Egyptian activists called for broad participation in the protest demonstrations demanding the departure of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on September 20, which was called for by the actor and defected army contractor, Mohamed Ali. Although Ali’s previous calls have miserably failed, observers have indicated that Egypt’s current conditions have worsened and that al-Sisi’s policies may have brought the Egyptians to the point of an explosion.
Ali’s invitation received quick reaction and response and the hashtag was trending on Twitter. Mohamed Ali called on the Egyptians to save Egypt from al-Sisi’s rule by going to public squares on September 20. He called it a revolution of a people who suffered oppression and injustice. Ali stressed that the Egyptians’ strength lies in their unity, calling on all spectrums of the people to unite ranks on one man’s heart to save the country.
Thousands of tweeters interacted with a hashtag demanding the departure of al-Sisi, following statements by the Egyptian president in which he expressed his readiness to leave his post if the people wanted him to do so.
Many causes for anger
The demand for al-Sisi’s departure and the call for a revolution against him coincided with the low social and economic living conditions in the country. These conditions became heralds of disasters that increased in severity with the outbreak of the coronavirus and al-Sisi’s failures in managing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Libyan crisis. Despite the many reasons for Egyptians’ anger at the al-Sisi regime, it appears that the recent widespread videos of home demolitions, claiming they violated specifications or requirements, was the most important of these reasons. Anger also escalated in the Egyptian street after a decision to raise public transportation prices, reduce the weight of a loaf of bread, and then demolish mosques and homes under the pretext that they are violations.
Politicians said that among the reasons for the escalation of anger are the high prices of essential goods and services, the increase in security repression, the nationalisation of political life, and control over a media which expresses the voice of al-Sisi alone. Others have talked about al-Sisi’s failure to manage the GERD crisis, threatening Egypt’s water future. One of the most important reasons is forfeiting the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in favour of Saudi Arabia and ceding parts of Egypt’s rights to eastern Mediterranean gas.
Rejection of the protests
Activists shared photos from the January 25, 2011 revolution and said that the causes of the Egyptians’ anger are now more significant than nine years ago on the 25 January 2011 revolution. However, others have reservations and expressed their fear of participating or going down onto the streets. They rejected any protests on the ground, expressing despair at whether this would be useful in confronting al-Sisi’s repressive regime. At the same time, al-Sisi’s supporters warned against a repeat of the Syria or Iraq scenario.
Those who reject the protests say that widespread anger against al-Sisi’s regime has already reached a record level. Still, on the other hand, the fear of security repression has dramatically increased, and therefore no one will participate in those protests. Some have warned that the calls for protest and revolution usually only lead to widespread arrests, and possibly new cases against opponents, making the situation worse, without any tangible good effect.
The new call to disembark comes on the anniversary of rare protests on 20 and 27 September of last year, in response to previous demands made by Mohamed Ali after he published a series of video clips viewed and shared by millions. Muhammad Ali, at the time, accused al-Sisi, his wife Intisar, their son Mahmoud, and leaders in the army, of corruption and stealing public money for the sake of welfare and building palaces. And those demonstrations at that time, which broke out in Egyptian cities and governorates after a football match, were the most critical challenge to al-Sisi’s rule in years, and thousands of people were arrested as a result, according to human rights reports.
Last November, Mohamed Ali launched the National Inclusive Project for the Opposition and announced that he would draw up a work programme that he would present to the Egyptians as a prelude to calling for a popular movement to topple al-Sisi. Ali revealed this document the following month, announcing his meeting with different political currents to reach common action points to save Egypt.
On January 26 this year, Mohamed Ali announced his retirement from political life, a day after the demonstrations he called for on the anniversary of the January 25 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ali said, in a live broadcast on his Facebook page, that it is a decisive day, indicating that he helped expose al-Sisi’s corruption and arrest opponents. He explained that he had performed his role in the last period and did not succeed, before returning to the scene a few weeks ago, stressing his continued opposition to al-Sisi and urging the Egyptians to revolt against him. Mohamed Ali reappeared in late May, with the outbreak of the coronavirus, announcing his solidarity with Egyptian doctors.