Sep 30, 2019
This is translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
Hundreds of demonstrators in Egypt rose up against General Sisi in the third weekend in September, six years after he took power in a military coup.
Protesters took to the streets after many people shared online videos by an exiled Egyptian entrepreneur accusing Sisi of corruption. The videos denounced Sisi and his circle for having sumptuous mansions built for themselves. In Tahrir Square in Cairo, and in Alexandria, Suez, Mahalla, and other working class cities, people chanted, “Leave, Sisi!” and, “Say it, don’t be afraid, Sisi has to go!” They braved the coup-era laws outlawing demonstrations of even handfuls of people.
Since the coup in 2013, 60,000 people have been arrested. Military courts have ordered hundreds of death sentences. People have been disappeared, beaten, and murdered. Workers demanding unpaid wages are systematically prosecuted as terrorists. But still workers, young people, and political dissidents had the courage to face police, tear gas, rubber bullets, and even live ammunition.
A news blackout was immediately imposed in Egypt, including sites like the BBC and Facebook Messenger. Intelligence agents warned foreign journalists that they were being watched and not to spread what the government called false information.
Sisi and the army are hard pressed to claim things are going well for Egypt’s one hundred million people. To meet the demands of the IMF in exchange for 12 billion dollars of aid, Egypt had to cut social spending and stop subsidizing fuel and other necessities. In July, the government admitted one-third of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.40 a day. Recently, workers were arrested in Ismailia for demanding a raise to make up for inflation. They were held in detention for a week.
Sisi was visiting New York when the demonstrations broke out. He could pretend to ignore the demands chanted that night in Egypt. But the situation of workers and poor people remains a constant source of anger, now and for the future.