Why is Egypt clamping down on pro-Palestinian protestors?

Why is Egypt clamping down on pro-Palestinian protestors?
Kieran Baker

Over the past seven months, according to Amnesty International and Egyptian human rights groups, over 123 people have been arrested who had expressed solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza by peacefully protesting, posting comments online, hanging signs or writing slogans on walls. At least 95 remain in pre-trial detention facing investigation over “bogus charges of involvement in terrorism, spreading false news or illegal assembly.” Amnesty’s Sara Hashash, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa goes on to say that “the Egyptian authorities have continued with their zero-tolerance for peaceful protest or independent activism that is not officially authorized, even when it’s to show solidarity with Palestinians, which state officials have themselves expressed. They have particularly clamped down on any criticism of the government’s policies in the armed conflict in Gaza, making it very clear that not all expressions of solidarity with Palestinians are accepted unequivocally,”

So why are Egyptian authorities trying to silence pro-Palestinian voices? The answer is simple: to prevent protestors solidarity with Gazans from evolving into a protest movement that could potentially challenge the current regime. The arrests expose a contradiction between President Sisi’s domestic messaging of support for Gaza versus his objectives on the international stage- i.e. keeping Israel as an ally to maintain control of the border and play mediator. It also proves that after a decade of power his regime appears too fragile to allow for the freedom of political expression. 

On 1 May, six Egyptians daring to raise a flag in support of Palestine were held in Alexandria. On 23 April, 16 Egyptians were arrested for being part of a feminist solidarity act outside the UN Women's offices in Cairo. Weeks earlier 10 activists were arrested following peaceful pro-Palestine demonstrations outside the Cairo Journalists Syndicate. Intimidation it seems is the name of the game. 

Since Sisi rose to power in 2014, his regime has put as many as 60,000 political activists and human rights defenders behind bars, many without trial. Tens of thousands more have been subject to travel ban, arbitrary arrests or forced into exile.

All of this going on while Sisi courts the international community for billions of funds for investment and financial assistance. Yet just this week Rights group says dozens, including children, were rounded up from a stadium in Alexandria after protest in solidarity with Gaza during a premiere league football match. We must ask where is the international pressure? Unfortunately, it seems the IMF & World Bank are powerless to link their funding of Egypt’s economy to advocating for political reform. 

*Kieran Baker is an Emmy award winning journalist who has started up various networks including Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg TV Africa and TRT World. 

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to MAGHREB INSIDER.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.