The embassies of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom issued statements on Friday, warning their nationals living in Egypt to avoid gatherings and public spaces on Sunday due to potential security concerns.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement following the warning made by the embassies, in which it revealed its objection to the warnings. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid said that the US embassy had not coordinated with the Ministry of Interior or notified any official security body in Egypt about the reasons behind the warnings.
Abou Zeid further added that the Foreign Affairs Ministry contacted the US embassy directly to understand the reasons behind the warning, and the embassy said that there are no specific reasons; however, they attributed it to being a precautionary measure usually taken around long holidays. Abou Zeid denounced the warnings and said that it may have major implications on the economy.
The US embassy said in its warning that its nationals in Egypt should avoid concerts halls, movie theatres, and sports venues in Cairo. It added that the citizens should be aware of their surroundings and practice good security precautions. Canada and the UK released their warnings after the US.
Besides the issued warnings, the Canadian embassy has a warning on its website to Canadian citizens suggesting that they to avoid travel to Egypt, except for the Red Sea coastal resorts and the area along the upper Nile from Luxor to Aswan, due to security and political tensions.
None of the aforementioned embassies were available for comment, and they also have not specified their reasons for concern and whether they are pertaining to the anniversary of the Maspero Massacre, which took place 9 October 2011.
A security source in the Ministry of Interior told state-owned Al-Ahram that he is excluding the possibility of the Maspero Massacre anniversary being the reason for the warnings.
Political analyst Tarek Fahmy told Daily News Egypt that the US and Israel usually warn their citizens on national holidays; however, Sunday does not coincide with a national holiday, but it has three major events.
Fahmy said: “Sunday is the anniversary of the Maspero Massacre and this might be the reason behind the concerns of the US and other countries that followed in the footsteps and released warnings as well. The second event is President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s speech in parliament, and the third one can be attributed to destabilising tourism, according to what the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry suggested, but the tourism possibility is rather low.”
Fahmy expected that the warnings are strongly tied to the anniversary of the massacre, particularly given that the relationship between the US and Egypt is still experiencing tension even after the latest visit of Al-Sisi to the US for the UN general assembly. He suggested that diplomatically nothing has changed between Egypt and the US.
He further added that security forces are intensifying their presence on Sunday, whether the warnings were issued or not. Fahmy also noted that similar warnings were issued by Israel before attacks in Sinai.
On the other hand, political analyst Gamal Sultan told Daily News Egypt that he excludes the possibility that the embassies issued the warnings due to the Maspero Massacre anniversary. He said that Coptic political activists may peacefully revive the anniversary without any security concerns.
Sultan added that similar warnings were made before, and the vast majority of them were made as a security measure and were not followed by any attacks or acts of terrorism. He further added that this warning might be the result of intelligence work, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will happen on Sunday.
Sultan concluded by saying that the embassies may release such warnings based on the idea that it is “better to be on the safe side and no one will blame you if it is a false alarm”.
The warning by the embassies come a few weeks after the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper published a report claiming that there is a foreign conspiracy by “forces of evil” against Egypt. The report did not mention who is conspiring against Egypt.
According to the privately-owned news outlet Aswat Masriya, the Ministry of Interior denied Coptic youth activists a permit for a protest on the anniversary of the Maspero Massacre.
Such warnings from embassies have become commonplace in the past five years following the 25 January Revolution.
A US citizen living in Egypt, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Daily News Egypt that she receives these warnings on a somewhat regular basis—the last of which was on the fifth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. She said that these warnings may be received if there are small protests and the embassy fears escalation. However, she said that in most cases nothing significant happens.
The Maspero Massacre that took place on 9 October 2011 left an estimated 28 dead. It took place during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and its dispersal was violent.