For three consecutive days, Egypt witnessed successive protests coinciding with the anniversary of the September 20 protests that took place last year against General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime in many Egyptian cities and governorates.
A few days ago, Mohamed Ali called to commemorate the anniversary and renew the revolution against al-Sisi’s regime. His videos unleashed night protests, clashes with the police forces, and the burning of some armoured vehicles in many of Egypt’s villages. The protests began very low key in two governorates only on September 19, one day before the start of the protests. The numbers increased slightly the next day, September 20. Still, the surprise was that they continued onto the third day on September 21 in more significant numbers. The spark of anger erupted from the countryside and the outskirts of cities and centres in many governorates, especially the villages of Giza, for the second day in a row, in addition to some towns and neighbourhoods such as the Maamoura in Alexandria, Basateen, and Maadi in Cairo, and workers’ areas in Suez.
Egypt’s villages have the largest share of video clips circulated on social media, due to most police forces’ concentration around the main squares in Cairo and the governorates, which were closed a few days ago. The central squares, especially in Cairo, before the anniversary of September 20, were besieged by armoured police vehicles. Citizens were arrested and their mobile phones searched.
Observers believe that the relative liberation of the villages put them at the front of protests and clashes. Some activists on social media expected anger to expand and more numbers to participate in the protests over the coming days. While supporters of the regime and opponents of those protests downplayed the limited protests that the country witnessed, others indicated that Egypt’s protests before the January 25 revolution, 2011, were fewer in number and less effective.
If the spark of anger in the protests demanding al-Sisi’s military regime fall was noticeable in Egypt’s villages, then observers noted also the young age of many of the protesters. The widely circulated clips of the protests showed the participation of large numbers of people between the ages of 14 and 20, and their daring to break the barrier of fear and confront the police forces, throwing stones and overpowering and burning several police cars. Mohammed Ali considered that the new protests were an outstanding achievement, which was to break the barrier of fear within Egyptians, considering that it was an excellent start to the journey to topple the failed, unjust regime.
It is noteworthy that Ali is an Egyptian actor and contractor who owned a contracting company working with the army before he left Egypt. After he reached Spain, he began to uncover corruption that he monitored during his dealings with the military concerning al-Sisi, his wife, and many senior army commanders. Accusations of corruption by Ali were directed to al-Sisi and several army leaders, through video clips that were broadcast over the Internet during the past year, which sparked a massive wave of citizens’ anger. The controversy raised by Mohamed Ali prompted authorities to launch a campaign against him, which began through the media, then extended to an attempt to prosecute him and try to extradite him from Spain, where he currently resides.
The media loyal to the Egyptian regime ignored the protests that take place frequently at night in many villages and cities. They then claimed that they are limited protesters and that opposition channels are exaggerating. At the same time, hashtags supporting the demonstrations were launched, calling on the protesters to remain in the streets and not to calm down or to retreat and to continue until al-Sisi’s rule is overthrown.
Activists called for escalating protests and moving them to the heart of the capital and reaching squares that are closed by the police, in addition to calls to storm the Media Production City. With the outbreak of the protests, commentators on social media in Egypt complained of difficulties using the Internet, especially Facebook, and viewing the videos. Observers believe that the demonstrations come after the increasing state of anger and tension on the Egyptian street, which is mainly due to the recent demolition and removal campaigns.
Removal campaigns have been carried out by police forces against building violations in the countryside and on the outskirts of cities throughout the past months, implementing the recently issued Reconciliation Law requiring violators to pay exorbitant sums in return for not removing their homes. The campaigns of removal and demolition of many mosques under the pretext of violations or the need to remove them to build roads and bridges have also caused an escalation of discontent in general, especially as they coincided with the grinding living conditions of citizens in Egypt.