Egypt: Broad solidarity with the village protests against al-Sisi

Amid the continuation of the protests in Egypt’s villages for more than a week, activists launched a hashtag, A Million Greetings to the Galabiya, on social media sites in solidarity with the countryside movement that is expanding day after day.

The Egyptian state-run media launched an attack on the protesters and called on the security forces to suppress them ruthlessly, but as the protests expanded and continued, the media began to acknowledge them whilst minimising and ridiculing them. Although many observers indicated the importance of the protesters’ young age and their influence in activating the movement against al-Sisi and his regime, the media in Egypt ridiculed the matter and called the protests the children’s revolution. The mockery of the satellite channels, belonging to the security and intelligence services, has extended to belittling the protesters who go out in Egypt’s villages with their “rural appearance,” describing the movement as the galabiya revolution.

Solidarity with the galabiya

Those in solidarity with the protests in Egypt considered the media’s mockery of the galabiya, which has been traditional dress for most Egyptians for hundreds of years, as hateful racism of the poor and marginalised, whose suffering has increased under the al-Sisi regime. Many social media users have expressed their dissatisfaction with the media’s racism against a large sector of the Egyptian people, who are farmers, and the people of Upper Egypt, who have been demonstrating since September 20 demanding al-Sisi’s toppling. In an expression of their solidarity with the village people, many activists posted pictures of themselves on their social media accounts, wearing galabiyas. The activists praised the courage and steadfastness of the demonstrators in the villages in the face of repression and arrests.

Al-Sisi considered in his first comment on the demonstrations that parties take advantage of the difficult conditions in which citizens live. During the opening of one of the petroleum projects, al-Sisi accused parties he did not name of questioning the Egyptians’ achievements, but this did not prevent him from issuing some decisions that show his retreat in the face of the wave of anger. After the protests that have been going on for more than a week, al-Sisi extended the deadline of issuing building permits after many construction workers lost their jobs. He also directed the government to spend a grant of EGP 500 on irregular workers affected by the corona pandemic for an additional three months after it was limited to three months only. Al-Sisi did not forget to warn Egyptians about the danger of instability and the losses the state incurred due to the 2011 uprising.

Friday of Anger

Al-Sisi’s statements, which show his concern and retreat, came after two days of demonstrations, most of which were launched from villages on the Friday of anger. Police bullets killed at least one from the security forces, and dozens were arrested. For his part, businessman and artist Mohamed Ali said that al-Sisi is talking about building Egypt, even if that led to his people’s starvation. Still, now he is displacing Egyptians to build presidential palaces so that he and his family can live in them. In the first act of political solidarity with Egypt’s protests, the Constitution Party called on the authorities to listen to the people’s demands instead of fighting the protesters with excessive force.

The party demanded the release of those arrested while exercising their right to protest, as well as all those held in pretrial detention as political prisoners. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the party said, “The protests in the villages and suburbs of many governorates in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt indicate anger among a large segment of the Egyptian people, who are fed up with the policies and decisions that have burdened them.”