyptian public has long been at loggerheads with the successive country’s regimes over normalisation with Israel despite a technical state of peace since the 1970s.

“Almost 70 have been arrested in Alexandria [Egypt’s second major city], mostly youths and about 43 were detained in Cairo following clashes that had erupted during pro-Palestine demonstrations in the iconic Tahrir square,” a human rights lawyer told The New Arab, on condition of anonymity, for not being illegible to talk to the media by his group.

“The authorities examined the security files of many, releasing several without bail, while 14 have been detained, pending further investigations into the charges of belonging to a terrorist group, taking part in an illegal assembly and disseminating false news,” the lawyer said.

Following the mass protests, Egyptian security forces launched a crackdown near the homes of activists and supporters of former anti-regime presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawi, arresting two prominent campaigners.

Other campaigners and supporters of Tantawi have fled to undisclosed locations before being caught.

Meanwhile, the fate of about a dozen other detainees remains unclear as they have not been charged yet. At the same time, a total of 43, including minors under the age of 18, have reportedly been subjected to enforced disappearance.

“Security forces stormed the house of a rights lawyer and his wife as a means of intimidation, threatening them that they would be next if they took part in any form of activism,” the lawyer said.

In Mansoura city on the Nile Delta, northeast of Cairo, two Tantawi campaigners were arrested on their way home from a colleague’s wedding to join a long list of attendees affiliated with Tantawi’s campaign.

Almost 128 campaigners have so far been detained in mass arrests, including 13 women, most of them activism-related charges, allegedly over supporting Tantawi.

Local and international human rights groups have frequently accused Sisi’s regime of overlooking the worst human rights record witnessed in the North African country’s modern history. Almost 60,000 political prisoners are believed to be currently behind bars, some held without trial.

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