Egypt’s political figures break silence over September protests

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The demonstrations against General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regime in Egypt, which lasted for more than two consecutive weeks, made a remarkable change in the opposition’s ranks and those loyal to al-Sisi’s regime. The most notable changes were in the departure of political figures and entities from their long silence after entering into a deep sleep to avoid safety and not to clash with a repressive regime that has not shown any mercy against the opposition.

The former presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, was among the most prominent of them. Sabahi attacked the ruling regime vigorously, in addition to a statement from the Social Democratic Party and a declaration from the Constitution Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, and the Revolutionary Socialists Movement for their solidarity with the protesters’ demands.

The popular demonstrations began in several villages and on Cairo’s outskirts, demanding al-Sisi’s departure and denouncing the poor living and economic conditions in conjunction with anger at the demolition of buildings and mosques, claiming they violated them. The demonstrations took place in response to the call of the actor and contractor Mohamed Ali, with which activists and opponents interacted, despite the fierce security grip, and the authorities arrested hundreds, including dozens of children. With the escalation of protests and arrests, the police killed two people, the last of whom was Awais al-Rawy in Luxor, Upper Egypt, who became an icon of this movement as he died as a result of his refusal to let a police officer insult his father.

Hamdeen Sabahi 

The killing of Awais al-Rawy and the widespread interaction with his death prompted Hamdeen Sabahi to criticise the authorities, warning of a coming explosion. Sabahi wrote on his Facebook account, “Awais Al-Rawy, the martyr of dignity, an authority afflicted with atrophy of the political mind and swollen security muscles provoking the volcano of muffled anger to explode.” It is noteworthy that Sabahi competed with al-Sisi in the first presidential elections, but came out with a resounding defeat that prompted the Egyptians to joke that he came third after al-Sisi.

After Sabahi’s post, Samir Sabry, a lawyer close to the security services, quickly filed a complaint against him with the prosecution, accusing him of insulting the state and distorting its institutions. The lawyer, whose reports usually lead to the investigation of the person and his pretrial detention, as happened in many cases, submitted a similar report a few days ago against the former military spokesman because of an article written by him.

Al-Dostour Party

The al-Dostour (Constitution) Party was the first political entity (inside Egypt) to support September’s protests, and with that broke their long silence. In a statement, it called on al-Sisi’s regime to listen to the demands of the people. In turn, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party called for the release of prisoners of conscience, and an end to any legal violations against citizens, stressing that this protects the homeland and rightly supports the state.

The party, which is participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as part of the national list prepared by the security and intelligence services, said it had followed up on reports about the death of the citizen Awais al-Rawy in al-Awamiya village in Luxor. The party added that this incident, which carries a great disregard for the lives, dignity, and legal rights of citizens, as well as silence and obscuring them, portends serious consequences for society, the most important of which is the spread of discontent and anger and loss of confidence in justice and the account of the wrongdoers and equality among citizens.

He stressed that the frequency of events in the past weeks requires work to contain these protests and to reduce the provocation of people’s feelings and the loss of their dignity, instead of pushing things to ignite. At the same time, the Revolutionary Socialists Movement was in solidarity with the demonstrations and demanded the detainees’ release, which was also announced by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.

Turning point

The solidarity of some parties with the September demonstrations shows that these protests are a turning point in Egypt after a period of political stagnation due to oppression and fear. It was one of the few times that the poor masses rose against their economic and social conditions, and did so across a wide geographical area, making it difficult for the regime to suppress them by traditional means.

Al-Sisi appeared in retreat before the protests after speaking in a tone of threat and intimidation, to announce the continuation of the government support scheduled for temporary employment for another three months until the end of the year. Al-Sisi directed the government to return building permits (al-Sisi himself suspended them) for six months, and his government also announced an extension of the period for reconciliation in building violations and a reduction of the fine. Politicians and observers believe that the protests and the solidarity of some parties and politicians with them after they retired from politics for an extended period may pave the way for more protests and perhaps a revolution that topples al-Sisi and his regime.