Egyptians demonstrated late Sunday against the military-led government in Alexandria’s Al-Qaed Ibrahim Square, which was a major site of 2011 protests, as well as in Nasr City and Shobra district in the capital, Cairo.
Residents reported the build-up of security forces which, along with recent crackdowns on activists and arbitrary raids into homes, reflected the government’s resolve to prevent marking the anniversary with popular demonstrations similar to those in 2011.
In a televised speech on Sunday, Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi argued his government was continuing the aspirations of the 2011 uprising, in spite of the documented human rights violations under his rule, as well as the worsening economy.
The president’s speech came just one day after Sisi, a soldier-turned-politician who claimed office in 2014 following victory in an election considered to be suspect, praised the country’s police and vowed a firm response to any threat to the country’s “stability”.
His nod to the police ran against growing complaints by rights activists that forces have returned to Mubarak-era practices such as torture, random arrests and, more recently, forced disappearances.
Police brutality was among the complaints that drove Egyptians to take part in the 2011 uprising.
Sisi alleged that the 2011 uprising had deviated from its course and was forcibly hijacked for “personal gains and narrow interests”, in a thinly veiled attempt to justify the military’s ousting of Mohamed Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Al Jazeera reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood – the organization that Mursi was a member of and the largest social movement in Egypt – has been banned and declared a “terrorist” group in the aftermath of the 2013 coup.
According to Sisi, the “June 30 revolution” – a reference to the day in 2013 when protests erupted in Cairo against Mursi, culminating in the July 3 coup – corrected the course of the 2011 uprising.
But with an estimated 40,000 prisoners, including thousands of opposition activists, and a parliament that many say is unable to properly check executive powers, analysts say that Egypt is far off the course that the nationwide protests set the country on five years ago.
Many say the continued deterioration of the country’s economy, a security crisis particularly in the Sinai Peninsula that many attribute to the rising threat of the Daesh group (also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), and Sisi’s policy to crush any dissent have all contributed to a climate far more repressive than the conditions that sparked the 2011 uprising.