Egypt extends crackdown on Gaza activism with student arrests

Egypt detained several students who were trying to promote pro-Palestinian boycotts and solidarity campaigns, the latest sign that it does not want to leave space for activism over the war in Gaza despite growing official criticism of Israel. bvc bvc bvc bvc bvc bvc bvc bvc bvc

The students are among dozens of people held in connection with protests against Israel’s military campaign, some of them detained in October when state-sanctioned rallies spilled over to unauthorised sites including Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Analysts say Egyptian authorities fear that demonstrations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could fuel domestic political dissent, which has suppressed in a broad crackdown lasting more than a decade.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent Cairo-based group, at least 125 people have been arrested since the Gaza war began in October, 95 of whom are still being held in pre-trial detention on charges including membership of a banned group or spreading false news.

Three students arrested earlier this month:

Over their attempt to create a group called Students for Palestine, according to Nabeh El Ganadi, a human rights lawyer who represents two of the students. They include Ziad Bassiouny, a 22-year-old student at an arts institute in Giza.

About 40 members of the security forces deployed to arrest Bassiouny at his apartment in the early hours of May 9, his mother Fayza Hendawy told Reuters.

“They pointed their rifles at us so that none of us could move,” she said, describing the overnight raid.

The students “did not call for protests or anything like that”, she said. “It’s not a political group, they’re just students calling on Egyptian students to stand with Palestine and show their support publicly like the rest of the universities globally.”

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Egypt’s state information service did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, and an interior ministry official could not immediately reached.

Egyptian officials have publicly stated their support for Palestinian rights in the context of the war, and have strongly criticised Israel’s military campaign. “What is astonishing is that this is their official position,” Hendawy said.

Egypt Crackdown on dissent after mass unrest

Rights groups say tens of thousands of people from across Egypt’s political spectrum have arrested for dissent since 2013 when then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, freely elected the year before after protracted “Arab Spring” unrest.

Hamas, Gaza’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group, is an offshoot of the Brotherhood and Egypt helped Israel impose a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

Supporters of Sisi, who has been president since 2014, say the security crackdown has needed to stabilise Egypt, and that the judiciary is independent. Officials say they have taken steps to protect rights and expand political participation, though critics say the measures are largely cosmetic.

Public demonstrations generally Egypt outlawed

Nineteen activists detained in late April as they held a rally outside a United Nations office in Cairo to show solidarity with women in Gaza and Sudan, before released on bail, according to EIPR. Earlier in the month, security forces detained people at a protest in the centre of the capital where slogans criticising Sisi chanted.

Ganadi, the human rights lawyer, said the arrests fitted a pattern of authorities trying to block organised movements including professional and student associations.

“No one is doing anything, but they might, so since they might do something and this is something on the table, why shouldn’t we arrest them or hold them accountable?” he said.

The post Egypt extends crackdown on Gaza activism with student arrests appeared first on The Muslim News.

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