An Egyptian businessman and actor who had posted a series of videos this month accusing President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of corruption has called on people to take to the streets on Friday to protest against the leader.
Mohamed Ali, who worked as a military contractor for 15 years and now lives in Spain in self-imposed exile, had accused el-Sisi of wasting millions of dollars of public money on palaces, villas and hotels. El-Sisi has denied the allegations and said they amount to defamation.
“If el-Sisi does not announce his resignation by Thursday, then the Egyptian people will come out to the squares on Friday in protest,” Ali said in a video posted on Tuesday.
“Your time is up,” Ali said, addressing el-Sisi. “Your last date with the people of Egypt will be on Friday.”
He also demanded the release of all political prisoners in addition to army and police officers arrested for opposing the president.
“On Friday at 7pm (17:00 GMT), Muslims, Christians, liberals, Muslim Brotherhood members, secularists and everyone from all walks of life will go out to protest, and they will dance, honk their car horns, and listen to popular music.”
He also urged security forces not to confront the protesters and to protect them instead.
Fears for safety
For his part, el-Sisi has said the allegations of corruption against him and his army generals were “lies and slander” and amount to defamation.
Ali first began posting his videos, which went viral, on an almost daily basis since September 2. His latest videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and have turned him into a public figure in his home country.
Several social networking sites have witnessed heated debates over his call for people to take to the streets in the event of el-Sisi refusing to stand down. The hashtag #Enough_el-Sisi in Arabic trended worldwide on social media with more than one million tweets.
Yet some Egyptian activists have warned of the dangers that protesting can have on the lives of demonstrators, given what they called a tight grip on security by authorities.
“In summary, don’t listen to anyone telling you to go out and protest in the street unless they are out before you,” one Twitter user said.
Another Twitter user, Ahmed Sabry, asked whether people are seriously considering Ali’s call to protest.
“I’m not sure that people will carry this out because [the security forces] must have been prepared for such action and won’t let us demonstrate freely,” he said. “There will be a lot of losses and people are scared.”
Since el-Sisi came to power in 2014, economic austerity measures have been introduced, helping to reboot an economy battered by the 2011 Arab Spring. However, the poverty rate has soared.
According to official statistics, released by in July, one in three Egyptians is living in poverty.
Human Rights Watch has said that since el-Sisi secured a second term in 2018, “his security forces have escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arbitrary arrests against political opponents, activists”.
United Nations experts have previously stated their “grave concern” over a widening “assault on freedom of expression” in Egypt, which includes blocking scores of news websites and the unlawful detention of journalists and dissidents.