Democratic Current parties renew escalation plans over Red Sea islands, fail to deliver protest notification to authorities

Amira El-Fekki
6 Min Read

Political parties grouped under the Democratic Current called for a demonstration to take place on 11 January in front of the cabinet in objection to the controversial Red Sea islands demarcation deal, still being disputed in court.

However, Maasoum Marzouk, a representative of the Popular Current Party, said they will reach a final decision on Tuesday night. This comes as Marzouk said they were waiting for a response from the police.

In a press conference Sunday at Al-Karama Party headquarters, representatives of the Democratic Current parties and public figures laid out plans for an escalation campaign they already started earlier this month.

Several speakers said they believed they would eventually win the battle over the sovereignty of the islands against the government.

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy addressed the attendees with a short speech, in which he said he supported those who argued that the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian lands.

“We will win the battle!” he said at the end of the conference, which was attended by dozens chanting “Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian lands”.

“Moreover, I call on parliamentary members to respect the will of the people who elected them. We will support every member who stands against the deal but we will also fight against any member who does the opposite,” said Sabahi.

Opponents to the deal are hoping to pressure members of the parliament to not approve the deal, which the cabinet referred to the House of Representatives although the case is still disputed before the judiciary.

Months have passed with the case going back and forth in courts upon public outrage that erupted when the deal was brokered in April. Escalation plans against the government re-emerged ahead of the High Administrative Court’s expected final verdict in the case.

Participants in the demonstration included the political parties of Al-Karama, the Popular Current, Bread and Freedom, Al-Dostour, and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, in addition to public figures including lawyers, politicians, professors, and syndicate representatives.

“The land cannot be ceded neither by the president, parliament, court, or public referendum. Those are the lands of the coming generations as well and we would die defending this land like our ancestors did during the war,” said Mohamed Bassiouny, secretary general of Al-Karama party.

This comes as a campaign to collect signatures started in objection to the government referring the deal it approved to the parliament. The online petition—which has more than 8,000 signatures and reached 10,000, according to speakers in Sunday’s conference—said the cabinet might have sought passing the deal through parliament out of fear of the final judicial verdict.

Twelve youth were detained for protesting against the cabinet’s action last week, becoming the most recent group among hundreds of arrests made against the backdrop of the case since April.

Khaled Dawoud, spokesperson of Al-Dostour party, criticised the state’s response to those who protested against the agreement. “We cannot accept the continuous arrest of our youth who are defending what we and the public defended: our land,” he said.

Moreover, Khaled El-Balshy, head of the Freedoms Committee at the Press Syndicate, pointed out that the cabinet’s move is an assault on the judicial power.

“We are in front of a winning battle. Those islands will remain Egyptian property no matter how much the state has been wishing to cede them off, just as it wasted the rights of its own citizens and submitted to the enemy in the last UN security council vote,” El-Balshy commented.

Meanwhile, this is the first time that opposition groups have decided to follow the Protest Law in notifying authorities of the demonstration scheduled for Wednesday.

Although still refuting the law, a constitutional verdict issued in December 2016 encouraged them to conform to the law. The verdict annulled the authority of the Ministry of Interior to approve or reject a protest request. Shall the police have any objections, they must go to court.

As so, representatives of the Democratic Current parties sought to notify the ministry of their scheduled demonstration. Nonetheless, Marzouk accounted on Sunday for how security authorities refused to accept them.

“The warden of Sayeda Zeinab police station told us he could not take the decision to receive the notification document. After making several phone calls, he sent us to the Cairo Security Directorate, which sent us back to the station, but in vain,” Marzouk said.

He added that they alternatively went to the South Cairo Court but were surprised to hear that the president of the court wanted the Interior Ministry’s approval first. He said that eventually the station’s warden said he would get back to them within two days.

“We are facing a situation where all forms of justice are denied. A citizen is unable to prove his case in a legal manner. We really tried to organise our protest according to the law and our constitutional right,” Marzouk said.

Several members of the parliament said they would rather avoid overlapping between the legislative and judicial authority, preferring to postpone their discussion of the agreement until the court’s final decision comes out.


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Journalist in DNE's politics section, focusing on human rights, laws and legislations, press freedom, among other local political issues.
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