According to preliminary indications, the potential scenario of the anti-government protests in Egypt, expected to take place on June 30, reveals that they will likely widen in scope as the number of protestors is expected to swell. With protestors from different backgrounds expected to take part in the massive rallies, the tactics used to convey their discontent with the government of President Mohammad Mursi are also expected to widen.
Possibly lasting for days due to the likelihood that different political, economic and social protests will converge, violence is expected to break out, mainly in the traditional hotbeds of tension: If clashes take place between the police and armed forces or if President Mursi’s supporters rally in locations close to opposition crowds. Violence is also feared if protestors attempt to storm the presidential palaces, public institutions, particularly radio and television buildings, governorate buildings, city councils and district headquarters. Further complicating the tense situation will be the appearance of new “ignition points” in regions such as the al-Said or border regions, which have historically stayed out of the protests since the Jan. 25 Revolution broke out.
Protests have expanded in the country during the rule of President Mursi, both in terms of violence and geographic and factional scope. Fueled by decades of social disparity, poor prospects and political and economic marginalization, the protests and clashes are no longer restricted to the capital’s squares but have expanded to include different geographical areas. According to a report issued by the Egyptian presidency on June 19, a total of 24 million people have taken part in 7,709 instances of protests and 5,821 demonstrations over the past year of President Mursi’s tenure in power. A report titled “Protest Index during Mursi’s first year” issued by the International Development Center on June 20, indicated that the protests have greatly expanded their geographical scope to include most governorates in the period from July 2012 to June 2013.
Cairo ranks first among regional governorates with the most active and diverse protests, such as in Tahrir Square, the area surrounding Ittihadiah Palace, Rabia al-Adawiya square which typically witnesses gatherings of Islamic movements, the surrounding areas of the University of Cairo and “el-Nafoura” square in Mokattam, which is located near the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and has been the scene of repeated violent clashes since March 19. Other hotspots include the area surrounding the Ministry of Defense and Abidin square.
A significant shift
The most significant shift in the escalating protest movements was in the al-Gharbia governorate, especially in al-Shoun square in the Mahalla al-Kubra region, which has been witnessing heated protests. The same applies to Kaed Ibrahim and Victor squares in Alexandria Governorate and Martyr square in Port Said. Protests are also expected to take place in the Delta and in governorates where former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik received the majority of votes during Egypt’s presidential runoff. They are: Cairo, Dakahlia, Sharqia to which President Mursi belongs, Gharbia, Manufiya and Qalyubia.
Violence was apparent in the bloody clashes that broke out between supporters and rivals of the president in the vicinity of the security directorate in the city of Mansoura, in Dakahlia Governorate, on June 26, killing one citizen and injuring 255 others. The violence only increased when protesters broke into a shop owned by Khayrat al-Shater, who plays a leading role in the Muslim Brotherhood, and destroyed its contents. The city of Ashmoun in Menoufia has also witnessed the besieging of the local council building where residents protested against the appointment of Ahmed al-Shaarawi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, as Menoufia’s governor and called on their fellow citizens to participate in the protests on June 30. Meanwhile, President Mursi’s supporters rallied in the Sharaf square in Shebin el-Koum as a show of support to the president and the new governor, reflecting the intensity of the polarization instigating the violent clashes.
A city that has not witnessed large protests is Port Said, only 198 protests have taken place in the city during the past year, with the protests becoming more intense in nature since January 26, following the submission of the papers of 21 defendants, mostly residents of the city, to the country’s Grand Mufti in which they were accused of being responsible for the February 2012 Port Said Stadium riot in which more than 79 people were killed. The subsequent clashes, in the vicinity of the prison in Port Said and the city’s suburbs, caused the deaths of at least 40 people in bloody clashes with the police during the longest period of civil disobedience in the city since the Revolution. Further clashes erupted in early March after 39 accused were expelled from the governorate, exposing the extent of the injustice the city’s residents have faced.
“Quiet” governorates that have largely remained calm and only witnessed a few small protests against the deteriorating conditions of governance and poor services include Minya, Asyut, Faiyum and Luxor. This is due to the traditional conservative culture of the governorates where Islamic movements prevail and good ties with the regime are maintained. Nevertheless, there are indicators that suggest residents may be running out of patience as the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation estimated in April that poverty rates in these governorates have increased to 50 percent. Other points of contention include a general deterioration of basic services and the decrease of average monthly wages to 171 pounds as reported by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
The governorates located on the country’s border regions, especially in the North and South Sinai governorates, are expected to witness an upsurge in terrorist organization activities. Of particular risk are Rafah and al-Arish, which suffer from a deterioration of security ever since soldiers in Rafah were attacked in August 2012 and policemen were kidnapped on May 16.
Moreover, governorates where governors from the Muslim Brotherhood have been recently appointed, are more likely to see violent protests break out. They include Gharbia, Kafr el-Sheikh, Menoufia, Damietta, Ismailia and Luxor. There are other governorates that have witnessed bloody confrontations between the president’s supporters and opponents such as Faiyum – the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Protests will most likely be based in various governorates and in vital areas such as public squares, in front of government buildings and other public institutions. Protesters may also besiege the Radio and TV buildings to respond to the besieging of the Media Production City by President Mursi’s supporters. Other areas protests may flock to are institutions such as the High Court and the Constitutional Court, security directorates, the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party, all of which will increase the possibility of the outbreak of violence. On June 25, in the Ibrahimia city in the Sharqia governorate, protesters set fire to the Freedom and Justice Party’s headquarters and surrounded Abdul Rahman al-Barr, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau along with his companions in the al-Nasr (victory) mosque in the city.
Multiplicity of actors
The current social tension and frustration echo the expectations and hopes that followed the Revolution. Leading the list of protestors are employed citizens who make up 24.5 percent of protesters in the period from July 2012 until June 20, 2013. They are followed by government employees (17.2 percent), employees in the education sector (12 percent), employees in the security sector (10.5 percent), drivers (9.8 percent) and employees in the medical sector (8.7 percent).
It is worth noting that the list of the protesters includes those have not taken part in factional protests such as journalists, employees in the tourism sector, imams, intellectuals, lawyers, farmers and factory and bakery owners. The protests that broke out among legal professionals since the release of the Constitutional Declaration in November 2012 and the intense controversy surrounding the judiciary Law, caused one of the major shifts in the protest map after the revolution.
The most significant change was represented by the escalation of protests organized by residents and citizens because of the deterioration of basic services which led to power, water and fuel shortages and a deteriorating security situation. 26.8 percent of protests were carried out by ordinary citizens whereas protests led by political activists did not exceed 12.9 percent, something which indicates that the protestors’ demands on June 30 will most likely be economic and social in nature.
Issues of top concern include the right to work and access to education, health, housing and basic services. Increased political rights protests took a 31.4 percent share, where the most noticeable protests took place 100 days after the president was elected on Oct. 21 in 2012 and after the Constitutional Declaration on Nov. 21, the constitutional referendum in early December 2012, and the second anniversary of the Jan. 25 Revolution.
Likelihood of violence
Violence levels have surged over the past year and further outbreaks, like the bloody confrontations that took place in the vicinity of the Ittihadiah Palace between government supporters and protestors belonging to the opposition in early December 2012, are expected. These clashes extended and reached many squares in all of the governorates, especially with the emergence of violent radical groups such as the “Black Block” and the promises of several Islamic leaders to react to the attempts to topple President Mursi’s government by staging an early sit-in near the presidential palace.
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