Sisi says disputed Red Sea islands not Egyptian, police arrest dozens of protesters

Friday 15-04-2016 07:09 PM

Activists protest President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's transfer of the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in front of the Press Syndicate on April 15, 2016. ASWAT MASRIYA/ Mohamed al-Raai

CAIRO, Apr. 15 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt’s president warned of “attempts to destroy the Egyptian state” and said that the two Red Sea islands he recently decided to hand over to Saudi Arabia were not Egyptian, while security forces arrested more than a dozen protesters on Friday.

Thousands are protesting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s “selling of Egypt” in front of the Press Syndicate, chanting that the two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, are “Egyptian.” Police arrested 14 protesters from within the proximity of the syndicate, and 15 more in Alexandria, security sources told Aswat Masriya.

Sisi said in a speech today, “I do not worry about outside attempts to destroy Egypt, but it is the inside that worries me,” the state-owned MENA news agency reported.

“The two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, are there on the other side over the shore but they are others’ lands and this is our land and we have to build it and take care of it,” Sisi said, in a speech he gave while inspecting a new road, which the army's Engineering Authority is constructing.

Meanwhile protesters in front of the Press Syndicate called for "the fall of the regime" and chanted against Sisi, calling him “Mubarak’s dog,” and calling on him to “leave!”, a slogan that was raised by protesters who demanded that Hosni Mubarak step down as president during the 2011 Uprising. Mubarak stepped down after 18 days of protest.

Sisi came under heavy scrutiny 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. 

Activists and critics accused the president of “selling Egypt,” and criticised the aura of secrecy surrounding the whole process.  A hashtag which translates from Arabic to English into “Friday of the Land” has been trending on social media.  

Security sources told Aswat Masriya that two protests were dispersed with tear gas in Giza and Mohandessin in Greater Cairo on Friday. Twelve of the protesters were arrested and many other protesters moved to join protests outside the Press Syndicate.   

The interior ministry had 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.”

Various political groups, including the 6 April youth movement, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a number of political parties have called for protests throughout the past week. 

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

Sisi was elected president in 2014 after he led the 2013 military ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against his rule. Sisi was the country's defence miniser at the time.

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