Dozens of Egyptians took part in a number of short-lived protests in Cairo amid heavy police presence around the city on Monday to denounce the regime and Egypt’s recent decision to cede control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
Monday’s protests were a continuation of protests staged on April 15, during which at least one thousand people flocked to downtown Cairo to denounce President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and the islands agreement.
Although activists had planned to stage demonstrations at three central locations – Dar Al-Hekma at Kasr Al-Aini, the Press Syndicate in downtown, and Al-Behooth in Dokki – security forces moved to preemptively block access to the planned locations early on Monday.
An unannounced demonstration cropped up in Al-Nahia street near Mohandiseen but police forces dispersed the protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets around 30 minutes later, reports indicated.
Demonstrators then moved to Mesaha Square in Dokki, where chants of “peaceful” and “the interior ministry are thugs,” as well as “down with the regime” rang out as the protestors marched through Mesaha Square before police forces dispersed the gathering.
— Egyptian Streets (@EgyptianStreets) April 25, 2016
Dozens were chanting in the square when plainclothes police stormed the crowd and a Central Security Forces van entered the square and began firing teargas canisters.
Upon dispersing the protest, the police then began chasing journalists who had captured photographs and video footage of the protests and ensuing clash.
The scattered protests took place despite the country’s protest law prohibiting gatherings of more than five individuals without prior approval from the interior ministry.
Reports indicate that tens, including five foreign journalists, have been detained throughout the day. Some were detained briefly and released, while others remain in police custody. The exact number of those arrested remains unclear.
آخر معلومات ، تقريبا في 79. شخص مقبوض عليهم في قسم الدقي، من ضمنهم صحفيين. محامو جبهة الدفاع عن متظاهري مصر متواجدين
— Ragia Omran (@rago_legal) April 25, 2016
Translation: Latest information, around 79 people have been detained in Dokki police station, including journalists. Lawyers from the Front of Defense for Egyptian Protestors are present
Police launched a series of nationwide security raids on Thursday night that saw as many as 100 individuals arrested from cafés, streets and private residences. The arrests continued over the following several days, with at least 10 people, including journalists and activists, being taken into police custody on Monday prior to the anti-regime protests.
Meanwhile, pro-Sisi demonstrators gathered at several locations, including outside Abdeen Palace and around downtown Cairo on Monday. Pro-regime demonstrators also took over the Press Syndicate – where activists had planned to gather to decry the islands agreement – and began dancing with police to nationalistic songs.
Anti-gov protests are being broken up across Cairo, but Sisi supporters are staging a go-slow demo on Qasr El-Aini pic.twitter.com/zF4jWsLiRd
— Peter Schwartzstein (@PSchwartzstein) April 25, 2016
Reports had indicated a pro-Sisi rally also took place in front of Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in Mohandiseen earlier in the day. However, Egyptian Streets’ correspondent reported that dozens were gathered in the area around midday to celebrate Sinai Liberation Day.
Al-Sisi had stirred nationwide controversy earlier this month when the Cabinet announced that Egypt and Saudi Arabia had signed an agreement outlining the two countries’ maritime territory, placing the disputed Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir within Saudi Arabia’s territory.
According to the Cabinet statement, the signing of the agreement came after six years of negotiations between the two countries, causing many to voice their concern that negotiations of such importance were carried out without public knowledge.
Some also decried the agreement as an indication that Egypt had “sold” its land in exchange for Saudi Arabian aid, particularly as the agreement was announced shortly after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman pledged USD 21.5 billion in loans and investments.