Photo: Thousands of protesters took the streets in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt last week
By Mike Talavera
On Friday, riot police and other security forces closed down Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, anticipating a repeat of mass protests that erupted a week before. While the ramped-up police presence discouraged people from taking to the streets in the nation’s capital, thousands of protests happened elsewhere, such as in other parts of the Giza governorate as well as the Luxor and Qena governorates.
10-foot tall metal gates, installed around Tahrir Square after the 2013 military coup, were sealed, cutting off entrance to the site of the 2011 uprising commonly known as the “Arab Spring.” Heavily-armed masked police surrounded the Al-Fateh mosque in Cairo when worshippers left after prayer, and other checkpoints were set up throughout the city. Sports and music events were canceled. Nearly every measure was taken to undermine the resurgent anger of the masses after years of intense repression.
After taking power in 2013, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi quickly passed a law prohibiting demonstrations not authorized by the state. This ban has been strongly enforced since then, and this past week witnessed an even harsher crackdown. The police have arrested over 2,000 since the protests were sparked by videos that went viral of a former military contractor named Mohamed Ali calling for Sisi’s ouster.
Ali, who now lives in Spain, claims that the government has mismanaged funds, investing in palaces and other luxurious projects while the rest of Egypt suffers. An estimated third of the population lives in poverty. While some have speculated as to whether Ali is acting on behalf of foreign agents or dissidents within Sisi’s own administration, what is clear is that the years of repression have not done away with the people’s anger, only suppressed it. Now, it is boiling over.
It has been mostly young people who have dared to take the streets despite the threats from Sisi and the police. The recent allegations of corruption may have pushed many over the edge, but these revelations are only the latest strike against the government, which has sold Egypt out to the imperialist International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the expense of its people. The tear gas, rubber bullets, and arrests feed the rage of the masses who know that the government does not serve them.