Hundreds joined lively protests last week against the visit of Egyptian president Abdelfattah al-Sisi to the UK. Cameron’s red carpet welcome for Egypt’s military dictator sparked two days of demonstrations on 4 and 5 November, uniting trade unionists, arms trade campaigners, students and Egyptian activists in opposition to the visit.
Student activists kicked off the action on 4 November, as campaigners from Egypt Solidarity Initiative and Stop Sisi joined the national march for free education. Protesters marched through central London shouting slogans such as “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” and “down with student debt”, highlighting the anger felt at £9000 a year fees.
Egypt Solidarity activists handed out leaflets and held a banner that highlighted cases of students and academics held in Egyptian prisons without trial by the current military regime. Many UK students and activists were aware of Sisi’s crackdown on education rights and freedoms in Egypt, and were enthusiastic about joining the demonstration later that day at Downing Street.
At 5pm, a 400-strong demonstration outside Downing Street brought together a wide range of groups opposed to the Sisi visit. Speakers at the rally included Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff at Unite the Union, the UK’s largest trade union, Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition, Anne Alexander from Egypt Solidarity Initiative, Ann Feltham from Campaign Against Arms Trade and Somaia Halawa, whose brother Ibrahim has been imprisoned in Egypt for over two years.
News that Sisi was due to meet Cameron on the morning of 5 November prompted an emergency mobilisation for the following day. Hundreds rallied outside Downing Street for hours, separated from a pro-Sisi protest by a line a of police officers and a van. Pro-Sisi double decker buses and a convoy of sports cars repeatedly buzzed past the chanting crowds.
Six protesters were arrested after taking part in a symbolic die-in to highlight repression in Egypt. Dressed in red shirts to symbolise the prison uniform of inmates on death row, and white jumpsuits spattered with blood and marked with the names of political prisoners such as Esraa al-Taweel, Alaa Abdelfattah and Mahienour el-Masry, they blocked the gates of Downing Street before being dragged away by the police.
What you can do:
- Keep highlighting the scale of repression in Egypt through letters to the media
- Come along to our public meeting to hear more about what you can do to get involved with our campaign