10/01/2020, 14.52
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Egyptian priest: rumours of demonstrations and arrests to undermine national image

Reports of at least 382 people arrested since 20 September. Dissident tycoon Mohamed Ali calls for new protests one year after the demonstrations in Cairo. Fr. Rafic: disinformation campaign. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased hardship, the government has invested in industry and construction.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egypt is going through "a general situation of hardship" due to the new coronavirus pandemic, which "hit various sectors, first of all tourism, which is at a very low level. However, there are no significant street protests and there are no close details”.

Fr. Rafic Greiche, president of the Communications Committee of the Council of Churches of Egypt, denies recent reports of demonstrations in the country, repressed by force by the authorities. "The arrests, this is fake news or unconfirmed rumors" resulting from disinformation that could also be linked to foreign nations "like Turkey", with which a clash is taking place "on various fronts, from Libya to gas and crude oil in the Middle East ".

According to some activist groups, since 20 September at least 382 people have been arrested in the context of small street demonstrations or protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The measures would be linked to a strengthening of security measures, coinciding with the first anniversary of the September 2019 demonstrations in Cairo, promoted by the exiled magnate and actor Mohamed Ali.

Even in these hours, the tycoon would be fuelling the protest against the president and the Cairo authorities, posting critical videos and calling for new street demonstrations. In some videos, which have been circulating for days, small groups can be seen protesting in different parts of the country. However, there are no independent confirmations of arrests and the district attorney's office itself does not refer to them, instead announcing the release of 68 recently arrested minors for their participation in "riots and protests".

Economic problems and unemployment are at the root of the discontent. The government has responded by strengthening the security in strategic places such as Tahrir Square, symbol of past demonstrations. As in the rest of the world, the new coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing problems and increased the level of unemployment, especially youth unemployment.

“The Muslim Brotherhood - says Fr. Rafic - they use social media to relaunch demonstrations, but there are no confirmations and I deny the information relating to a greater presence of policemen in Cairo or other areas. Perhaps there may be links to the arrest "at the end of August of the leader of the armed wing of the Brotherhood and number two Mahmoud Ezzat.

"The movement - he adds - wants to fuel confusion and instability but citizens have had enough and are much more interested in economic and social problems, in the Covid-19 pandemic". On the subject of coronavirus, the priest comments, "there are just over a hundred cases a day" and it is not an alarming figure "on a population of over one hundred million people, although many do not even go to hospitals and try to be treated at home".

In terms of security, "the situation has improved", also because the attacks and fundamentalist violence have reduced due to the pandemic. At an economic level, the greatest difficulties "are recorded in the tourism sector, which is why the government has decided to relaunch other sectors, especially construction and industry, primarily food exports such as oranges, watermelons sold to the European market".

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