İrem UZUN -TDO- Egyptian security forces have blocked access to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the highly symbolic focal point of the 2011 revolution, after calls for protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following opposition accusations of corruption, which he denies.
Protests broke out on September 20 in Cairo and other cities following online calls for demonstrations against alleged graft by Sisi and the powerful military. Protests occurred as a result of anger stemming from economic hardship and alleged top-level corruption. Protests were sparked by a series of social media videos posted by Mohamed Ali, a former military contractor living in self-imposed exile in Barcelona who called for a million Egyptians to march on Friday.Ali has alleged that the Egyptian military squandered public funds to build palaces and luxury hotels, including opulent palaces for the president. Sisi later denied the claim, calling them “lies and slander”. “Of course, I have built presidential palaces, and I will build presidential palaces,” he said. “But they are not for me, they are for Egypt.”Security forces responded with live fire and teargas. More than 2,000 people have since been detained, including high-profile activists who do not appear to have had any involvement in the protests.
International NGOs and IOs have also responded to the protests. The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed deep concern over this week’s mass detentions.Amnesty International called on world leaders to prevent a crackdown on demonstrators.
Sisi came to power after leading the overthrow of Islamist former President Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. During Sisi administration, Egypt has undertaken a series of economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund but also increased pressure on many ordinary Egyptians.