State of unease in Egypt as crackdown silences protests

Egypt has been beset by the largest protests since the January Revolution in 2011. (Photo: Sherif9282/Wikimedia)

Homes destroyed, families displaced, memories erased. That’s what a lot of Egyptian families are experiencing right now, but are unable to even protest after a brutal and sustained government crackdown.

The dissent, that began in early September, only subsided this month as the government-controlled media censored accusations of police killings, torture and arrests of peaceful protestors. 

As the Egyptian government calls a temporary halt to the demolition of homes, mosques and other buildings they say are “illegally” built, protesters have been imprisoned for just Tweeting about it. 

On the orders of Egyptian president Abdel el Fattah el Sisi the demolition of houses across the country has left many families homeless, despite having lived there for many years and not being in violation of the previous Egyptian government’s rules.

For the past month videos have circulated on social media showing the anger in the Egyptian people boiling over, as demolition crews were filmed knocking down houses. Residents refusing to leave would be forcibly removed by police. 

“It’s oppression in its purest form, the Egyptian people are getting their country hijacked by the Egyptian president and his regime and they can’t say or do anything about it,” said Walid, a former Egyptian resident living in Australia.

Another anonymous Egyptian citizen said: “Egypt has been under military coup since 2013 and the Egyptian people are still being controlled by a dictatorship. The Egyptians need to continue to protest to overthrow el-Sisi and his government.”

Demolition crews were first filmed in Saini on the country’s north coast, before the government purge spread to most cities across Egypt.  In the western desert governorate of Dakahila alone, 1,200 homes, mosques and other buildings were demolished. 

It was the first time in the country’s recent history a president had ordered such an action, and what Egyptians found most shocking – the destruction of graves.

It fuelled protests across Egypt. Among the protesters ex-Egyptian military man and activist Mohamed Ali, who currently lives in Turkey, released social posts pairing the videos of families grieving over their demolished homes with calls demanding the president step down. 

“Down with the Sisi regime, don’t go home, if you go home they will detain us. We’re in the streets and now we need to stay there,” he wrote.

The protests prompted el-Sisi to say there would be no repeat of Egypt’s 25 January Revolution in 2011 that saw millions clash with the police to overthrow President Mubarak after 30 years in office.

At the same time Egyptian police took over most main roads in Cairo and Tahrir Square where the 2011 revolution saw its most gruesome and bloody clashes, with many Egyptian protestors killed.

The Egyptian government introduced a law that gave them the right to arrest any person that would protest without receiving permission from the government, and went on to arrest journalists covering the protests.

The Egyptian authorities arrested Basma Mostafa, a freelance journalist who reported on the death of Oweis Al Rawi at the start of the month.

Al Rawi , a resident of Luxor, died as police raided homes in search of protesters. He was shot in the head after he confronted an officer for barging into their home and slapping his father. 

  • This story carries no bylines because of Egypt’s harassment of journalists critical of the government.

Main image by Sherif9282/Wikimedia.