News / Middle East

    Egypt on Edge as Protest Anniversary Nears

    FILE - Supporters of Egypt's army and police gather at Tahrir square in Cairo, on the third anniversary of Egypt's uprising, Jan. 25, 2014. The government, wary of new protests, has tightened security in Cairo.
    FILE - Supporters of Egypt's army and police gather at Tahrir square in Cairo, on the third anniversary of Egypt's uprising, Jan. 25, 2014. The government, wary of new protests, has tightened security in Cairo.
    Heather Murdock

    With the approaching fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising against Egypt’s then-president, Hosni Mubarak, security is being tightened here as authorities warn the public against staging protests.

    While large-scale rallies are unlikely for Monday, even small opposition gatherings could lead to arrests and civil unrest, says Ziad Akl, a senior researcher at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies here.

    "The revolutionary forces or political forces or social movements — they are not really interested in taking to the street on that day,” he said. “And there are a lot of reasons behind that."

    Among these reasons are "preemptive measures" taken by the government, such as imprisoning political dissidents, banning public protests and cracking down on opposition speech. In recent weeks, thousands of homes and two cultural institutions reportedly have been raided and Internet activists jailed.

    Before it was taken down, one Facebook page called "we’ll bring down autocracy on Jan. 25" reportedly had 50,000 people signed up for updates.

    Demonstrations anticipated

    While most former activists are expected to stay home, some supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood and the families of political prisoners are expected to take to the streets, despite the obvious danger, said Akl.

    Small rallies may pass peacefully, but any large marches or protests are likely to attract police or anger from the public. Many Egyptians blame the protesters in 2011 for unleashing the chaos of the past five years, saying they ruined the country’s economy and threatened its security.

    Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi praise the current government for the relative calm in the past two years. They say it hasn’t had enough time to fix the economy, which nearly flat-lined in 2011.

    The people behind social movements — like some of the pro-democracy groups that participated in the uprising — have not entirely given up but are wary of acting publicly, Akl added. "Because of the political changes over the past couple of years, the tactics of social movements and political revolutionary forces have changed a lot and those new tactics are more cautious and covert."

    Authorities on edge

    In recent weeks, Egypt's politicians and religious leaders have in near unison warned the public not to take part in demonstrations. "Why do some people call for a new revolution on the 25th of January?" Sissi asked in a speech last month. "Do they want to destroy this country?"

    In Egyptian mosques last week, imams preached individualized versions of a sermon designed by Islamic leaders in Cairo.

    "The idea was to just be patient and not to provoke," said Hamada Elrasam, a VOA reporter who attended one of the services, describing the speech. "And being safe is better than any other thing."

    In 2011 and then again in 2013, when President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted, massive public protests were the catalyst for the toppling of public leaders. The 2011 uprising followed more than three decades of dictatorship and exploded on January 25, a national holiday celebrated under Mubarak that honors the Egyptian police force.

    Protests took place across the country but were centered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of people shouted for the fall of the regime along with "freedom, bread and social justice."

    Aside from Mubarak’s departure from office, that call was never answered. Egypt is poorer and more insecure, and its government continues to punish political dissidents, especially ahead of the anniversary, according to Akl.

    Current protesters in Tunisia have expressed similar complaints and Egyptian authorities are eyeing the unrest in Tunis with caution. The 2011 uprising in Egypt was inspired in part by Tunisian protesters, forcing then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down.

    Waning enthusiasm

    Over the past five years, many youth activists in Egypt have also become disenchanted with politics, after participating in two uprisings and ending up with a government that is notably similar to the pre-2011 regime.

    "Democracy will never be available in our Arab world," said Nubian Mohamed, a 34-year-old former activist who protested against both Mubarak and Morsi. Like many young Egyptians, he now believes that while many of the protesters intended to install a democracy, the success of the protests was due to military support. Another revolution, he said, would therefore be pointless, he said.

    Egypt’s current government, led by a former defense minister, is often viewed as de facto military leadership.

    "So this time for sure they will not [lend] support," he added.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora