CAIRO (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Cairo and several other Egyptian cities late on Friday shouting anti-government slogans, responding to an online call for a demonstration against government corruption, witnesses and residents said.
People gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Protests have become very rare in Egypt following a broad crackdown on dissent under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who took power after the overthrow of the former Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
Security forces moved to disperse the crowds in Cairo using tear gas in at least one location. But many young people stayed on the streets in the center of the capital, shouting “Leave Sisi,” Reuters reporters at the scene said.
Small protests were held in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, Suez on the Red Sea as well as the Nile Delta textile town of Mahalla el-Kubra, about 110 km (68 miles) north of Cairo, according to residents and videos posted online.
There was a heavy security presence in downtown Cairo and on Tahrir Square where mass protests started in 2011 which toppled veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Authorities could not be immediately reached for comment.
A pro-government TV anchor said only a small group of protesters had gathered in central Cairo to take videos and selfies before leaving the scene. Another pro-government channel said the situation around the Tahrir Square was quiet.
Mohamed Ali, a building contractor and actor turned political activist who lives in Spain, called in a series of videos for the protest after accusing Sisi and the military of corruption.
Last Saturday, Sisi dismissed the claims as “lies and slander”.
Sisi was first elected in 2014 with 97% of the vote, and re-elected four years later with the same percentage, in a vote in which the only other candidate was an ardent Sisi supporter. His popularity has been dented by economic austerity measures.
Sisi’s supporters say dissent must be quashed to stabilize Egypt, after a 2011 uprising and the unrest that followed, including an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians.
They also credit him with economic reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund.
Reporting by Cairo newsroom; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall