Police disperse, arrest Giza protesters; syndicate protests for disputed islands continue

Friday 15-04-2016 04:38 PM

Egyptian activists shout slogans against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his government, during a demonstration protesting the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, April

CAIRO, Apr. 15 (Aswat Masriya) - Security forces dispersed two protests on Friday morning against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s handing over sovereignty over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a security source told Aswat Masriya.  

One of the protests was in the Giza neighbourhood while the other was in Mohandessin in Greater Cairo. Police sources said that they arrested 12 protesters and that the protests were dispersed with tear gas.  

Various political groups, including the 6 April youth movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Revolutionary Socialists, and others called for protests after the Egyptian cabinet announced that Egypt signed a maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia stipulating that the two disputed islands are part of Saudi territorial waters. 

Many protesters went to join protests at the Press Syndicate after the dispersal of the morning protests in Giza and Mohandessin.

Eyewitnesses told Aswat Masriya that protesters in front of the Press Syndicate chanted against the “selling of Egypt” and shouted slogans such as “the islands are Egyptian!” Some protesters also called for the fall of "military rule".

When Sisi was the country's defence minister, he led the 2013 military ouster of then-President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against his rule. Sisi was later elected president in 2014. 

Security forces’ presence around the syndicate and the protesters remained heavy although a security source told Aswat Masriya that no one has been arrested and that protesters have remained within the confines of the syndicate’s stairs.

The interior ministry warned Egyptians not to “follow” the calls, and also warned against "any attempts to violate legitimacy,” in a statement on Thursday. Police also announced that they will take all legal measures necessary against protesters and that they will be “firm.”

Reuters news agency put the number of protesters inside and outside Cairo today at "thousands".

The agreement, which was signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia during the Saudi king's first official visit to Cairo, has come under heavy scrutiny from Egyptian analysts, journalists, public figures, and social media users who argue the two islands are Egyptian and accuse Sisi of “selling Egypt” to Saudi Arabia.  

The two Red Sea Islands, Sanafir and Tiran, are strategically significant for maritime activity in the Gulf of Aqaba.

A number of political parties including the Constitution Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party announced their rejection of the agreement, criticising the government's unilateral approach and the aura of secrecy surrounding the whole process. 

In the past two days, tens of activists staged protests at both the press syndicate and the lawyers syndicate in opposition to what they saw as the "selling" of Egyptian land.  

An Egyptian lawyer filed a lawsuit with the administrative judiciary on Sunday calling for the annulment of the prime minister's decision to sign the border agreement, which is yet to be ratified by the parliament. 

A petition was also circulated among social media users in objection to the "concession" of the two islands. It reached 19,540 signatures since the start of the week out of a target of 30,000 signatures.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Sisi defended the agreement, saying that "Egypt does not sell its land to anyone and it does not take anyone's land."

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