Small protests against Red Sea island in Egypt

Ahram Online , Friday 16 Jun 2017

red sea
File Photo: through the window of an airplane shows the Red Sea's Tiran (foreground) and the Sanafir (background) islands in the Strait of Tiran between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

A number of opponents of the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island deal, which transfers sovereignty over the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, held small protests in some cities on Friday against the recently approved deal, according to various media reports.

In Cairo, two dozen protesters held a short march in downtown Cairo but were quickly dispersed by security forces and some participants were arrested, the Popular Socialist Coalition Political Party, which opposes the deal, said on its Facebook page.

On Wednesday, a majority of MPs in Egypt's 596-strong parliament approved the deal in a show of hands vote after three days of heated debate.

Following Friday prayers, a number of opponents of the deal, including former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, attempted to gather for a protest outside Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandessin, Cairo, but were preemptively dispersed by security forces. 

In Alexandria, police arrested eight individuals who attempted to hold a protest against the deal outside El-Kaed Ibrahim Mosque, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper. The paper added that two dozen supporters of the deal held a gathering outside the mosque to back the government, without incident.

Authorities shut down downtown Cairo’s Sadat metro station in Tahrir Square on Friday, citing “security concerns.” 

The interior ministry had said on Friday morning that police would intensify presence on the streets to guard against illegal protests or any potential riots.

The government has maintained that the islands have always belonged to Saudi Arabia, and were only placed under Egypt's control because Riyadh asked Cairo to protect them in 1950.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told MPs that the government approved the deal only after a national committee, which has worked on the issue for six years, reached the conclusion that there was no legal foundation for Egypt's possession of the islands.

Anonymous calls for marches into Tahrir Square on Friday afternoon circulated on social media outlets in the past two days, following parliament's approval of the deal.

The rights campaign Freedom for the Brave said on Friday that at least 60 opponents of the deal were arrested in small protests or from homes in the last few days.

Prosecutors have ordered the release on bail of some of those arrested in recent days, while others still face investigation into illegal protesting.

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