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Climate Conference 2022: How do the security services in Egypt deal with the call to demonstrate on November 11?

  • Ahmed Shousha
  • BBC – Cairo

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It is not known exactly who first called for the demonstration on November 11

During the past two weeks, new calls to demonstrate against the Egyptian authorities on the eleventh of November have spread widely through social networking sites and some media outlets broadcast from outside Egypt and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, these invitations bear some privacy compared to previous similar invitations, as they coincide with the presence of a number of world leaders to participate in the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, and come at a time when the Egyptians are suffering from the increasing burden of living.

The Egyptian authorities anticipate this day with a noticeable security presence in the streets of Cairo and some governorates, while human rights organizations accuse the security services of checking the phones of passersby in some squares to find out their political positions through social media applications and arresting those suspected, while a journalist was arrested in the Radio and Television Magazine. government and others because of opinions they posted on social media.

Twelve Egyptian human rights organizations condemned what they described as “repression and arrest” campaigns launched by the authorities against dozens of citizens, considering that searching passers-by’s phones is a violation of the right to privacy and the sanctity of correspondence.

The organizations that signed a joint statement, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, El Nadim Center and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said that they had monitored “arbitrary arrests of about 140 people in different Egyptian governorates.”

Previously, the security authorities followed the same procedure of checking the phones of passers-by in some squares during the past three years, which was criticized by the government-affiliated National Council for Human Rights, which prompted a response from the Ministry of Interior, which said at the time that the procedure was consistent with applicable laws.

The Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Mohamed Lotfy, explained to the BBC that the arrests his organization monitored, whether from their place of residence or work, were for people who posted on their pages video clips from the streets declaring their intention to demonstrate.

It is not known exactly who first called for the demonstration on the eleventh of next November, but satellite stations belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government classifies as a “terrorist entity”, promote the calls, to the extent that one of them called itself “Freedom – 11/11”.

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The cost of living in Egypt has increased dramatically over the past months, after inflation tripled from what it was last year

The Egyptian security authorities did not comment on reports of arresting people for promoting the demonstration or declaring their intention to participate in it, nor did they comment on the rumors of arresting passers-by because of their political positions and orientations.

A few days ago, the Egyptian authorities released an Indian environmental activist and his Egyptian lawyer after interrogating them, and they had been detained for one day while the activist was walking from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh, promoting the Climate Summit.

Immediately after his release, lawyer Makarios Lahzi told the BBC that the National Security Service had interrogated them to find out the reasons behind the Indian activist, Ajit Rajagopal, carrying banners promoting the climate summit, without coordination with the police.

This comes at a time when human rights organizations are criticizing Egypt’s hosting of the Climate Summit because of what they described as the Egyptian bad record of rights and freedoms, which the Egyptian authorities always deny.

A number of world leaders are scheduled to participate in the climate summit, including US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose countries see human rights violations in Egypt.

The authorities released hundreds of imprisoned politicians during the past months through a presidential pardon, for those who were subjected to judicial rulings or a decision by the Public Prosecution for those who were in pretrial detention, coinciding with the launch of a national dialogue that includes opposition parties and personalities.

Egyptian laws criminalize demonstrations without prior permission from the authorities, and those who tried to demonstrate against the government were arrested on several occasions during the past years.

‘Illegal pretending’

Major General Ihab Youssef, a specialist in security risk management, believes that intensifying the security presence in the streets is a normal thing “to confront lawlessness ahead of calls for an illegal demonstration, which may lead to sabotage,” as he put it.

Egyptian law obliges the organizers of the demonstrations to inform the authorities of the purpose, place and time of the demonstration, at least three days before its departure, and the Minister of Interior or the relevant security directors have the right to submit a judicial request to cancel the demonstration.

This law sparked criticism from local and international human rights organizations after it was issued in 2013, months after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood was intensifying demonstrations to demand his return to power.

Youssef adds to the BBC, that the arrest of suspects is the work of the security services to maintain the security of the country and is present in many countries in the world, adding: “The law in the end takes its course and the Public Prosecution releases the suspects if it is proven that they have not committed a violation.”

However, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat, believes that “the protest law is flawed because it places restrictions on the right to peaceful demonstration and conditions that may be difficult to achieve, and because it imposes freedom-depriving penalties such as imprisonment for simply exercising a right guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution.”

In addition, Bahgat adds to the BBC, “exposing citizens in the streets and searching their phones for their thoughts, attitudes and intentions is not subject to any law.”

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The value of the Egyptian currency fell against the dollar after the liberation of its exchange

the burden of living

The call for demonstrations was repeated on many occasions over the past years, most of them were from the Muslim Brotherhood, most notably the limited response in 2019 from Egyptian contractor Mohamed Ali, who accused President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the army of corruption.

The director of the Egyptian Center for Thought and Strategic Studies, Brigadier General Khaled Okasha, does not expect a response to the calls to demonstrate this month, despite the economic pressures on citizens, because there is no known plan for demonstration, no leadership, and no clear goals.

Prominent parties in the Egyptian opposition have not announced their participation in the demonstrations scheduled for the eleventh of November so far, while several hashtags about this demonstration have been posted on social networking sites.

Most of the civil opposition parties in Egypt participate in preparatory sessions for the national dialogue called for by the Egyptian president.

Okasha told the BBC that the center he runs does not monitor wide interactions around calls to demonstrate in its reports on the trends of Egyptian public opinion, due to “Egyptians realizing that political turmoil will take them from difficult economic conditions to more difficult ones.”

The cost of living in Egypt has increased widely during the past months, after inflation rose to three times what it was last year, and the value of the local currency fell by more than 50 percent of its value in less than a year, affected by the decline in economic indicators as a whole and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a country About a third of its population lives below the poverty line, according to official statistics.

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