On Sunday, there was official confirmation of the arrest of four Egyptian journalists, taken into custody Thursday for taking part in a protest in Cairo against Trump’s decision to transfer the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
An impromptu protest by the members of the journalists’ union ended with the intervention of the security forces and over 10 arrests. Some of the arrested can be counted as “disappeared,” as their whereabouts have remained unknown to their families and legal representatives for more than 72 hours.
At least 10 people have been apprehended during the protests in recent days on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, according to Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer and a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.
Many protests broke out across Egypt on Friday. The most impressive ones were seen in Alexandria and in Cairo, where several thousand people gathered near the al-Azhar mosque after prayers.
Even institutional actors, such as the union of lawyers, the federation of medical professionals and the teachers at the University of Cairo, have made their presence felt with meetings and sit-ins.
On Saturday and Sunday it was the university and high school students’ turn. They took to the streets en masse in Egyptian cities with the slogan “Jerusalem is Arab.”
There have been dozens of student demonstrations, not only at the major universities in Cairo but also in many cities in the outlying provinces, from the Nile Delta to Upper Egypt. A number of amateur videos published by Al Jazeera Egypt showed processions of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, often very young. The student movement is the true protagonist of these events in Egypt, so much so that we can name the wave of protests “the students’ Intifada.”
At all the demonstrations, the presence of the security forces was imposing, often preventing the protesters from marching together. Some left-wing and liberal parties were denied authorization for a protest that was to be held next to the headquarters of the Arab League near Tahrir Square, on the basis of a controversial anti-protest law.
Even the Coptic Pope and the Grand Sheikh of the mosque of al-Azhar (the most important Islamic institution in Egypt) have taken a clear stand, refusing to see U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, with whom they were scheduled to meet in the coming days.
The Egyptian regime seized the opportunity to tighten its repression, arresting five alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood accused of trying to exploit the Palestinian crisis to foment unrest.
In Egypt, the protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people have been historically very strong, and often target the regime in power as well, railing against the complicity with the U.S.-Israel axis and also voicing discontent with internal policies.
The wave of protests that has affected the entire Arab and Islamic world has a special importance in Egypt, since, during a time of tightening rule by the police state, the struggle against Zionist colonialism serves as an outlet for the repressed desire for political participation.
Today, all types of public protest are illegal in the country run by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, so these spontaneous marches with impressive numbers represent a direct challenge to the state of permanent emergency. The pro-Palestinian protests are difficult for the government to repress, as it cannot take an open stand against the Palestinian cause.
For this reason, protests in solidarity with Palestine are an opportunity often exploited by the Egyptian opposition movements in order to regroup and again occupy the streets and squares, under the banner of a politically unassailable cause that has wide appeal among the population.
In the early 2000s, the Egyptian movement of solidarity with the second Palestinian Intifada gave start to a long season of protests lasting throughout the decade, which led to dialogue between the political forces of the opposition and paved the way for a vast protest movement that culminated in the revolution of January 2011.