On Tuesday morning, Cairo woke up to a new wave of arrests. At dawn, as has become customary, dozens of national security agents raided the homes of several activists and journalists and took them away to an unknown location. At least eight people were arrested.
For some of them, their arrest has already been approved by a State Security court (the national emergency justice system, parallel to the regular one).
Among the raid victims were: Zyad Elelaimi, lawyer, former Deputy and a symbol of the 2011 uprising, when he was spokesman for the coalition of the revolutionary youth, and today a leading figure of the Social Democratic Party; Hesham Fouad, a journalist who writes on social issues and who is close to the workers’ movement; and Hossam el-Moanis, also a journalist, who ran the presidential campaign of the Nasserist Hamdin Sabahi. People are very concerned for Elelaimi in particular. He suffers from serious health problems and, for him, having access to medical care is a matter of life or death.
The Interior Ministry is claiming that with these arrests, they managed to dismantle a financial support network for the Muslim Brotherhood, which supposedly had the objective “to carry out violent and disorderly acts against state institutions simultaneously with creating a state of revolutionary momentum” during the June 30 celebrations, i.e. the anniversary of the street protests and the coup that overthrew the Islamist government in 2013.
This version of events is not credible: the alleged perpetrators of the plot (supposedly called the “Plan for Hope”) are actually well-known left-wing and Nasserist activists, who have often made opposition to political Islam a hallmark of their militancy. It is more likely that this is yet another “revenge against the most representative faces of the January revolution,” as an activist in exile wrote on his Facebook page.
The independent news portal Mada Masr revealed the very different motive which probably lies behind the official story. According to a member of the Egyptian Parliament, the “Coalition for Hope” is actually the name of an alliance between parties, activists, members of Parliament and independent figures which was set to be revealed in the coming days as a common platform for the next national elections.
It was an attempt to form a united bloc made up of the opposition forces, which are actually “extremely opposed to the [Muslim] Brotherhood,” the anonymous member of Parliament clarified. Furthermore, there was no secrecy surrounding the meetings, only a couple of months of preparatory meetings ahead of the official launch, in which some of those who were arrested Tuesday took part. He concluded: “We want a statement from the political leadership telling us whether political work is allowed in Egypt or not.”
These days, Egypt is home to the African Nations Cup in soccer, a mega-event which has attracted tens of thousands of visitors to the country. The regime wants everything to go smoothly to put up an efficient and festive appearance, discouraging any manifestation of dissent. However, the voice of popular discontent has risen up again among the crowds at the stadiums, in the form of solidarity for Abou Treka, a former star of Egyptian soccer who has been ostracized and convicted for his alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Although manifestations of soccer fandom have been essentially criminalized, the regime could not prevent Egyptian spectators from attending the tournament.
In all the games in which Arab teams have played (including the opening match, which was also attended by el-Sisi), the people from the stands chanted in support of Abou Treka, a beloved soccer icon for the Egyptians. In recent days, a call spread out across social media to chant his name at the Egyptian stadiums, after the press loyal to the regime had attacked him once again for his statement on Morsi’s death. According to al-Araby, many fans have been arrested in recent days for holding up banners or joining in chants in support of Treka.
Meanwhile, the armed uprising in Sinai is ongoing, and the regime appears increasingly unable to put up a serious fight. On Saturday, there was a bombing at the El-Arish airport, with four people dead, but the news has not even been allowed to be reported by the Egyptian media.
There is high tension in the air, as always when the most symbolic anniversaries are approaching. In spite of everything, six years after taking power, the military regime is showing itself to be increasingly insecure and afraid.