Egyptian security forces on Saturday clashed with hundreds of anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez, firing tear gas and live rounds, said several residents who participated in the demonstrations.
A heavy security presence was also maintained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, after protests in several cities called for the removal of general-turned-Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Such demonstrations are rare after Egypt effectively banned protests under a law passed following the 2013 military ouster of then-president Mohamed Morsi.
Discontent over rising prices has been swelling in Egypt, where a-Sisi’s government has imposed strict austerity measures since 2016 as part of a US$12-billion loan package from the IMF Nearly one in three Egyptians live below the poverty line on less than US$1.40 a day, according to official figures released in July.
On Saturday protesters headed to downtown Suez for the second night in a row, where they were met by security forces barricading the streets and armored vehicles.
“There were about 200 or so people. They [security forces] fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets and there were injuries,” a man who took part in the demonstration, but declined to be named said.
Another resident, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said the tear gas was so thick it had reached her apartment block a few kilometers away from the turbulent downtown area.
“My nose started burning up. The smell was seeping through the balcony. I also saw some youth run and hide in our street,” the woman said.
The protests came after Mohamed Aly, an exiled businessman and opponent of al-Sisi posted calls online for demonstrations against the president. He upped the pressure on Saturday in an expletive-filled video, imploring Egyptians to join a “million-man march” on Friday and to fill all “major squares” of the country.
“This is a people’s revolution... We have to link up together as one... and organize going down to the major squares,” he said in a Facebook appeal to his followers.
The construction contractor earlier this month began posting videos accusing al-Sisi and the military of rampant corruption.
The president has denied the allegations last week, saying he was “honest and faithful” to his people and the military.
Al-Sisi is in New York where he is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly this week.
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