Rare Protest in Alexandria: Blackout on Detention Sites for Protester

Security forces detained several individuals during a protest against rising prices and worsening living conditions, with banners bearing the slogan “You’ve starved us, Sisi.

Security forces arrested an undisclosed number yesterday, Friday, in a protest in the Dekheila area of Al-Agami district, west of Alexandria Governorate in northern Egypt. The protest, which involved limited numbers, began after Friday prayers, with protesters raising banners rejecting price hikes and poor living conditions under the slogan “Sisi Starved Us”.

According to information obtained by Zawia3, the protest spontaneously emerged from local residents of the area. Security forces intervened to disperse the protest minutes after it started, arresting dozens who were interrogated by national security before being released, while another group of protesters remained detained, with their whereabouts undisclosed so far.

Social media users on both TikTok and Facebook shared a video showing dozens participating in a protest in the Dekheila area, holding banners with slogans like “Sisi Starved Us”, “Leave”, and “The people, the police, and the army are one hand.” The protesters also wrote the date on the banners for further documentation and to prevent any doubts.

This protest comes days after activists on social media circulated a video of an Egyptian police officer climbing atop a billboard in Sidi Gaber, Alexandria Governorate, documenting the young man’s chant against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi while holding the Palestinian flag.


Spontaneous Protests

Human rights lawyer Mohammed Ramadan stated that there is still no official information regarding the number and whereabouts of citizens arrested in the Dekheila protests yesterday, Friday.

Speaking to Zawia3, he explained that there is information indicating that seven citizens who were arrested yesterday are still being held, and some reports suggest they were presented to the Supreme State Security Prosecution without lawyers. However, verification of these reports has not been possible thus far.

Ramadan emphasized the extreme opacity surrounding information about the detainees, noting that security forces had previously arrested a large number of protesters who were later released without being interrogated, according to preliminary information obtained.

On his part, lawyer Amr Mohamed mentioned that the area had previously witnessed very limited protests during a cigarette price hike, indicating that all protesters were ordinary citizens not affiliated with any political entities. This suggests a growing sense of anger among citizens, warning of the possibility of similar protests erupting.


Assault on Army Officer for Refusing to Insult Protesters

The Egyptian Network for Human Rights documented the physical assault on Hassan Sabry El-Marghawey, a 43-year-old army sergeant, by security forces after he refused to insult protesters during the dispersal of a demonstration.

According to the network, the incident occurred when the Egyptian Air Force officer happened upon the protest and, upon refusing to engage in insults and informing them of his position, was subjected to verbal abuse and physical assault by Egyptian security officers present.

The Egyptian Network condemned all severe violations committed by Egyptian security forces, including physical assault and insults against citizens who have been crushed by difficult living conditions and dismal economic circumstances, exacerbated by skyrocketing prices of goods, particularly with the onset of Ramadan. These economic crises have made life nearly impossible for Egyptian citizens, who struggle to afford basic necessities and are unable to continue borrowing monthly due to the heavy burden it places on them.

The network held Egyptian authorities responsible for these catastrophic economic crises and called for alleviating the burden on citizens instead of resorting to security solutions and the arbitrary arrest of protesters. It urged security agencies and the public prosecution to intervene promptly, release all those detained following yesterday’s protests, and return them to their homes.

The protesters wrote the date of Friday, March 15, 2024, to leave no room for doubt that there was a demonstration.

Repression is not a solution

The protest comes at a time when basic food commodities in Egypt are witnessing increasing prices coinciding with the month of Ramadan, affected by supply shortages and increased demand in the markets, along with the rise in the value of the dollar against the pound.

Egypt has witnessed in recent years the suppression of all types of protests, following the enactment of the protest law in 2013, which resulted in the closure of public space and the restriction of freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt.

Economic and political researcher Zahdi El-Shamy, deputy head of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, believes that the protests witnessed in the Dakhliya region were expected, amid severe pressure on the political arena and political forces that have suffered over the past years from security pursuit and the arrest of their party cadres, leaving space for spontaneous and unorganized protests, which is the significant danger we have talked about extensively.

El-Shamy added that if societal explosion occurs spontaneously on a wide scale, there will be an unpredictable crisis in a system that leaves no room for opinion and expression, while the regime has largely succeeded in sidelining opposition forces from the political scene and preventing them from engaging with citizens and society.

The deputy head of the Popular Alliance Party pointed out that peaceful protest is a constitutional right, and it was incumbent upon the security apparatus to respect the constitution in these events and not to violate the citizens, but this is not happening, and it is expected that “we will witness such protests in the coming period, and facing those protests with violence is not a solution, the only solution is to confront the crisis and work to resolve it, not to raise the security stick against the angry.” Considering the Dakhliya protest as a warning bell.

In the same context, Ilham Eidarus, a founding member of the Life and Freedom Party under formation, said in her conversation with “Zawia3” that popular protests are expected and not surprising. She pointed out that in recent months, a number of factories and companies have witnessed organized labor protests protesting against wages, while the security agencies have met those protests with suppression and harassment.

Eidarus added that the authority uses the security stick to suppress organized and popular spontaneous protests, in the absence of democratic societal negotiation tools, foremost among which are the unions, while the Egyptian society at the local level suffers from deprivation of democratic representation such as local councils, making the presence of anger and extreme frustration resulting from unprecedented price hikes a natural and expected thing.

Eidarus wondered how the ruling authority imagines that citizens will suffer in silence forever, as when they express their anger, they are suppressed, neither organized nor random expression is acceptable, so the only solution now to avoid a popular explosion for the authority is through the necessity of finding an economic and political direction to deal with the economic crisis.

She concluded by saying that the state was concerned with combating the black market to solve the dollar crisis because it wants to solve the crisis of major investors, but on the other hand, so far the citizen has not felt any difference, there has been no impact on the prices of his basic needs, and no interest has been shown in solving the citizens’ crises as much as that of investors.

Video clips on social media showed a protest in Alexandria on Friday, denouncing the Sisi regime and accusing it of starving Egyptians.

According to activists, the rare protest took place in the Dakhliya neighborhood of Alexandria.

The Alexandria Legal Protection Office said on its account that security forces arrested a group of citizens in the Dakhliya area for demonstrating against high prices and the difficulty of living, and detained them in an unknown location.

People raised handwritten banners with messages such as “Sisi, you have made us hungry” and “Leave”, and the protesters wrote the date of today, Friday, 15/3/2024.